Disney has a long history of making family animated features that feature your princess, a comedic side character, villain, and of course, memorable songs that the children are going to sing for their school pageants. The majority of them are very good, though it wasn’t until twenty years ago that Disney expanded the diversity of their characters. I think the first princess that wasn’t white was Pocahontas. The bloated roster has introduced Mulan who is Chinese, Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame who is gypsy, and Tiana from The Princess and the Frog who is black.
The next animated tale from Disney now gives us a Polynesian princess. While adding her to the long line of princesses may not seem like a big deal, her presence marks something progressive for the company. We happen to live in a society that only has expanding minorities and to acknowledge that is a smart choice. Given how a few people have said so, people are willing to accept new kinds of characters; especially ones that kids can look up too. Moana is the name of our new character, and the newest animated film from Disney.
In the prologue, we learn about how all life was created by the goddess Te Feti and became an island. But when demigod Maui (played by Dwayne Johnson) steals the islands heart, a spiritual stone, dark forces come after him. He looses the stone and his magical fishhook that gives him his shape shifting powers.
Hundreds of years later, on a small island in Polynesia, Moana Waialiki (played by Auli’I Cravalho) is the daughter of the village chief. She’s discouraged from going near the water, as is the entire tribe, to keep them safe. The dark forces I mentioned earlier, start to invade her island with no fish in the ocean and the fruit growing becoming rotten. At the encouragement of her grandmother, she not only discovers that her people were voyagers, but she takes one of the boats and the heart of Te Feti, and goes out to find Maui.
After a storm, she finds Maui on an island where he’s been exiled all this time. Upon meeting him, she finds him egotistical and very selfish who is only looking to return to being a hero for his fans. The two eventually agree to help him find his fishhook in exchange for him returning the stone.
As far as Disney movies are concerned, Moana is very good. Good, but not great. Disney shouldn’t have anything to worry about as the main character is a lot of fun to follow and is very likable. Dwayne Johnson, though bringing a lot of his similar traits from other movies, gets a lot of good lines and even manages to sing his song well (he’s not a strong singer, but he puts a lot of emotion into his performance). Animation again looks amazing. The best thing here is the music, as the songs are composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (responsible for the Broadway hit Hamilton). They are very catchy and may have something that can finally knock off Frozen’s “Let it Go”.
So what’s wrong with the movie is everything sounds good? I think its more what Disney is giving us as apposed to what the movie is giving. Moana has A LOT of the elements that you typically see in their other movies (they even joke about that in the movie). I’ll give credit to Zootopia, as that not only offered more new twists, but took more chances with its material. Moana feels a tad safe when compared to the latter. That shouldn’t stop people from having fun with this Polynesian set tale.
I’ll give this four fishhook weapons out of five. Moana has a lot to keep the family entertained, even if it’s not offering much new. I still recommend it if you’re a fan of anything Disney related. Set sail and see what you can find!