- “Do you know who Maui is? Only the greatest demigod in all the pacific islands!”
- ―Maui to Moana in the teaser trailer
Maui is the deuteragonist of Disney's 2016 animated feature film, Moana. He is a boisterous demigod of South Pacific legend. With the power of his giant, magical fish hook, Maui serves as the audacious guardian of mankind. During one of his escapades, Maui awakened a terrible darkness that threatened to destroy the islands of Polynesia. This crisis forced Maui to join forces with Moana, a young hero chosen by the ocean, to save the world.
Maui was born to human parents, centuries before the events of the film. Apparently wanting nothing to do with their son, Maui's parents threw him into the sea as an infant, and left him for dead. He was saved by the gods, who raised Maui, granting supernatural abilities, immortality, and a magical fish hook that allows him to shapeshift. Despite his demigod status, Maui's cruel upbringing would forever scar him. Feeling rejected by humans, he used his powers to benefit mankind in any way they pleased as a means to earn the love and validation that he was denied by his parents; he pulled islands from the sea to provide them with homes, extended their days by pulling back the sun, and stole fire from the bottom of the earth to provide them with warmth on cold nights, among many feats. As a result, Maui became one of the most acclaimed figures of Oceania history.
As the people acclimated to Maui's gifts, he had to perform increasingly grand feats to sustain their adulation. This led him to steal the heart of Te Fiti, the mother island. As the gem has the power to create life, Maui believed it would make the perfect gift to mortals all across the world. Unfortunately, once the heart was removed from its resting spot, darkness slowly began consuming the world. The removal of the heart also gave birth to the wrathful lava demon Te Kā, who confronted Maui before he could escape. The two battled, but Maui was defeated, losing both the heart of Te Fiti and his magical fish hook in the aftermath. The heart would remain lost for centuries, while Maui's fishhook eventually fell into the possessions of his arch-rival, the giant crab Tamatoa.
Maui, meanwhile, was banished to a desolate island by Te Kā, and was doomed to remain there for all eternity as punishment for his crimes. Even so, legend proclaimed that Maui was destined to team up with a hero—the "chosen one"—to return the heart to its rightful place.
- Maui—half god, half mortal, all awesome.
Moana came from co-director John Musker's fascination with the legends and lore surrounding Maui. As such, the plot was initially conceived as a story centering Maui, with Moana playing a secondary role. This was during extremely early stages of development, and it was quickly changed to focus on Moana after an inspirational research trip to the South Pacific.
Maui's physical appearance was much different in earlier versions of the movie. He was bald and shorter in stature. For five years of the film's development, the filmmakers consulted in their Oceanic Story Trust, who pushed Disney to enhance Maui's physique to resemble a hero in the vein of Superman. When designing Maui, the team researched athletes such as football players, wrestlers, and men with massive physiques. One source of inspiration was Dwayne Johnson's late grandfather High Chief Peter Maivia, who was also a professional wrestler like Johnson and an actual Samoan high chief.
Maui is boastful, gregarious, and mischievous. His manner of carrying himself matches his massive physique, being larger-than-life and a true god among men. He is responsible for most of the necessities and luxuries currently belonging to mankind, and with his magical fish hook at hand, is amongst the most powerful figures in South Pacific lore. Widely regarded as a clever trickster, Maui is rarely matched when it comes to adversaries, being greatly feared by villains and monsters lurking throughout the sea. Maui can be extremely arrogant and pompous as a result of this reputation, although his many achievements tend to justify his vainglorious attitude.
For all his heroics, however, Maui can also be short-tempered, bitter, pretentious, and his inflated ego tends to give him a superiority complex. This attitude lead him to be quite antagonistic, and even murderous. When he first meets Moana, he had no regard for her life and was completely willing to leave her stranded on a barren island or even lost at sea. He can also be selfish, initially choosing to focus solely on reclaiming his hook with no intention of saving the dying world, though Moana was able to change his mind.
As a result of his poor upbringing, Maui has spent a majority of his life living with crippling insecurity. He went out of his way to perform godly deeds for mankind's benefit to gain the love and appreciation denied to him by his parents. While he seemed to enjoy the praise he earned, Maui secretly longed to be appreciated beyond his demigod status; as the human he is on the inside, rather than the deity portrayed in legends. Additionally, despite boasting about his accomplishments to Moana, Maui initially credited the gods for his many feats, claiming they're the ones that "made him Maui". He saw himself as "nothing" without his hook, and was extremely reluctant to take on challenges without it, becoming somewhat of a coward.
Through Moana, however, Maui slowly began to realize that the hook is only an accessory during his adventures and that his many accomplishments over the years were a result of his own bravery, rather than what the gods created to assist him in such exploits. Though still arrogant and gruff, Maui developed into a much more selfless and humble figure following his adventure with Moana.
