Review: Moana


Disney Pictures sets sail with a new princess in its latest animated adventure, Moana.

Moana (Auli’I Cravalho) is a young girl and the future chief on the Island of Motunui. Ever since she was a young girl, Moana was drawn to the sea. Her father forbid anyone to fish or travel outside the island’s reef, especially his daughter.

When the resources on Motunui start to dry up, Moana must rely on a mythical tale about a jade stone (Te Fiti’s heart), a shape-shifting demigod named Maui (The Rock), and defeating a lava monster named Taka to save her island.

Moana sets sail on her magical adventure to find Maui and she also finds out who here people are, and what her true calling is.

There’s nothing more Disney than bright colors, memorable songs, and wacky characters (HeiHei) – Moana has all of that. What sets Moana apart is how much the princess’s culture is woven into the story. Everything from tribal tattoos, to dance, to language is part of her story. It’s the type of cultural appreciation that would be good to see in most live action films, hopefully this animated story is a great first step.

It was really refreshing to see a princess of color. It hasn’t been since 2009’s Princess in the Frog that audiences have seen this level of diversity onscreen. And Moana isn’t just an adorable princess. She’s a leader. She’s tough. She’s smart. She’s courageous. She’s able to be a princess, carry the mantle of chief, and is never the “damsel in distress”.  Hopefully, this is how Disney princesses will be constructed from now on.

The animation in Moana continues the trend of outstanding visual effects for Disney films. There’s a scene where Moana is covered in sand. It’s a minor visual effect, but you can see the thought and detail put into that one particular scene. That’s what makes Disney films such a wonderful visual experience. They put a lot of detail on the little things.

The music is great and infectious as usual. There are some amazing songs that are sure tobe in Oscar contention come February. The story is funny and the jokes are timely. The comedy comes at the right moment during the action sequences.

Moana is the 56th Disney animated feature. It’s as fun and exciting as their previous films.  56 films in and Disney has figured out their formula to perfection, and it isn’t just the songs and the characters. Moana is about understanding where you come from and knowing where you’re going. A message that resonates with people of all ages.

Hopefully Disney returns to the Island of Motunui and creates more princesses like Moana in the future.

Grade: A-