Disney's Moana

(Walt Disney Animation Studios)

 

A chieftain’s daughter must traverse the wild ocean to track down the demigod Maui and right a great wrong in ancient Polynesia.

 

Rated PG, for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements.

Genre: Family / Animation

Viewer Appeal: All Ages.

 

Disney’s new take on an old tale has a unique mythological twist: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson starring as ancient Polynesian demigod, Maui. How could I resist that?

 

The story of Moana follows the traditional Disney arc. A brave young princess goes on a quest to save her people and find herself, adding in plenty of humor, an interesting and (mostly) unfamiliar story, and fantastic new songs. There’s a funny chicken too—but I digress.

 

First, let’s talk about the princess.

 

Voiced by newcomer Auli‘i Cravalho, the title character of Moana is a curious, adventurous girl living on the secluded (i.e. “safe”) Pacific island of Motunui. It’s here that her ancestors landed a thousand years before, after exploring the range and expanse of the vast ocean that reaches beyond Moana’s vision from the shore behind the reef. Like her ancestors, the chieftain’s daughter longs to dive into the deep and see what awaits out in the bright blue waters away from Motunui.

 

Of course, Moana’s father forbids Moana from leaving the island, for her own safety. (Side note: The father as a stern, overprotective obstacle for Disney princesses is familiar territory for directors Ron Clements and John Musker, who also piloted Disney’s The Little Mermaid through similar waters.) As is inevitable, though, Moana leaves Motunui to find demigod Maui, force him to right a great wrong against the earth goddess, Te Fiti, and thus break a curse that’s beginning to plague her home island.

 

It seems that thousand years ago Maui (voiced delightfully by Dwayne Johnson) stole the gemlike “heart of Te Fiti” and started the curse that has spread slowly across the world, causing the earth to fade and decay. And so, with the help of the mysterious spirit of the Ocean, Moana finds the shape-shifting, happy-go-lucky, thrill-seeking demigod (FYI, he’s been stranded on a barren rock-island in the pacific for a thousand years) and together they begin the journey to save the world.

 

Yes, The Rock is a lot of fun as the voice of Maui, portraying the mischievous, self-absorbed, but actually good-hearted myth with endearing earnestness. Although we must admit he’s not the best singer, Johnson’s song, “You’re Welcome” is definitely a highlight in the film. The real powerhouse, though, is Auli‘i Cravalho who’s stunning performance—both in dialogue and song—stands up against other Disney greats such as Jodi Benson (Ariel in The Little Mermaid) and Idina Menzel (Elsa in Frozen). Cravalho is at turns heartbreaking, joyful, vulnerable, yet brave. And wow, can she sing. This girl as Moana is a real treat.

 

The other treat here is the music itself, and who’d expect less from composer Lin Manuel Miranda, who also created the Broadway smash, Hamilton?

 

All that to say…Disney’s Moana is all that and a bag of sardines.

 

Well, a lot better actually. This is a family film that, honestly, your whole family will enjoy—a Broadway-style animated musical that bears up well under repeated viewings.

 

As Maui says, “You’re welcome.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus features on the Blu-ray edition include:

 

• Theatrical Short Film: “Inner Workings” – With introduction by the filmmakers, is the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited, adventurous half. Created by a small team at Walt Disney Animation Studios in a unique, fast-paced style that blends CG and traditional hand-drawn animation, the short explores the importance of finding balance in daily life.

 

• Maui Mini-Movie: “Gone Fishing” – When Maui decides it’s time to take charge of the ocean and catch his next meal, Moana must show him the error of his ways … with a little help from her friends!

 

• Voice of the Islands – An in-depth look at how Pacific Island people and cultures inspired the filmmakers to create the story of “Moana.”

 

• Things You Didn’t Know About …

 

• Meet the stars of “Moana” in this dynamic Q&A featuring Dwayne Johnson, newcomer Auli‘i Cravalho, and famed animation directors Ron and John.

 

• Meet the musical team behind “Moana” in this fascinating Q&A featuring Opetaia Foa‘i, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

 

• Island Fashion – Find out how costume designer Neysa Bové took on the unique challenge of creating costumes using materials and techniques native to the islands of Oceania.

 

• They Know the Way: Making the Music of “Moana” – Musicians Opetaia Foa‘I, Marc Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda take us on a personal journey through their involvement in the movie and how it changed their lives.

 

• Fishing for Easter Eggs – Dive deep into the ocean and fish for the Easter Eggs hidden by the animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

 

• The Elements of … – This series of four mini-docs explores the technical achievements behind some of the ground-breaking effects used in the film.

 

• Mini Maui – Meet “Mini Maui,” Maui’s tattoo sidekick. Animated by legendary hand-drawn animator Eric Goldberg, we explore how the 2D world collides with CG animation to bring the demigod’s tattoos to life.

 

• Water – In the movie, the ocean is a character. This piece explores how the water is given a personality, along with the technical feats of creating a believable ocean landscape farther than the eye can see.

 

• Lava – Te Kā is a creature made of lava, smoke and fire. This piece dives into the challenges of making an animated creature of massive scale brought to fiery life by character, technical and effects animators.

 

• Hair – One of the greatest technical achievements of the film was the animation of the beautiful, curly hair on Moana and Maui. Take a look at the hair-raising detail that goes into animating each strand, adding performance to the movie that has never been seen before.

 

• Deleted Song: “Warrior Face” – With introduction by songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda.

 

• Deleted Scenes – Ron and John introduce the following deleted scenes: Race the Wind/Ties that Bind; Discussing Moana’s Future; Under the Sea; Grandmother’s Warning/Legend of Maui; Education of Moana; Father, Daughter, Boat; and Canoe Race.

 

• Music Video: “How Far I’ll Go” – Performed by Alessia Cara.

“How Far I’ll Go Around the World” – Multi-language reel of the song “How Far I’ll Go.”

 

• Audio Commentary – With directors Ron and John.

 

Let's Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:

 

• What would you say is the overall theme of Moana? Explain.

• If you lived on Moana’s island, who do you think would be your best friend? Why?

• In what ways are you like Moana? In what ways are you different?

 

--MN

 

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