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Is The Dead Porn Actress Moana Pozzi Why Disney Renamed ‘Moana’ in Italy? (Updated)

It’s no secret that American film studios often change the titles of their films for international markets. For example, Zootopia is known as Zootropolis in the U.K. and other parts of Europe, while it’s called Zootopie in France.

But the name changes for John Musker and Ron Clements’ Moana have been more dramatic than any other animated feature in recent memory. Throughout much of Europe, the film (and title character) have been renamed Vaiana, while in Italy, the film is called Oceania, which describes the region where the film is set.

Why so many name changes? Disney’s Spanish subsidiary pointed out in a tweet last year that changing the character’s name from Moana to Vaiana was necessary, because Moana was a registered trademark throughout the European Union:

The reason for the name change in Italy to Oceania remains more mysterious, however. Disney Italy hasn’t offered any official explanation, but the running theory in Italian media is that Disney was compelled to change the name thanks to the notoriety of Italian porn actress Moana Pozzi, who passed away in 1994 at the age of 33. Like the Disney princess, Pozzi’s first name had Polynesian roots; she was named after a Hawaiian island that means “the point where the sea is deepest.”

In addition to her film career, Pozzi was the co-founder of the Italian political movement, the Love Party, and ran unsuccessfully for the mayor of Rome. Per a 2004 piece in the The New York Times that described Pozzi’s diverse activities:

Pozzi was—and remains—Italy’s most revered porn star. Stunningly beautiful with a razor-sharp mind, Pozzi created a public persona that in just a few years became as popular with hormonally charged young men as with devout grandmothers.…Indeed, even while Pozzi was performing in erotic cabarets and filming cheesy porn flicks, she lived a parallel life as a respected pundit on television talk shows, philosophizing about sexual freedom or holding forth on gay rights or denouncing the Mafia.

Pozzi was so well known before her death that she even starred in her own animated short, Moanaland (dir. Mario Verger), about a porn star who exposes political corruption:

moanaland

Whatever headaches these name alterations have caused for Disney, the company is likely taking the changes in stride, since the early buzz for Moana suggests they’ve got another big hit on their hands. Perhaps even as big as the career of Italy’s homegrown Moana.

oceania_vaiana

UPDATED: A Cartoon Brew reader told us on Twitter that Moana directors John Musker and Ron Clements were asked about this topic at Annecy, and confirmed that the Moana Pozzi connection played a role in the name change:

  • Tre

    ‘Moana was a registered trademark throughout the European Union’ Wait, so the UK will have it as Vaiana too? I’m already constantly referring to Zootropolis as its ‘correct’ name of Zootopia, which confuses some people, and now I’m going to be doing it with this one too. Good grief! -_-

    • It’s a shame, though I’d say it’s no different from the different names to Japanese cartoons we fans have had to deal with for decades.

  • Elsi Pote

    Well, this article doesn’t fall any short of being interesting and a great party conversation topic.

    Forget for a minute all the copyright validations , potentionally offensive gestures and words, and the trendy (not to say boring) political correctness that make the production landscape look like a Vietnamese mine field.

    Now you have to fine comb the local landscapes for overly reactive backlashes.

    If nothing, Disney should have embraced the name for what it is and not for the commotion it could have caused.

    If Disney is so progressive and girl empowering, why not honoring a public figure like Ms. Pozzi?

    Was it all because of her porn background? Or was it because something else?

    Because Hollywood has flourished because of porn. That’s a very well known fact.

    You have to work hard to make it in porn (no pun intended) like any other job. You can’t make money just for showing up you know?

    For me this is nothing but another quasi clever trick from Disney marketing to enhance their recall and create buzz in a cash strapped territory.

    If not let me ask you, do you really think Jazmine’s costume choices were unintended? Really?

  • Pencil Bandit

    A cousin of mine actually works on the translation and marketing of Disney properties in Italy, and was bizarrely telling me of this conflict only a couple of months ago – so heck yeah, it’s true!

  • theBlipp

    You’d think one of the first things after coming up with a name is to actually do a search on the internet to see if anything silly comes up.

  • ea

    In Spain, Die Hard is known as “The Glass Jungle” and Beverly Hills Ninja is titled “The Fighting Sausage”

  • Strong Enough

    hmmm time to do some research on this Moana

  • Dario S

    Vaiana sounds weird in Italian and, unlike Spanish, it’s not easy to pronounce. Triphtongues pronunciation in Italian words (three consecutive vowels) is different from that in Spanish.

    • Funkybat

      How DOES one pronounce Vaiana? I’d say “vye-AN-na” just to look at it. Is it also a real polynesian word like Moana?

  • IAPD3000

    EU respects the adult movies and the US doesn’t! Tell why we don’t respect the adult industry?

    • ea

      Maybe because Europe kicked out the Puritans and they ended in America?

      • IAPD3000

        I guess! Then they destroyed everything that America was and add laws that makes no sense to foreigners.