He’s hardly the smartest chicken on this side of the road, but the rainbow-hued, rock-munching rooster Heihei is already proving to be one of the most popular characters in Disney’s latest mega-hit, Moana.
According to co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin), though, Heihei wasn’t always so dimwitted… and the character almost ended up on the cutting-room floor.
“The rooster was originally a lot smarter than he ended up being,” Clements told Yahoo Movies (watch above) after noting that both Heihei and Moana’s other animal sidekick, the pig Pua, were inspired by one of their research trips to the Polynesian islands, where the film takes place. “He was more of a cantankerous, disagreeable curmudgeon sort of character. But something about the character wasn’t working.”
So the question of whether to keep the cockerel in the picture was broached around Disney Animation’s production office. “We didn’t want to cut him, and the animators and the story people didn’t want to cut him,” Clements said.
Enter story artist Ryan Green, who, through the use of a visual aid, argued that Heihei would be more effective if his IQ should be drastically lowered. The argument clearly worked. Besides, aren’t dumb characters always funnier?
“It wasn’t just about him being funny, though he was very, very funny,” Clements explained. “But also he became an obstacle for Moana rather than anyone who could help her.” Added Musker, “Rather than a companion, he was a nuisance.” A very funny, very lovable nuisance.