The Rock Admits That His ‘Moana’ Character Was Actually Partly Inspired By His Grandfather

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is the Senior Editor of Branded Content at Wild Sky Media. She grew up in upstate New York and Oregon and now lives in Queens, NY. Ileana graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in sociology. After graduating, she attended the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, then worked as in marketing at Oxford University Press. Since transitioning to editorial, she has written for BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Woman's World. She has also worked for local newspapers and magazines in upstate New York. In her free time, you can find Ileana watching Law & Order: SVU, eating ice cream, and spending time with her dog.

One of the best kids movies of the past few years was definitely Moana.

If you haven’t seen it, Moana tells the story of a teenage girl, Moana, who isn’t content with her life on the Polynesian island of Motunui.

Moana, who is the chief’s daughter, is chosen by the ocean to save her community.

During her journey, Moana teams up with Maui, the Demigod, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Eventually, Moana sets things right on her island.

The film is punctuated by songs and humor, and almost everyone who saw it — kids and adults alike — absolutely adored it. In fact, the animated film has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Dwayne Johnson’s grandfather was a man named Peter Maivia, a Samoan High Chief.

Just recently, The Rock announced that his character in Moana, Maui, was actually inspired by his grandfather — and the animations were derived from photographs of the High Chief.

[H/T: BuzzFeed]

dwayne grandfather

On October 2, 2017, Anthony Oliveira posted two side-by-side photos to his Twitter account: one of the animation of Maui, and one of Peter Maivia.

Anthony wrote, “Moana’s Maui VS @TheRock’s literal actual grandfather.”

the rock

Much to everyone’s surprise, The Rock actually saw the Tweet, and he responded to it.

And it turns out the resemblance between Maui and Dwayne’s grandfather was no coincidence!

The Rock retweeted Anthony, and shared a comment of his own:

a lil’ @Disney gem of a secret, my character Maui was partly inspired by my late grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia of Samoa. #grateful


“That’s pretty great!” one Twitter user wrote. “Thanks for representing us Pacific Islanders with such dignity.”

Another person wrote, “OMG! This just makes the film and his character ten times cooler!!!!”

peter maivia

Do you see the resemblance between The Rock’s grandfather and Maui?

The Disney animators took some inspiration from Peter Maivia’s appearance, and The Rock tried to channel his illustrious grandfather’s personality in his performance.

moana poster

In addition to just being a fun fact about the movie, it’s also pretty heartwarming that The Rock was able to draw inspiration from his grandfather for the role.

It seems like character isn’t the only thing Dwayne got from his grandfather — he also got his good looks and his wrestling talent.

the rock muscles

That’s right, Dwayne Johnson’s family has been wrestling professionally for three generations!

Peter Maivia was a Polynesian Pacific pro wrestler, and a Samoan high chief, and his wife, The Rock’s grandmother, was a wrestling promoter.

the rock polynesia

Dwayne’s father, Rocky Johnson, was a Canadian pro wrestler, and part of the first black team to win the World Tag Team Championship in the WWF.

Many of Dwayne’s other family members are also wrestlers, including some of his uncles and cousins.

dwayne auli'i

How cool is it that Dwayne followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and was also able to honor his Polynesian heritage in a Disney movie?

No wonder the character of Maui felt so authentic!

moana movie

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