- “I'm curious about that chicken, eating the rock. I mean, he seems to lack the basic intelligence required for pretty much... everything.”
- ―A villager discussing Heihei with Moana
- Heihei is one dumb rooster—the village idiot, in fact. When the clueless chicken accidentally stows away on Moana’s canoe, he lands a front-row seat for her epic journey.
The character of Heihei was present in the earliest versions of the story, though with an entirely different personality. Originally, Heihei was assigned to join Moana's journey as an antagonistic watchdog, by orders of Chief Tui. He was portrayed as aggressive, proud, and judgmental, with most of his attempted comedy coming from these negative traits. The filmmakers felt this version of the character didn't work for the shifting story. Major discussion of scrapping Heihei's character from the film, entirely, had begun. Four months before animation of the film was to begin, John Lasseter assembled the team to decide the fate of Heihei.
One of the film's key story artists, David Derrick, had gotten sick and would be out of commission for two days. The filmmakers took this time to put focus into reworking Heihei's character to preserve his place in the movie. The result was a drastic change of Heihei's character, turning him into what co-director Ron Clements believes "might be the stupidest character in the history of Disney Animation". With Heihei as a semi-mindless animal, unaware of his surroundings, thus leading to varying situations (most of which are comical), he became a complication to Moana's journey, which in turn, furthered the story. An example of Heihei's new role was storyboarded and presented to John Lasseter, who enthusiastically exclaimed, "Yes, Heihei has been saved! He’s in the movie!".
To put it simply, Heihei is incredibly stupid. He is oblivious of his surroundings and, as a result, places himself in varying degrees of danger without much notice. He is accident-prone and easily distracted, which makes him a complication in Moana's journey, though she'll work to protect her friend and loves him unconditionally, nevertheless.
Though his actions would strongly imply otherwise, Heihei has some level of awareness that is seen on rare occasions. For example, he was able to differentiate his island home to the blankness of the sea, and additionally deduced that he and Moana had ventured passed Motunui's reef (which is against the village law because of the dangers within the sea). This causes Heihei to go into panic and is perhaps the only instance in which he showed signs of mortality and fear. During the climax, he proved that he understood the importance of Te Fiti's heart to Moana, and actively risked his life to help her maintain it when it nearly falls into the ocean during the second battle with Te Kā.
Role in the film
Heihei has been part of Moana's life since she was a toddler. He roams around the village mindlessly, often getting himself into unknowing trouble, only to be saved by the villagers. He seems to be viewed more as a member of the community rather than a pet, though some villagers believe his stupidity makes him a worthy choice for dinner. Moana, by the time of her teenaged years, believes there's more to Heihei than meets the eye – deep, deep down at the very least.
At some point, Heihei comes across a cave of ships that were once sailed by Moana's ancestors. He boards one, which Moana takes on her mission to find Maui and return the heart of Te Fiti to its rightful place. She finds Heihei the following morning, who panics and falls off the boat. Moana saves him and safely secures him to prevent more accidents. However, the two are later caught in a storm that sends them to Maui's island. Maui steals Moana's boat and Heihei alongside it as a "boat snack".
As the two sail off, Maui feeds Heihei to fatten him up, but Moana arrives and confronts Maui. She orders him to assist her and pulls out the heart of Te Fiti just when a band of pirates arrives to steal it. The Kakamora attack their boat, but Heihei swallows the heart, making himself the target of the coconut monsters. Heihei is kidnapped, and Moana rushes to save him. They make it back to the boat, and once they do, Heihei spits out the heart.
Once Maui eventually agrees to help return the heart, the trio venture out into the sea to accomplish their mission. Along the way, Heihei does little to help, only falling into the water a few times, much to the frustration of the ocean. Maui also continues to feed Heihei (who he nicknamed drumstick) during the voyage, apparently still wanting to eat him. When the team faces Te Kā, Heihei remains in the boat's storage. When Moana checks on him following the disastrous battle, he is dazed and injured.
The result of the battle prompts Maui to leave Moana and Heihei to face Te Kā alone. Using her confidence granted to her by her grandmother and ancestors, Moana sails to Te Fiti and explains her plan of defeating Te Kā to Heihei, though she acknowledges that she's practically talking to herself, being that he's a chicken. When Te Kā attacks, the heart is nearly lost as it rolls to the sea, but Heihei saves it and hands it back to Moana. Soon the boat is destroyed, and Heihei is lost at sea. After the island of Te Fiti is revived, however, the ocean brings both Maui and a dazed Heihei to shore.
With the mission complete, Maui bids farewell to Moana and Heihei, while the latter two return to Motunui. As they disembark, Heihei mindlessly walks back towards the sea, only for the ocean to turn the confused rooster to the proper direction. Heihei is last seen standing atop Pua's head as Moana and her family voyage across the sea.
- Heihei is a bantam rooster.
- Heihei's original portrayal appears in early promotional material for the film.
- Heihei is Alan Tudyk's fifth consecutive voice role in the Disney Animated Canon.
- Tudyk refers to Heihei as one of his most enjoyable roles to date.
- The filmmaking team ironically celebrated Heihei's stay in the movie with fried chicken.
- The original, intelligent persona of Heihei was jokingly based on that of co-director John Musker.
- The villager that suggests eating Heihei is also voiced by Alan Tudyk.
- In addition to Tudyk's voice, several actual chicken sound effects were used for Heihei as well.
- The word heihei or hei hei means "chicken" in Māori.
- When Maui shapeshifts into a chicken, his physical appearance is identical to Heihei's, albeit much taller.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 "Alan Tudyk revealed his ‘Moana’ character and gave us a sample of his voice performance". HitFix (July 22, 2016).
- ↑ "New ‘Moana’ Photos and Character Details Introduce You to the Animated Cast". Screencrush (July 25, 2016).
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "How a Character From ‘Moana’ Was Saved Only Months Before Release". FILM (September 7, 2016).
- ↑ Julius, J., Lasseter, J., Malone, M. (2016). The Art of Moana. Chronicle Books, page 64.
- ↑ Snetiker, Marc (January 11, 2017). "10 fun facts about Moana that will make you say ‘Wow, what a fun Moana fact'". (Article) Entertainment Weekly.