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Moana Review

Tori Travers, Writer

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(Spoilers Ahead)

A female lead that defies odds on her island, changes history, and does not have a love interest. Moana is a family friendly movie telling the tale of a strong Polynesian islander, a dynamic demigod, and my favorite new character, the ocean. Disney animation has once again proved its ability to evolve with time and continue to make great films.

On the island of Motunui, Moana fights her hearts urge to explore the ocean with her father, the village chief’s, orders to stay ‘Where You Are’ and lead her people. With inspiration from her grandmother, who remembers her ancestors and often “dances” with the ocean, and the ocean’s generosity, Moana decides to embark on her journey to find Maui in hopes of restoring the heart of Ta Fiti, which would also restore prosperity to her home.

As Moana and Maui voyage across the sea, they encounter many struggles, all the while discovering who they are. When Maui’s mighty fish hook gets struck by the powerful Te Kā, an enormous fire goddess, he flees. Moana then, inspired by her Gramma Tala, pursues her mission to return the heart of Te Fiti. With the help of Maui who appears after a change of mind, Moana arrives at what was thought to be ‘Te Fiti’, but realizes that she must face Te Kā, who is lost without her heart. The ocean once again aids Moana and parts the sea for her to reach the Goddess. The heart is then returned to Te Fiti, and to thank the two voyagers, she grants Maui a new fish hook and restores the ocean’s abundance along with it’s inhabitants.

In the end Moana has taught Maui to never give up, and Maui has taught Moana how to be a brilliant way-finder, a trait which she takes back to her village to teach. The film closes with scenes of the flourishing Motunui and many ships sailing out to sea, signifying that their people have returned to exploration.

With seasoned directors, Ron Clements & John Musker, who have directed huge Disney hits such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Princess and the Frog, the film was in good hands. The directors studied hard for the creation of the film, reading Polynesian mythology and traveling to the islands of the Pacific. Learning “You must know your mountain.”, they reworked the story to include the importance of lineage. Casting directors also stayed true to the goal of casting voice actors who represented their characters ethnicity, which is not always true with Disney movies.

Along with famous directors, Moana has some familiar names who created the movie’s soundtrack. Broadway hit Hamilton writer and performer, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote many songs for the movie, too many in fact. Some songs are only featured on the soundtrack by Miranda that missed the movie but were strong enough to still be heard. Grammy-winning composer Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i, the lead singer of Te Vaka, an award winning band of world music, came together to help Disney create a magical score.

Moana received 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, an incredible rating for the site. The film managed to capture all that we love about about Disney films as well as introduce us to new elements like the enchanting Polynesian culture and a female lead who needs not a prince to save her. Even if audiences don’t appreciate what Disney has done with this movie, I predict that all will enjoy the experience it delivers.

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Moana Review