Like many little girls, Auli’i Cravalho of Oahu wanted to be a Disney princess.
“From baby time to now, I wanted to be a Disney princess and then I wanted to be a singer or an actress,” the 14-year-old recalls.
But when Disney Animation began searching for a girl to voice the lead in its next princess movie Moana– about a young teen from 2,000 years ago who sets sail to fulfill her ancestors’ quest – Cravalho didn’t think she was good enough to audition.
“I was getting through my freshman year, and there were already so many great submissions over YouTube,” the 14-year-old Native Hawaiian tells PEOPLE, which features an exclusive first look at the movie in this week’s issue.
Good thing a fairy godmother (a.k.a. an Oahu casting agent) was looking out for Cravalho. After the agent discovered the teen’s singing talents during a charity competition, Cravalho was whisked off to Los Angeles, where directors Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin cast her opposite Dwayne Johnson in the animated film, set for release on Nov. 23, 2016.
“Moana is such an amazing character,” says Cravalho, who lives in the town of Mililani with her mother, Puanani. “She’s brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it, and I think that’s something that I can relate to as well. I just love watching how she goes along in this wonderful movie and grows as a person and helps her culture along the way.”
Cravalho is especially excited to work alongside Johnson, who will play a demigod named Maui whom Moana encounters during her travels.