On the island of Motunui, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho (voice)) is chosen by the ocean to receive the heart of Te Fiti, an island goddess. When a curse caused by the missing heart reaches Motunui, Moana sets out to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson (voice)) and return the heart to its rightful place to lift the curse.
With Zootopia having been released earlier this year, Moana marks the first time since 2002 that Disney has released two animated feature films the same year (Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet were that year for those who are curious). And man, what a year it has been for Disney animation. Zootopia is an extraordinarily hard act to follow, being what could be considered the best film of what has become known as the Disney Revival Era. At least until now.
First off, the voice casting is amazingly spot-on. First-timer Auli’i Cravalho does an astonishing job. The range of emotion that she is able to portray with simply her voice makes it hard to believe this is her first acting credit. You would think she was a seasoned veteran, just like Dwayne Johnson. Speakin of, I know that often animators will try to bring some part of the voice actor’s likeness to a character but Maui is the spitting image of Johnson. Pretty much a caricature of him. Not only does Maui look like Johnson but he moves like him too. He even does the eyebrow thing! And the “pec muscle thing” as my sister so elegantly put it. But besides his looks, Johnson has the perfect voice for Maui.
I am beginning to feel like a broken record when it comes to reviewing animated films. With every film released, the animation gets better and better and the gets more and more beautiful. The film takes place on the open water and on sandy beaches and in lush forests. The water glistens and sparkles and flows extremely life-like. This is probably the best water animation since Finding Nemo. One animation aspect that really surprised me was the characters’ hair. Given the characters are sailing on the water for most of the movie, they were bound to get wet eventually. The way it looks heavier and bunches together and shimmers is, again, very life-like. I give the animators big kudos for getting something that can be easily overlooked to look so accurate.
Like any Disney princess, Moana has her animal sidekicks. The one that steals the cake, however, is her dimwitted chicken Heihei, voiced by the versatile Alan Tadyk. When I say “voiced” I mean he makes sounds, he doesn’t actually talk. Heihei is much like Maximus and Pascal from Tangled, well like most animal sidekicks really, where his humor comes from his actions. In a movie that is already filled with a decent amount of humor, Heihei added a unique touch that garnered laughs from every scene he was in.
Like every Disney movie ever, there is a message to be found in Moana. What I like best about the message in this film is that both Moana and Maui deal with the same problem of doubt but they deal with it from different sources. Maui has self doubt, struggling internally with events from his past. Moana, on the other hand, deals with doubt from others, mainly her father, about whether she is truly ready to be chief of her tribe. They find strength in each other and both overcome those doubts. It was a crafty way for Disney to bring their message across.
In recent years, Disney has become more focused on releasing films containing messages of self-empowerment, as seen in movies like Maleficent and Frozen. But where Moana differs from something like Frozen is that there is no prince or male love interest at all. Moana focuses on exactly that: Moana. It is all about her and finding finding power and confidence within herself to complete her journey to save her people.
It wouldn’t be a Disney princess movie without some musical numbers. Two songs that stood out to me the most were “You’re Welcome,” sung by the surprising musical Johnson, and “How Far I’ll Go,” sung by Cravalho. As much as I enjoyed the soundtrack, I will admit it is one of the weaker soundtracks of late from Disney animation. I don’t think it will become as popular as some of their more recent films have become, such as Frozen, or have the longevity as several of Disney’s other classic animated features, like The Lion King, but I wouldn’t mind to be proven wrong on that.
I thought Moana was GREAT :-D. Although the score might not be as catchy as other Disney favorites, it fits the setting beautifully, the same way Dwayne Johnson and Auli’i Cravalho completely embody Maui and Moana. I have really enjoyed the last several years of Disney animation, very reminiscent of the quality of films from when I was a kid. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the directors who brought me my favorite Disney animated film.
You can read my sister’s review of Moana here.