Powers and abilities
- Godly Strength: Maui possesses extreme superhuman strength in both his arm and leg muscles. The latter allows him to jump significant heights that end with damaging land. Maui's incredible superhuman strength allowed him to perform impossible feats such as singlehandedly dredging up islands, lassoing the sun, and even pushing up the sky. His strength also lies in his lungs, as he can produce massive gusts of wind to clear a path before or surrounding him; he apparently uses this ability to harness the breeze in the world's air.
- Immortality: Since becoming a demigod, Maui is virtually immortal, looking the same in the present as he did one thousand years ago. This immortality is likely how he survived on a desert island in that length of time with little or no food or freshwater, and allows him to survive attacks from monsters and other deities that would greatly injure or kill a normal person.
- Fish Hook proficiency: Maui's most powerful abilities come from his mighty fish hook, which allows him to shapeshift into a wide array of animals, from insects to whales. This proves to be an extremely useful asset, as Maui's quick changes from massive to pint-sized creatures prevent his enemies from keeping up and laying an attack. The fish hook glows with a blue (purple, if broken) energy when in use, and is strong enough to shatter stone and cause severe damage to deities. Because it was created by the gods, however, it can be just as easily destroyed by a deity. Fortunately, it will take more than one extreme blow to completely destroy the weapon. Maui tends to combine the strength of his muscles and his hook to perform acts such as pulling islands from the sea and lassoing the sun. Without his hook, however, Maui cannot shapeshift. He must also swing the hook a certain way to transform into the desired animal, as evidenced during his fight with Tamatoa. Although he would still have his strength, Maui is considerably less powerful when stripped of his magic weapon, and therefore vulnerable to enemies.
- Shapeshifting: With his hook, Maui is able to shapeshift into anything he can imagine, though mostly just animals. He has been shown to transform into a hawk, an iguana, a beetle, a fish, a shark, a reindeer (resembling Sven from Frozen), a pig, a starfish, a rooster (resembling a larger version of Heihei), and a whale.
- Sentient tattoos: Another significant trait of Maui is his animated tattoos plastered throughout his skin. The tattoos depict Maui's various exploits and accomplishments. New tattoos magically appear moments after a new milestone has been reached; as Maui explained, they must be earned. All of the tattoos are animated, but one stands out from the rest: Mini Maui. Mini Maui is a tattooed depiction of the actual Maui and acts as the latter's conscience, biggest supporter, and best friend. They communicate with each other often, and share a loving bond, though their conflicting levels of morality causes them to clash on occasion (with Maui being mischievous and Mini Maui being completely benevolent).
- Master sailor: Even without his powers, Maui is an expert seaman and navigator, able to sail an outrigger canoe with relative ease and use the stars to plot the quickest way to any destination. After successfully escaping the Kakamora using these skills, Maui would later teach them to Moana, albeit paralyzed and not by choice.
Maui was first seen during Gramma Tala's story regarding his disastrous theft of Te Fiti's heart. A thousand years after Maui's disappearance, Tala's granddaughter, Moana, was chosen by the ocean to find the demigod and have him join her in returning the heart to its rightful place. According to Moana's ancestors, Maui can be found by following a constellation resembling his fish hook. After Tala's death, Moana takes the heart and journeys off into the sea. She follows the fish hook constellation, but gets lost along the way. Fortunately, the ocean creates a storm that transports her to Maui's island, and she washes up along its shores the following morning. Shortly after Moana awakens, Maui finds her boat unattended and celebrates his key to escape. He soon meets Moana, who angrily confronts the demigod and orders him to return the heart. Maui, feeling a tad disrespected, explains to Moana exactly who he is and his gifts to mankind over the years.
He does so through the musical number "You're Welcome", which served more as a ploy to distract Moana. He traps her in his cave in order to make off with her boat (against Mini Maui's protests). By time Moana manages to escape, Maui has already sailed off. The ocean helps Moana catch up to Maui on the boat, and she reveals to have the heart of Te Fiti in her possessions. Believing the heart is cursed, Maui refuses to return it and instead tries to rid them of it. Due to the ocean, however, Maui is unsuccessful. Suddenly, the duo are attacked by a band of pirates known as the Kakamora, who sought the heart like many villains. As Maui Moana defend the boat, Heihei swallows the heart and is kidnapped by the pirates shortly thereafter. Moana asks Maui to save him and the heart, but Maui doesn't believe it to be worth the risk and tries to escape. Moana hops off the boat and rescues Heihei herself against Maui's advice. After she makes it back to the boat safely, Heihei spits out the heart. Through Maui's impeccable sailing skills, they successfully escape the pirates.
