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Utah artist plays big role in Disney's 'Moana'

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SALT LAKE CITY — Disney's newest animated film "Moana" was up for two big awards at the Golden Globe Awards — Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song. It's been a huge hit in Utah, but what many people don't know is that one of the key artists behind the movie is from the state.

Go behind the scenes of Disney's latest hit "Moana" and these are the faces you might recognize: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Lin Manuel Miranda and David Derrick.

What? You don't know Dave?

Well, he's a Utah native, grew up in Farmington, attended the University of Utah and eventually landed at Disney, the studio he sought out specifically to work on "Moana."

"When I learned they were making the movie, I really started championing to try to get on it because I wanted to be a part of it," said Derrick. "I wanted to tell the story right."

Derrick is a storyboard artist and one of the first artists to work on the movie.

"A movie like 'Moana' I was on for almost three years," said Derrick. "We work closely with the director and the writer to visualize the entire film."

It's a story board artists job to take the script and draw out each scene. They develop characters along the way and as soon as they're good enough, they pass the scenes onto animation. Derrick did thousands of drawings for the song "How Far I'll Go" before he got it just right.

"At one point we had her (Moana) a little more adventurous, a little more like X-games where she was really going out there every time in the water and trying to cross the reef," said Derrick. "But ultimately we felt like that was detracting from the emotional story so we kind of stayed internal with her on the island."

Derrick also got to work closely with Miranda before he became a household name.

"When we first started working on this movie, he was working on this off-broadway show that we weren't sure was going to be big," said Derrick. "It was some rap about the founding fathers. And then it turned out to be the biggest cultural phenomenon ever."

For Derrick, making Moana was also very personal. His ancestors are from Samoa and his great great grandmother is buried in Iosepa, a Utah ghost town in the middle of Skull Valley. He hopes the spirit of the film strikes a chord that leads back to family.

"Whoever you are, wherever you come from, you stand at the end of a long line of ancestry that can inspire and can motivate you throughout your life," said Derrick. Tania Mashburn is a relative of David Derrick.


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