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Faithful to the tradition of Disney’s renaissance era, Moana takes audiences of all ages on a journey with a resourceful young woman who learns her place in the world. Parents will love the tribute toward Polynesian culture, while kids will love the fantastical journey made complete with a fresh color palette. Other than an inappropriately placed gag about urination, Moana has established itself as yet another family-friendly hit by the Disney studio within their CGI renaissance.
The wide range of animation styles explored here starts with a two-dimensional storytelling of what Polynesian religion believes brought the islands into existence. In what appears to be a moving tapestry, a wise, grandmotherly voiceover tells us of Mother Island, who raised islands out of the sea and then rested among them. That is, until Maui the shapeshifting demigod stole her heart. Along his path away from Mother Island, he lost the heart, as well as his fish hook that allows him to shapeshift.
Then the animation style switches to the traditional computer animation, where an elderly storyteller is speaking to her grandchildren about the story. The one seated in the middle of the pack, the heroine of our story, immediately goes out onto the seashore, where the miraculously animated living water leads her through conch shells to the heart of Mother Island itself: the ocean called her to restore peace to the land.
Then this toddler grows up to become Moana, daughter of the chief who wishes to sway away from their traditional ways in order to explore the world. She’s a typical kid’s movie heroine we’ve seen countless times before, and her motive to defy authority is not a good message for our kids, but the empowering musical voice by Auli'i Cravalho plenty makes up for that.
Her grandmother pushes her to follow the calling by the ocean to find Maui the demigod so that she can help him retrieve his fish hook and return the heart to Mother Island. It follows out of the tradition followed by her people, as they are not voyagers; but their long-forgotten ancestry says otherwise. Therefore, Moana goes out on the quest, with a google-eyed, dim-witted chicken as her sole companion.
Then she meets Maui himself, voiced with a lovable laid-back nature by Dwayne Johnson. He adds the familiar heart and soul expected from any Disney feature, as his tattoos move individually to express his true feelings.
Now with the demigod on her voyage, Moana travels elsewhere to find his hook and get to Mother Island. Such stops include an underwater world of fantasy that houses a giant gold-crazy hermit crab. He is not one of the more tolerable portions of the adventure though, as his modes of dialogue includes rambling without a clear punchline to whatever joke he’s attempting to deliver, and an out of place song sung in the style of Paul McCartney.
This is among one of the other songs that simply sound odd in melody. Even so, there are several hits in the score, including Moana’s single ballad, “How Far I'll Go,” and the catchy “We Know the Way,” both of which are guaranteed Oscar nominations. Yet none of these songs will catch on as one of Disney’s iconic tunes. In addition, anytime the characters are not singing, they are blatantly telling us through not-so-subtle foreshadowing what will happen later on.
Another thing that is difficult to grasp about Moana is the big “so what” of its celebration towards pagan religion. While yes, we should never be afraid to learn about other cultures and their backgrounds, depicting their gods as truth is not the answer to learning about who these people are. I would like for Disney to someday make a big leap in exploring and faithfully retelling the way those of another culture live their day to day lives, as to make up for their poor treatment of non-White races in the past.
I cannot see Moana becoming a celebrated classic like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, or The Little Mermaid, nor can I see it largely influencing pop culture like Frozen or Zootopia, but it is still a fresh adventure for the young and young at heart to get the ideal expected Disney experience.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Moana. Disney. <http://movies.disney.com/moana>.
Wendroff, Jessica Ariel. Is The Maui Legend From 'Moana' Real? The Demigod Has A History. Romper. 23 Nov 2016. Web. <https://www.romper.com/p/is-the-maui-legend-from-moana-real-the-demigod-has-a-history-23222>.
Zanolla, Leah. Character “Moana” may be coming to Walt Disney World. Digital image. Dis. Werner Technologies, LLC, 15 Aug 2016. Web. <http://www.wdwinfo.com/news-stories/character-moana-may-be-coming-to-walt-disney-world/>.