Maui commends Moana on her ability to escape death but still refuses to help her restore the heart. As Moana examines his tattoos, she gets the impression that Maui enjoys praise, claiming that returning the heart will restore his positive reputation with mortals across the world. With this in mind, Maui eventually agrees, though he stresses the fact that his fishhook will be needed in order to bypass Te Kā and make it to Te Fiti alive. Moana agrees, and they set their course to Lalotai, home of Tamatoa. Upon watching Maui maneuver the boat with ease, Moana asks him to teach her how to wayfind. Maui scoffs at this as wayfinding requires as much mental capability as it does physical, which he believes Moana lacks. As he coldly declares this, the ocean pokes a leftover blow dart from the Kakamora into Maui's rear, rendering him physically inert. With no other choice, he instructs Moana on how to sail for the remainder of the night.
The next day, the two arrive at Lalotai, and Maui asks why the ocean chose Moana in the first place. She can't seem to answer, which is a source of amusement for Maui, who openly expresses his belief that the ocean made a mistake (referring to Moana's young age and inability to sail). As they prepare to enter the Realm of Monsters, Maui tries to scare Moana into staying with Heihei on the boat, but much to his surprise, she tags alongside him and finds Tamatoa's lair. Maui sends Moana inside to distract Tamatoa while the demigod grabs his hook, but upon revealing himself, he finds that he cannot shapeshift properly. Tamatoa sadistically attacks and nearly kills Maui, but Moana distracts the crab long enough for her and Maui to escape his lair with the fishhook in hand. Back in the human world, Maui thanks Moana for saving his life, though he laments the fact that she could have been killed while he was powerless to save her. Moana is nevertheless confident in accomplishing their mission now that they have the fishhook, but Maui feels otherwise.
As they sail closer to Te Fiti, Moana examines Maui's tattoos. Tamatoa had alluded earlier that Maui had been abandoned and brought gifts to humanity as a way to feel wanted. When Moana tries to get the full story, however, Maui lashes out. She opens up to the demigod in remorse by confessing that she doesn't know why the ocean chose her, and she feels confused as to what exactly it is that she's doing. But she is determined to complete her goal to save her island, though she can't do so without Maui's help. Before she can help herself, she offers to help Maui regain his confidence by lending an ear to what causes his feelings of crippling self-doubt. Maui explains his tragic origins, and that the gods gave him the fishhook and "made him the hero he is". He further explains that praise from humanity helps him feel a little less worthless, though not entirely. Moana disagrees with Maui's views, telling him that the gods saw someone worthy of being saved the day his parents abandoned him. And although they granted him the fish hook, Maui became a hero because of his own selflessness and bravery, not because of the gods. Feeling encouraged, Maui agrees.
As Moana sails them the rest of the way, Moana and Mini Maui mentor Maui in regaining his shapeshifting talents. Over the next few hours, he successfully does so while simultaneously teaching Moana how to become a master wayfinder. They bond, and soon enough, they feel equally prepared to face Te Kā. As they approach the island with Moana at the helm, Maui watches proudly. He expresses his pride in Moana, declaring that the ocean made the right choice in its savior. Eventually, they finally reach Te Fiti. Before they can make it to her shores, however, Maui must confront Te Kā. Maui turns into a hawk and tries to fly passed her, only to be struck from the sky several times. He is soon weakened too severely and orders Moana to turn the boat around. Not wanting to back away from her mission, Moana continues to sail towards Te Fiti and directly by Te Kā, who tries to smite the duo. Maui quickly blocks her blow with his fish hook, the impact sending him and Moana miles away from Te Fiti's shores. When they recover, Maui finds his fish hook severely damaged and nearly destroyed.
He angrily confronts Moana, blaming her for endangering their lives despite his orders to turn away. Moana offers to fix the hook, but as it was made by the gods, it is impossible for them to do so. Maui refuses to return to Te Fiti as one more blow to his hook will destroy it forever. He uses some of his remaining power to transform into a hawk and leave Moana's boat. This forces Moana to return to Te Fiti alone. She faces Te Kā and is nearly killed, but Maui returns after having a change of heart. He promises to stick by Moana and distracts Te Kā while she returns Te Fiti's heart to the spiral on the island. When it appears that Te Fiti is gone, Moana notices the spiral circling Te Kā's chest (thanks to Maui dealing one last blow to Te Kā before the lava monster can throw a lava ball at her) and comes to a stunning realization. Meanwhile, Maui continues to fight despite his fishhook having been destroyed. This enrages Te Kā immensely, and the lava demon conjures a massive fireball meant to kill the demigod once and for all. Maui accepts his fate to protect Moana, but before he can be burned alive, Moana distracts Te Kā by shining the heart of Te Fiti's light in the distance. The two adversaries approach each other, but Moana tames the fiery beast and places the pounamu heart into her chest. This revives Te Fiti, much to Maui's shock.
