Moana (November 2016) is the latest Walt Disney Animation Studios movie following up the extremely clever and fun Zootopia (March 2016) and the record breaking animated movie Finding Dory from Disney/Pixar (June 2016). Moana is a CG animated film which takes place on a South Pacific island about a young girl named Moana, played by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, who longs to explore the ocean but is forbidden to leave as a result of her overprotective father who is also the Chief. To make matters worse, Moana’s Grandmother tells stories to the children of a demigod named Maui (played by Dwayne Johnson) who can change shape and experience wonders of the great sea which are all just out of reach from those stuck on the island.
Moana features catchy songs and fantastic animation in addition to a well crafted story that feels both ancient and modern at the same time. Moana and Maui have excellent chemistry on screen and both Cravalho and Johnson surprised us with their ability to convey humor, emotion and song with their voices. We were glad to see a female protagonist introduced into the Disney universe who wasn’t part of a love interest or even have a love interest at all – unless you count a love for her people and the ocean. The movie also does a nice job of conveying Polynesian/Samoan culture and even has a couple of catchy songs sung in Traditional Tokelauan.
Final thoughts on the Moana movie:
Overall, Moana is enjoyable and fun to watch – if there was a negative side about the movie it would be that much time is spent with the two characters on a raft and reminded us a bit of the Kevin Costner movie Waterworld. We would have liked to have seen a secondary plot that may have kept us involved for the rollercoaster ride and maybe even some explanation as to the significance of some of the cultural elements germane to the story.