Disney’s Moana is a film that was carefully crafted by animators John Musker and Ron Clements, whose combined repertoire includes “The Little Mermaid”, “Aladdin”, “Hercules”, and “The Princess and the Frog”. Together they are responsible for the creation of over half of Disney’s official princesses of color, with “Moana” being their third.
The movie tells the story of Moana Waialiki of Motunui, the daughter of the village Chief and the Ocean’s chosen to save the world. She spends much of her younger years longing to venture through the deep waters, to see the world beyond her island and it’s reefs, and her dreams only grow with her grandmother’s stories of ancient gods and a darkness that threatens to consume all they know. However, her parents deter her at any chance they can get, reminding her of her duty to her people and branding her grandmother’s tales as crazy. But Moana knows her destiny, and leaves to save all that she loves.
The film as a whole was engaging, with each of its components elegantly created and full of raw emotions. The plot was serious and emotional, yet is light hearted with a healthy dose of humor here and there. The storyline also relies heavily on Polynesian legends and is careful to not abuse them or change them in a way that might make them more appealing to American viewers. Along with this, the main cast consists of Pacific Islanders reinforcing the authenticity of the film and combating a common issue in Hollywood when it comes to casting actors to play the roles of minorities who are of a different ethnicity than them.
I also found the soundtrack to be beautiful, and ended up buying it as soon as I could. The songs are each unique in their own ways, with multiple standouts and catchy melodies. One of my favorites is “How Far I’ll Go” and subsequently its reprise and “I am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)”. They are sung by Auli’i Cravalho, the voice actress of Moana, whose voice is able to convey the passion and determination within her character. The songs focus on staying true to oneself, and not being defined by what others label you and instead what you know you are, reinforcing the film’s tone of self discovery and independence.
Viewers should expect scenes that are emotional and captivating, and the plot is more suited for mature children and adults than younger audiences, but no matter the age there are parts of “Moana” that are sure to keep people entertained.