Maui apologizes to Te Fiti for his harmful acts, confessing that he was wrong and has no excuse. Te Fiti warmly forgives Maui and rewards him for his heroic acts by giving him a new fishhook. Overjoyed, Maui celebrates while Moana and Te Fiti embrace. Once Te Fiti forms back into her resting position, Moana and Maui prepare to part ways. Before they do, Moana asks Maui to return to her home island of Motunui as her people could use a master wayfinder. Maui denies the offer but declares that her people already have a master wayfinder in Moana. He then reveals to have a new tattoo plastered onto his body that depicts a victorious Moana, touching the girl and leading to a warm, bittersweet hug between her and Maui. After the two give their final goodbyes, Maui transforms into a hawk and flies off. Following these events, Moana ushers in a new generation of voyagers on her home island. During one of her great sails, Maui briefly returns in the form of a hawk, proudly watching over Moana and her people.
In the animated short, Maui and Mini Maui are seen sleeping on a hammock on Moana's home island of Motunui, when his stomach begins to grumble. He joins Moana near the sea and pushes her aside, proclaiming that, "You don't play with the ocean, you command it!". He then orders the ocean to fetch him a fish, but the sea responds by continuously soaking and humiliating the demi-god to deflate his ego. Thanks to the combined efforts of both Moana and the ocean, Maui's fish safely returns to the sea, much to Mini Maui's amusement.
An emoticon version of Maui appeared in the As Told by Emoji retelling of Moana.
Moana is featured as a 5-star golden magic combat medal obtained for optional quests in promotion with the film.
- Maui's choices of animals he transforms strongly share similarities with descriptions of Taniwha and Mo'o/Moho, mystical beings in Polynesian lore in New Zealand and Hawaii being often refereed to deities and dragons that can transform, create and destroy landscapes, and so on, and both have been depicted as both protectors of people or dangerous beings.
- Disney did not open auditions for Maui, as Dwayne Johnson was directly chosen and approached for the role.
- Maui had a grandmother named Hina who served as the guardian of Lalotai's entrance in earlier drafts the movie.
- Maui has dimples, which are based on Dwayne Johnson's dimples.
- In a few scenes, Maui raises his eyebrow in a cocky manner. This was inspired by Dwayne Johnson's signature eyebrow raise, initiated by his celebrity alias "The Rock" since WWF in the 1990s.
- The achievements that Maui boasts during "You're Welcome" are based on the actual South Pacific legends centering Maui.
- Maui was to have a second song in the movie inspired by the haka called "Warrior Face", which showcased him teaching Moana how to scare away her enemies to avoid battle.
- In the novelization, when Maui returns during the climax, he tells Moana that he and Mini Maui talked things over, which eventually prompted him to return and battle Te Kā. In the film, Maui never gives explanation for his return.
- Moana writer Jared Bush noted in an interview that, despite their rivalry, Maui and Tamatoa share similarities. Both Maui and Tamatoa want to feel important, and both have a way of covering up their insecurities with things that give them a sense of greatness: Maui with his tattoos, and Tamatoa with his hoard of shiny treasures.
- Maui's fish hook can be seen as silhouetted artwork on the rear end of Finnick's van in the film Zootopia.
- A Disney Infinity figure of Maui was planned for release but was canceled following the game's discontinuation.
- At one point, Maui briefly turns into Sven from Frozen.
- Maui's line, "If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you're a princess!" is a reference to the Disney Princess franchise, and a direct joke/jab at the Disney Princesses often wearing dresses and having animal (or at least non-human) sidekicks.
- In Maui's rap, a blue light shines on one of his back tatoos of him ripping one of Tamatoa's legs.
- During the Final battle after Maui's hook is lost, he taunted Te Ka with the lyrics from the All Blacks Haka: "Kapa o Pango":
- Lyrics on Maui said to Te-Ka
- |Ka tū te Ihiihi
- |Stand up to the fear
- |Ka tū te Wanawana
- |Stand up to the terror
- |E tū iho nei, tū iho nei, hī ha!
- |Fight up there, high up there. Yeah!
- Maui supposedly can’t float, as seen by the line in the song, “‘Cause Maui can do anything but float”
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- Keely, Flaherty (November 26, 2016). "34 Magical "Moana" Facts You Probably Don’t Know". BuzzFeed. Retrieved on November 27, 2016.
- Ito, Robert (November 15, 2016). "How (and Why) Maui Got So Big in ‘Moana’" (Article). The New York Times.
- Joey (December 2, 2016). "Dec 2nd - Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ ENG Update". Kingdom Hearts Insider. Retrieved on December 5, 2016.
- Julius, J., Lasseter, J., Malone, M. (2016). The Art of Moana. Chronicle Books.
- Davis, Colins (December 21, 2016). "Moana Clip from Disney’s surprise success, The ‘Shiny’ Song" (Article). Film Review Online.
- "Disney Infinity's Demise Also Killed A Moana Game". Kotaku (June 29, 2016).