Mini Maui is one of the many tattoos featured on the body of Maui, although he is normally found on the left of Maui's chest. Mini Maui is unique in that he has a genuine relationship with the actual Maui, serving as the latter's confidante, despite his inability to speak. His primary role is to assist Maui in visually telling the legends they've embarked on, though he can sometimes get carried away with his showcasing.
Mini Maui is Maui's better half. Morally righteous and just, he often pressures his occasionally egotistical and selfish host to do the right thing, such as accompanying young Moana on her mission to save her people. This is often a point of contention for Maui.
Mini Maui (which was a nickname lovingly given to the character by the filmmakers) was born from a scene early in the movie's development that involved a gag in which Maui communicated with his tattoo, whom he believed to have drowned. The scene was both comedic and heartfelt, representing a potentially rich relationship between the two characters that garnered a positive response from the filmmaking team. Directors John Musker, Ron Clements, and executive producer John Lasseter, enjoyed Mini Maui so much, that the character was given additional scenes as development on the film progressed. Not only that, the character was developed to have a distinct personality, and a substantial role in the story, serving as a key component to Maui's character. Animator Eric Goldberg (who collaborated on Mini Maui with animator Mark Henn) was particularly fond of this aspect, comparing the character to Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio.
Mini Maui is first introduced during "You're Welcome", in which Maui informs Moana about his many accomplishments as a demigod. Mini Maui vibrantly assists his host in doing so, though his cheerful mood shifts dramatically upon realizing Maui trapped Moana in a cave so that he may steal her boat and escape his exile. Mini Maui urges Maui to free Moana, but the demigod refuses to listen, instead flicking Mini Maui onto his back.
Moana gets help from the ocean to reach Maui and her boat at sea, but the demigod immediately throws her back off, angering Mini Maui once more. Moana returns, and after more failed attempts to rid himself of her, Maui accepts that he's stuck with her. Moana orders Maui to follow her command and return the heart of Te Fiti, which strikes fear into the latter. When asked if he's afraid of the heart, Maui denies, though Mini Maui claims otherwise. Maui explains that the heart is cursed, and not long afterwards, the group is attacked by Kakamora pirates. Moana fearfully asks why Maui hasn't shapeshifted to fight the bandits off, but he and Mini Maui explain that without his magical fish hook, shapeshifting is impossible. Fortunately, the heroes manage to escape the Kakamora.
Afterwards, Moana suavely works to strike a deal with Maui in order to gain his help in returning the heart. Though he is hesitant, both Moana and Mini Maui agree that the return of the heart will result in Maui being praised as a mighty hero, just as he were before his defeat at the hands of Te Kā. Maui agrees, much to Mini Maui's delight, but he insists that they must retrieve his fishhook from the giant crab Tamatoa before they can sail to Te Fiti. Along the way, Mini Maui and a begrudged Maui teach Moana how to wayfind.
In Tamatoa's lair, Maui reclaims his fish hook, and Mini Maui suggests turning into a giant hawk to defeat the crab. Unfortunately, Maui's shapeshifting is out of whack, forcing him to be saved by Moana after being brutally tormented by Tamatoa. On the boat, Maui laments his failure to shapeshift, revealing he only sees himself as useful as his powers allow him to be. He explains that he was abandoned as a child by his humans parents, and after being saved by the gods, he spent years providing for mankind to compensate for his low self-esteem. Upon hearing this, Mini Maui hugs his friend, which earns returned affection from Maui. Moana feels sympathy for Maui and believes he's capable of greatness without his hook. Nevertheless, she and Mini Maui work together to restore Maui's confidence.
After training was complete, Maui feels prepared to face Te Kā. Unfortunately, he was defeated, while his fish hook was nearly destroyed. Feeling he cannot face the lava demon with his fish hook in such a state, Maui transforms into a hawk and leaves Moana to fend for herself. He eventually has a change of heart and returns. Upon doing so, Mini Maui proudly assures Moana that he and his host are there to help until the end. After Te Kā is returned to her rightful form of the goddess Te Fiti (who restores Maui's fish hook), Maui and Mini Maui bid a tearful farewell to Moana before the former transforms into a hawk and restarts his life as a powerful demigod reformed and renewed.
After Alessia Cara's "How Far I'll Go" sequence in the first half of the end credits, Mini Maui starts dancing and proceeds to pull up an island which closely resembles Motunui while walking up on the side, indirectly starting the second half of the end credits.
On the island of Motunui, Mini Maui and his host are relaxing with a nap, when the former is abruptly awakened by the rumbling stomach of the latter. Maui meets Moana by the sea to fish for lunch, although he goes about doing so in an extremely arrogant manner, annoying Mini Maui and Moana. To knock him down a peg, the ocean repeatedly humiliates Maui and cost him his lunch, much to Mini Maui's amusement.
- Though the film is primarily animated with computer animation, Mini Maui is animated through the use of traditional, hand-drawn animation.
- During the animation process for the film, animators would specifically request scenes dealing with Mini Maui, for the chance to work with Eric Goldberg.
- In the film's novelization, it is said that Mini Maui was the one to convince Maui to return and help Moana during the final battle against Te Kā.
- When Maui's wonky shape shifting gives him a shark's head, Mini Maui appears on his chest with a shark head, as well.
- Mini Maui was going to appear in the opening cinematic of the canceled Moana playset in Disney INFINITY: 3.0 Edition.
- ↑ "Moana: Dwayne Johnson's Maui — and his tattoo — comes to life in first teaser". Entertainment Weekly. (June 12, 2016)
- ↑ "LIKE DWAYNE JOHNSON, BUT SMALLER: THE MAKING OF MINI MAUI". Oh My Disney. (September 17, 2016)
- ↑ "WE’RE LIVE BLOGGING THE MOANA PANEL AT SAN DIEGO COMIC CON!". Oh My Disney. (July 21, 2016)