Review: Disney’s ‘Moana’ powerful but likely not memorable

Elise Keller
Contributing Writer

Moana,” Disney’s newest PG animation directed by Ron Clements and John Musker was empowering and will surely be remembered as a great film, or at least until Disney creates another princess.

“Moana” is an animated Disney film about the daughter of a chief on an ancient Polynesian island where no one sails past the reef, for there is no need to until darkness starts to spread across the ocean, causing Moana’s island to be famished.

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Moana’s Gramma Tala (Rachel House) tells Moana of a way to return prosperity to her island. This plan goes against the traditions of her people. Moana has known all her life that this prophecy is what she has wanted her whole life. She makes the journey to try and save her island.

Along her journey she picks up master wayfinder Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and faces villains. These include a giant crab monster Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement) and Kakamora, a band of coconuts.

Moana, played by 16 year-old Hawaiian native Auli’i Cravalho, is a very empowering character, especially to Disney’s target audience of young girls. She is independent and curious and knows she is capable of succeeding.

Disney made a bold move in writing the story so that Moana does not have a love interest in the movie. The lack of romantic storyline really drives in Moana’s strength as a woman, unlike Disney’s past princess movies where the female lead is at some point reliant on a man with whom she has romantic interest. She does, however, make her journey accompanied by the large-built demi-god named Maui.

This film, like most of Disney’s films, is a musical with many Pacific aboriginal sounding tracks. The tracks were written by singer-songwriter Opetaia Foa’i and Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” “An Innocent Warrior” has lyrics written in multiple Pacific languages. Most songs are inspired by the chant-sounding Polynesian music and feature Polynesian choirs. The score was written by Mark Mancina.

Disney made sure it would not be faulted for the diversity of the film. The film crew made trips to islands in the South Pacific to make sure the details on the Polynesian history were accurate. The crew conducted research and interviews. The monsters were based on Polynesian myths. Music was written by the Western Samoan born musician Opetaia Foa’i. Johnson (Maui) and Temuera Morrison (Chief Tui, Moana’s father) are part-Samoan. Nicole Scherzinger (Moana’s mother) is another Hawaiian born cast member. Clement (Tamatoa) was born in New Zealand and is part Maori.

“Moana” with a running time of 1 hour and 53 minutes will be known as another great Disney princess movie but will be overshadowed when the next film comes along, just as “Moana” will overshadow “Frozen,” “Frozen” to “Brave,” “Brave” to “Tangled,” and so on.

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