As the first and only Disney animation film based in the Pacific Islands, Moana is turning the world’s attention to the beauty, mysteries and cultural richness of the Tahitian islands.

Director John Musker began working on the idea of a film in the Pacific Islands five years ago, inspired by the novels of Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad and paintings by Paul Gauguin.

Realising that all of the perspectives on the region had came through the eyes of westerners, Musker began investigating Polynesian mythology; research that culminated in a trip, along with long-time partner and co-director Ron Clements, to Tahiti, Samoa and Fiji, where they met with archaeologists and linguists, choreographers and village chiefs. The authenticity of the story thus stemmed from veritable local knowledge, and the film became the first of its kind not to have a “westernised” main character.

A meeting with a Tahitian elder is reported to have helped the filmmakers clarify their mission, when he is reported to have said to them, “For years, we’ve been swallowed by your culture. For one time, can you be swallowed by ours?”

Air Tahiti Nui and Tahiti tourism have been closely associated with the release of the new film, partnering with The Walt Disney Company France to highlight the destination.

Air Tahiti Nui serves Polynesia Paris up to 7 times a week, and it was therefore “natural that this partnership be undertaken”. Like the hero Moana crossing the oceans, Air Tahiti Nui connects Polynesia to 5 continents, thus perpetuating the Polynesian tradition of conquest of the oceans.

Tahiti Tourism invited, through this partnership, 15 VIP media from France to experience the destination, its culture and its people following a custom itinerary designed to discover the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora in the footsteps of Moana. Nautical and cultural activities were organised by teams of Tahiti tourism in partnership with the local tourism industry, allowing journalists from Le Parisien, 50 minutes Inside, Paris Match, Le Point, VSD, RTL, Grazia magazine, Gala, Télé Loisirs, Le Journal des femmes, Metronews – to generate visibility for the islands internationally.

On the occasion of this press trip, The Islands of Tahiti also served as backdrop for the filming of the music video for the official song of the film, which allows fans to discover or rediscover the archipelago’s idyllic landscapes.

Already in the early 2000’s, Sir Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies impact on tourism in New Zealand was quite remarkable.

An International Visitor Survey from 2004, completed following the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, found that six percent of visitors to New Zealand (around 120,000 – 150,000 people) cited The Lord of the Rings as being one of the main reasons for visiting New Zealand.

One per cent of visitors said that the Lord of the Rings was their main or only reason for visiting. This one per cent related to approximately NZ$32.8m in spend.

In 2004, 63,200 visitors participated in a Lord of the Rings activity while here and since 2004, an average 47,000 visitors each year have visited a film location.

For Tahiti, the impact will of course be a little more difficult to measure, without having film sets in-situ, however it is already evident that the increase in awareness of the islands’ culture and people will make a big splash on tourism figures in years to come.