EXCLUSIVE: “That was a little Fury Road”: The Mad Max tribute hidden in Disney’s Moana


It’s the family-friendly Disney movie that’s smashing box-office records in the US at the moment, but the filmmakers behind Moana slipped in a wink to one of their favourite, R-Rated movies: George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

Speaking to The Feed on location at Walt Disney Animation Studios in LA, where Moana was made, the directors, writers and producers John Musker and Ron Clements confirmed the tribute.

When their Polynesian princess Moana takes to the high seas with demi-God Moana, the pair are set upon by a pack of coconut warriors known as the Kakamora.

“That was a little Fury Road,” says John Musker, with a knowing smirk.

Ron adds: “We loved that film so much.”

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The Kakamora are supposed to be a parody of the War Boys from Mad Max: Fury Road, which was one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2015 and won six Academy Awards.

Mimicking the monster cars and vehicle mash-ups of the film – but on the ocean and with ships – the scene will be familiar to fans of Fury Road: from the drum beating right down to the score.

“That was our little homage to George Miller and what he did with that movie,” says John, “but with coconuts.”

“Yes, with coconuts instead of the Doof Warrior,” Ron notes.

It’s not the first time the filmmaking duo have slipped an adult reference into one of their animated hits.

War boys

The pair were responsible for The Little Mermaid back in 1989 and said the character Ursula was based on real-life drag queen and John Waters’ film regular Divine.

"Her origins were with Divine, the great actor from Baltimore that Howard Ashman knew," says John.

"Rob Minkoff - one of our principal animators at the time - did some drawings that were based on Divine and so even though it’s sort of disguised, it’s based on the character.

"She was a little mix of Divine and Joan Collins. We had an element of Joan Collins in it who Howard was a huge fan of."

The Disney stalwarts are credited with some of the company’s biggest hits over the years, including The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and Princess and the Frog.

Yet it seems Moana might be their biggest success yet, with early box-office reports predicting the film could knock over Frozen’s record for the Thanksgiving haul in the US.

The film is yet to open globally, but already is being called one of the company’s most progressive and feminist movies to date by American critics, despite original controversy over the Maui 'blackface' costume which was pulled from shelves and criticism of the demi-God's body type adhering to cultural stereotypes.



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