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Disney’s latest film, “Moana,” is inspired by the Polynesian culture. In their quest to navigate the story of the South Pacific Islands, filmmakers called on cultural experts, including a Utah Native, to make sure they get it right.

Polynesian princess, Moana, sets sail with sidekick Maui on a mission to save her people. This is Disney’s first animated venture to the South Pacific and a very personal one for story artist David Derrick, who is of Samoan descent.

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“The Polynesians had the largest cultural footprint of any culture prior to European expansion,” Derrick said. “They were able to navigate the Pacific with the art and culture of wayfinding. For me, that was super important to let people understand that.”

Before Moana’s journey could begin, Derrick made a journey himself. It was a journey that brought him to Iosepa, Utah.

Iosepa was a town in Skull Valley where early Polynesians were sent in the late 1800s to establish an agricultural community. The community’s farms ultimately failed. All that remains there today is a cemetery.

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