Cast & Crew
Ron Clements – Director / Story
Jon Musker – Director / Story
Don Hall – Co-Director / Story
Chris Williams – Co-Director / Story
Jared Bush – Screenplay
Pamela Ribon – Story
Aaron Kandell – Story
Jordan Kandell – Story
Mark Mancina – Composer (Score)
Opetaia Foa’i – Composer (Original Songs)
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Composer (Original Songs)
Auli’i Cravalho – Moana (voice)
Dwayne Johnson – Maui (voice)
Rachel House – Gramma Tala (voice)
Temuera Morrison – Chief Tui (voice)
Jemaine Clement – Tamatoa (voice)
Nicole Scherzinger – Sina (voice)
Alan Tadyk – Heihei (voice)
Happy holidays! I hope everyone is in the holiday spirit because I have a very special gift for you. Today, my little sister is making her blogging debut in the feature Samantha’s Movie Reviews! Samantha was one of my movie buddies when seeing Moana in the theaters and is a fellow Disney movie fanatic. I have said before that a love for Disney runs in my family and my sister is no exception. Samantha is the sister who watched Mulan the way I watched Aladdin (read: all the time), not to be confused with the sister who was obsessed with The Little Mermaid (see, we are a Disney family). We saw Moana last weekend and after discussing the film with her, I asked her if she wanted to write her own review for it. And wouldn’t you know it, see agreed! She does discuss spoilers so consider yourself warned. Now, without further ado, here is Samantha’s review of Moana. Enjoy!
Disney always has had a wide variety of movies they produce. It seems that all the newer princess films are more tied with girl power rather than needing a prince. This is important to young children to show that they should be themselves to be happy. Moana sets a good example and is another strong character from Disney, along side other heroines including Mulan and Ana.
This movie definitely had its fair share of characters. However, there were a few characters that stood out to me. Moana is one of these characters and not just because she is the main character. For a Disney princess, I found her to be kind of relatable. Not only do we share a love for the sea, but we also have ambition. Moana knew in her heart that she needed to travel outside the reef to find what was waiting for her. She is a determined teenager who isn’t afraid to show her true personality. From early on in Moana’s life, her Gramma Tala seemed to understand her better than anyone on the island. She was the person who also believed that Moana was destined to travel and be a voyager. It was Gramma Tala that showed Moana the large ships that their people used to travel on. This is what pushed her to go out and find Maui.
I also like the character of Moana’s mother. In the very beginning of the movie, she took her husband’s side when it came to the water. However, those feelings changed. As Moana was packing supplies for her trip, her mother walks in. One may think that she was coming to stop her daughter from going, but in reality, she came to help her. I found that almost touching because she knew this is something Moana really wanted and needed to do to save her people.
While on her voyage, Moana tries to find the great demigod, Maui. This is the fourth character that stood out to me. I enjoyed how much that animation resembled Dwayne Johnson. An example of these resemblances is during Maui’s song “You’re Welcome.” During this song, Maui does the classic “pec muscle thing” that Dwayne does in the majority of this movies. I thought this was a good way to bring his personality into his character.
Moana had numerous memorable scenes and a couple that had tears filling up everyone’s eyes. One of these tear-jerker moments was as Gramma Tala was dying. As her time was coming to an end, she pulled her granddaughter in close to convince her to go pass the reef and that she would always be with her. Even though this was one of the emotional scenes, Disney managed to add a little punch line. She explained that in another life, she hoped to be a ray otherwise she chose the wrong tattoo. Shortly after Moana set out on her boat, the directors showed Gramma Tala’s death in a different way; they showed a giant ray swimming under Moana’s boat. I found this to be a very clever way to show the death without specifically showing her dying.
As always, a demigod has to have something to show their achievements. In Maui’s case, that was through his tattoos. I enjoyed the fact that he had to earn the tattoos on his body. Towards the end of the movie, once the Heart of the Te Fiti was restored, Maui received a new tattoo to represent the voyage that he and Moana had traveled. I thought this was a good touch on the writer’s part because now Maui will always remember the fascinating journey he had been on.
Most people don’t actually pay attention to the credits as they are rolling, but if you did, you may have noticed that there was a separate animation team just for hair and water. This shows just how much effort the creators put into the little details. I personally enjoyed the hair and water very much. I found Moana’s hair to be almost life like. After Maui tossed her into the water multiple times, her hair looked wet like normal hair would. I thought that was a good touch because in a way, it made the movie more realistic. In real life, women definitely do not come out of the water with luscious hair like many early Disney princesses did. The water was obviously mainly where this movie took place so it definitely needed to be perfect. It always seemed to be sparkling in some way in both the noon and sunlight. I found both these aspects to make the movie more visual to the audience.
Moana had to have a lot of girl power to survive on her voyage, especially after Maui gave up on her. She didn’t quit when her father told her not to go beyond the reef or when Maui refused to assist her. Her mother and grandmother encouraged her to go on the voyage, giving her the support to follow her heart. Moana gives girls another inspiring Disney role model who isn’t afraid to be herself.
Pretty impressive, eh? Besides proofreading and answering questions, I had nothing to do with this review. It is all her writing. Thank you for writing this for me Sam, a little for giving me an extra day to get my review together but mostly because it was great to have you. Hopefully you will be back again!
My review for Moana can be read here.
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