Disney’s Moana was nominated for Best Animated Feature, and I think it was very much a “classic” Disney film. The story was essential a fable, as the old Disney stories were; it had clever humour; plenty of catchy songs; spotless animation and even openly stated in the film that if the female lead wears a dress and has an animal sidekick she’s a princess.
Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is the daughter of the chief of a Polynesian island. Their people stay close to their island, and never venture out past the reef that harbours them, for out beyond the reef the world has been cursed and is plunging into darkness. A long time ago the demigod Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) stole the heart of the goddess Te Fiti which unleashed Te Ka, a fire demon who struck down Maui and his magical fishhook and brought the darkness to the world. Moana’s people seemed safe, but when their fishermen bring back no fish, and their crops start to die, it appears the darkness has reached their island too. From a tale passed on by her grandmother, Moana learns that Maui is the only one who can defeat Te Ka and return the heart to Te Fiti (which Moana’s grandmother happens to have). Learning that her people are actually descended from wayfaring voyagers and not sheltered farmers and fishermen as she has been led to believe, Moana steals a boat that was hidden in a series of island caves and sets out beyond the reef to find Maui and save the world, with Hei Hei….a very dumb rooster as her animal sidekick. Braving challenges, defeating monsters and embracing her destiny on their way, Maui and Moana set off to return the heart.
As I said, this one was lots of fun. I particularly enjoyed Moana reminding Maui how to be a hero, and how she turned him to her side. When first she meets him, he is just a selfish person, but he is also very dejected. Ever since he lost his magic fishhook he can no longer shapeshift into animal forms. Moana helps Maui recover it, which immediately returns his confidence; and Maui teaches Moana to sail the seas like her people did generations ago. The two do develop a friendship, and would willingly sacrifice themselves for each other as they finally face the lava demon in their quest to save Te Fiti and save the world. As I think I’ve mentioned before, the “returning hero” storyline is one of my favourites, so I really enjoyed that part of Moana. Once Maui got his “powers” back, there was some pretty good humour as he got used to shapeshifting again. And we got to see the true heroic demigod in action once he worked out all the kinks. Moana herself saved the day in the end with the tried and true “brains over brawn”, as she had completed her own journey of self discovery.
Very fun, quite funny, quite musical, and they did a very good job animating water which is always a difficult task. If you’re in the mood for a nice light bit of myth, fable and storytelling, you can’t go wrong.
Bottom Line: I think I liked this more than Zootopia…