While Moana promoted Pua The Pig like he would be a big part of the movie, he completely misses out on the central adventure – so why does he stay behind? Moana follows the title character, a Polynesian teenager who sets out on an epic quest to find demigod Maui – voiced by Dwayne Johnson (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) – and return an ancient relic.
Moana’s charming characters and gorgeous animation, combined with a catchy soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns), saw it become a huge success. While Moana 2 has yet to be confirmed, reports suggest it could in the works at Disney. In addition to grossing close to $650 million worldwide, the movie also received a Best Animated Feature Academy Award nomination.
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In the tradition of other animated Disney classics like The Lion King or Aladdin, Moana also features a pair of funny sidekicks for the protagonist to hang out with. This includes dimwitted rooster Heihei, voiced by Alan Tudyk (Firefly), and Pua, a cute little pot-belly pig. Pua acts as Moana’s best friend when she’s growing up and the pair are somewhat inseparable.
This is until Moana sets out on her adventure, where the duo heads out on a boat but are quickly shipwrecked. They manage to make it back to shore, but Pua runs back to their village at the thought of going back on the water. When Moana sets out again, she only has Heihei for comfort, but she has to keep a close eye on him since he frequently tries to jump overboard. Pua runs to Moana at the end of the movie, but he’s sadly absent from the rest of the movie. Fans were doubly annoyed by this since the pig was featured heavily in the movie’s advertising. This has led to a number of theories as to why he stayed behind, including the production trying to save money on animating Pua by reducing his role or that he’s just a figment of Moana’s imagination.
In the movie itself, it’s clear the poor pig is so traumatized by almost drowning he just doesn’t want to go back out. It also makes sense Moana would leave her beloved pet behind so he wouldn’t be put in any danger. Earlier drafts of Moana actually did feature Pua setting out on the adventure but screenwriter Jared Bush (Zootopia) felt it would be more stressful if Moana’s best friend and source of comfort didn’t come along. This made her journey more powerful when she succeeded.
In the end, Pua sat out the main quest due to a combination of practical and storytelling purposes. Moana co-director John Musker (The Little Mermaid) later admitted this was an element he and directing partner Ron Clements were talked into, and he has some regrets about leaving Pua behind on the Island in the final version.