Moana, the newest film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, hit the big screen this past fall, and introduced the newest member of the Disney “princess” line. Although Moana is not a princess, she has still been categorized as such. I don’t think it would be a surprise if next Halloween we saw little girls wanting to dress up as as her.
The film tells the story of Moana, the young daughter of the chief on the Polynesian Island, Motunui. Moana is chosen by the ocean to receive the mystical heart of the island goddess, Te Fiti, which was previously stolen by the demigod Maui.
When Maui tried to escape with the heart, he was attacked by the lava demon Te Kā, causing the heart and Maui’s hook to get lost in the ocean.
After learning of her families past and how the heart was stolen, Moana decides to set out on a journey to find Maui in order to retrieve the heart.
She eventually finds Maui and he agrees to return the heart to Te Fiti, only if he gets his hook back first. Along their journey, they get the hook back, however when they arrive at Te Fiti, Te Kā attacks them and damages Maui’s hook, leading him to abandon Moana out of fear.
A discouraged Moana begs the ocean to get someone else to return the heart, but through the spirit of her grandmother, she finds the courage to return it.
Playing the part of Moana, Auli’i Cravalho made her voice acting debut alongside Dwayne Johnson (Maui), and Nicole Scherzinger (Sina Waialiki).
The film’s reception has varied amongst audiences.
On the positive side, critics have praised this film as it offers a story, music, and an adventure that appeals to people of all ages.
However, some people from the region where the story is set are upset by the depictions of their traditions as well as their gods and goddesses featured by Disney.
The film creates a respectable role model for young girls. The story was originally written as Moana being the only daughter in a family with five or six brothers, and was intended to focus on gender. The final version of the plot is much different from what it started as, and now we are able to see Moana as strong, brave, and courageous. This made the goal of the film a journey where Moana would be able to find herself. Through the journey and Moana’s self-discovery, we can gather a sense of what she is meant to represent for young girls.
One of the most exciting aspects of the film is the music. Although Moana included less music than many other Disney films, the music in the film has received positive feedback.
The songs were written by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and creator of the Broadway musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
With Miranda’s hip-hop and Broadway influences in addition to the inclusion of South Pacific culture from Foa’j, the music adds to cultural representation of the Polynesian island where Moana lives. The song “How Far I’ll Go” was nominated for Best Original Song at both the 89th Academy Awards and the 74th Golden Globe Awards.
Whether or not you have seen Moana already, the target audience of the film is not limited to young girls. Anyone who watches the film will most likely leave feeling like they have been refreshed, know more about themselves, and believe that anything they set their mind to is possible.