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From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes MOANA, an epic adventure about a spirited teen who sets sail on a daring mission to save her people. Along the way, Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) meets the once mighty demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and together they cross the ocean on a fun-filled, action-packed voyage. Bring home the movie full of heart, humor and oceans of bonus extras!
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This film follows Disney's very first Polynesian princess (technically, not a princess though. Although, apparently, "if you wear a dress and you have an animal sidekick, you're a princess. ), voiced beautifully by newcomer Auli'i Cravalho, who teams up with the larger-than-life demigod Maui, voiced by the larger-than-life Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, to resolve the mysterious rift between man and nature and revive the ancient art of wayfinding. Along the way, she also seeks the one thing she has sought out her whole life: her identity.
Like how Maui could go on and on explaining every natural phenomenon, I could go on and on explaining how this film is nothing less than PERFECT. The story is incredibly moving and thought-provoking. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, and Opetaia Foa'i team up to bring us a soundtrack that deserves at least 10 Oscars. The cast is not only brilliantly assembled; most of them come from Polynesian roots (Auli'i Cravalho is a native Hawaiian, Dwayne Johnson's ancestors are Samoan, Temuera Morrison hails from New Zealand); in fact, the only cast member who is not Polynesian is Alan Tudyk, but only because he voices Hei Hei the rooster. The animation and character design is some of the finest I have ever seen in a Disney computer-animated film... Honestly, if I went any more into detail about how this film is my absolute favorite of 2016, we'd be here all day.
So, in short, Disney's 56th animated movie is an instant classic and will no doubt go down in history. This film is a must-see for all Disney fans, young and old. It's yet another brilliantly gleaming gem in the Disney Animation canon!
I saw Moana in the theaters, and also purchased the digital download with Bonus Content (more about the bonus material in a moment).
This movie is beautiful, and a true celebration of the Pacific Island cultures. Moana is a story about the rich Polynesian culture, and the relationship they have with the ocean and their islands, the preservation of their history, and most importantly about Moana's journey to save her island and remind her people of where they came from. The story is also about Maui's redemption. Even a demi god can make mistakes, and learn from them.
There is much to be said about the amount of 'girl power' Disney has given Moana. As a mom to daughters, I appreciate that this story doesn't have a love interest for Moana, but instead focuses on her as a strong independent young woman who is in line to accept a leadership role in her tribe. As a teenager, she's young and impulsive, and doesn't see eye-to-eye with her father, the tribe's chief, but she also cares about the future of her people. Moana is fierce and determined, a bit headstrong and reckless, but with a big heart. Her determination in the face of adversity is amazing.
Other characters: The very narcissistic Maui is just as funny and charming as his voice actor, Dwayne Johnson. HeiHei the chicken is completely pointless and worthless, but provides a lot of comic relief. He reminds me of Becky in Finding Dory. Pui the little pig was adorable and I wish he was in more of the movie. Grandma Tala's character reminds me of Rafiki in Lion King … loony and crazy, and deeply wise. The ocean is portrayed almost as another character to illustrate the importance of the ocean to these people, connecting them, surrounding them, taking care of them.
I have only two complaints about this movie:
Complaint #1: Moana's mother, Sina, has very few spoken lines, with only one brief scene of dialog between her and Moana. I would have liked to have known more about the relationship between mother and daughter. It's clear that Moana loves and respects her father, but disagrees with him on many things, and it's also clear that Moana's relationship with Grandma Tala (the village crazy lady) is key in building Moana's character. Moana's mother, though? I appreciate that she's there, as there are so many Disney Princesses without a mother, and I get the impresison that she was probably a neutral voice of reason and encouragement for Moana between her stubborn Father and crazy/wise Grandmother. However, I think Disney missed an opportunity to futhur develop that character.
Complaint #2: Tamatoa. This opinion may be unpopular, but I don't care for Tamatoa at all, and I love a good villain. His character is gaudy and obnoxious, the scenes with Tamatoa are gaudy and obnoxious, and the song 'Shiny' is gaudy and obnoxious. Everything about Tamatoa is contrary to the mood of this movie, which may have been intentional, but mostly just makes me want to fast forward through this part of the movie. Disney Wiki lists David Bowie as an inspiration for Tamatoa. If that's true, they missed their mark. David Bowie was eccentric, for certain, but I would not describe him as gaudy or obnoxious. As a villain in Labyrinth, he was the perfect juxtaposition between good and evil, enigmatic and dangerous, sauve and mysterious. Tamatoa is simply annoying. He reminds me of the character Nigel in Rio.
With the exception of the song “Shiny” I loved all of the music in Moana. Would you expect anything less from Disney? Music for Moana is some of the best Disney has produced in years. In my opinion, better than Frozen (gasp!). Lin Miranda Manuel is a brilliant artist and composer, and an amazing choice to work on this movie, along with longtime Disney composer Mark Mancina (The Lion King, Tarzan) and the Samoan-born Opetaia Foa’i. Maui's song “You're Welcome” is a toe-tapping catchy tune (and a bit of an ear worm). Having heard Lin Manuel himself sing the song in the Bonus Features, I think Dwayne Johnson did a pretty good job with most of the song, aside from some very lyrically complicated parts that were clearly dumbed down him in the final movie recording.
Moana's song “How far I'll go” is an uplifting song of adventure, and probably the top choice of most fans. My favorite song in the whole movie, however, is sung by Moana's Voyager ancestors, “We know the way.” This song is rich in the rhythm of Pacific Island musical culture. Half the song is in English, and the other half in an native Polynesian language … Tokelauan? Maori? I'm not certain, but it's beautiful.
I turned on the Bonus Content in my home office while I worked today. It's inspiring and moving. There is quite a lot of footage, so you may want to watch the Bonus Content a few segments at a time.
Disney spent 5 years doing research for this film, traveling to the Pacific Islands over and over again to live alongside the people there, observe their way of life, learn their traditions, language, and culture. Through the entire process of creating Moana, Disney consulted with native Polynesian people along the way. Based on feedback from native Islanders, movie writers and animators made major changes to how characters looked and behaved, and completely rewrote a number of plot points to honor the culture and history of these people. It was fascinating to learn so much about these people, and I appreciate the lengths Disney took to get it right.
With the exception of Alan Tudyk as the chicken HeiHei, Disney exclusively cast voice actors for Moana who were of Polynesian descent.
Overall, great job Disney, this one is a family favorite.
The movie is really cute, and I like that it doesn't have any princesses looking for their prince charming. Instead it is a girl trying to save the world. I have heard a lot of flak about this movie not getting the culture right or that Maui is fat and dumb. But I don't see Maui like that, he is compassionate and not fat but strong looking. He is stocky but in a good way. But everyone wants to complain about something now a days.
This movie made me more interested in the Polynesian cultures and myth and I actually researched a bit. Like Maui was really a demi god of some islands. Kakamora are really a myth but of shorter people who live in the forest not coconuts. But it is a disney movie! I like it a lot!
As with almost everything scored by Alan Menkin the music in this movie was another big plus. With some singing, writing, and composition by Lin-Manuel Miranda and some great Oceanic native singers the music and soundtrack is a great accompaniment to this movie.
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