Disney Princesses Irene Bedard and Auli'i Cravalho on Creating Visibility for Indigenous People (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
When Irene Bedard, voice of Pocahontas, and Auli’i Cravalho, voice of Moana, took the stage of D23 Expo last summer, it was the first time all the living actresses behind Disney’s long history of animated princesses -- including Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Linda Larkin (Jasmine), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel), Kelly Macdonald (Merida), Kristen Bell (Anna) -- stood together. The “unprecedented” moment was a cause for celebration not only for longtime fans of the films, but among the actresses themselves -- many of them fond of each other’s contribution to the Disney canon.
“They've been my childhood heroes, so [it was] my childhood on stage,” Cravalho, the youngest (and newest) of the bunch said after the event.
Speaking by phone with ET in October, the actress recalls telling her fellow princesses, “I grew up with your voice and I grew up with you and the things that you taught me: self-sacrifice, love and being strong.”
But for Cravalho and Bedard, it just so happened to mark the first time the two would take the stage together. In October of this year, the two reunited in New York City for Audible's limited production of Have a Nice Day, a dramedy about a man desperately trying to save his presidency, his marriage and his relationship with his daughter. Playing President David Murray, Billy Crystal leads an all-star cast, including Annette Bening, Justin Bartha, Kevin Kline, Rachel Dratch and Robin Thede. (The audio play will be available Nov. 2.)
“I was pleased to be part of something where, as a Native person, there can be some humor,” Bedard, who is of Inuit descent and has appeared on Westworld and The Mist, says of the production. Of course, the actress also has nothing but adoration for her co-star. “She is such a beautiful spirit and the perfect person to do this character of Moana.”
“It was wonderful being on stage with another Disney princess,” Cravalho gushes, adding: “Pocahontas and Moana in the same show. I loved it!”
The 17-year-old, who is Native Hawaiian, also commends Bedard for creating visibility for indigenous people both on and off screen. “She does a lot of theater work, bringing that into her community,” she says. And the notion of Disney’s only two indigenous princesses working together in the same production wasn’t lost on Cravalho, who hopes for more moments like this in the future. “Native actresses will hopefully be able to continue to work with each other and work with stellar casts like this.”
Following the release of Have a Nice Day, the two will be heard again in Ralph Breaks the Internet, when the film opens in theaters on Nov. 21. In fact, all of the actresses behind Disney’s canon of princesses will reprise their roles in the animated sequel to Wreck-It Ralph. Getting a modern makeover, the princesses befriend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) at the most epic slumber party ever.
“Hopefully fans will love this movie just as much as they did Moana,” Cravalho says. While the actress is excited that the young heroine is now officially considered one of the princesses, Pocahontas’ appearance -- 23 years after Pocahontas first came out -- in the Ralph sequel holds special significance for Bedard.
“I knew when taking this role was going to be part of my life for the rest of my life and it’s really beautiful,” Bedard says, adding: “As far as the Native American people go, we’ve been so invisible for so long. And to have this character on the internet and be in modern clothes and that we’re still here now is a great feeling.”