Disney’s animations, alongside Marvel’s unputdownable films, have dominated the big screen for years; nevertheless, it is Disney’s productions that I find more appealing. Disney’s films are simply meant for everyone, and that’s how the new work from Ron Clements and John Musker comes through; Moana is full of humour, action, great pace and sheer adventure; the film will not only delight kids, but also the adults.
Motunui Island was known by many as the local people were famous for their navigating skills; they were also great explorers. Sadly, it all ended when the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) stole a mystical stone; as a result, the island and the surrounding areas are now slowly dying out. This is when we meet Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho), who – at first – lives a blissful life on the island; she is the stubborn daughter of the Chief Tui Waialiki (voiced by Temuera Morrison) and the granddaughter of Tala (voiced by Rachel House), a lady who is as cheeky as Moana herself. From very early age, the girl has been a strong-minded and adventurous child; that is probably why she is chosen by the ocean itself to be a part of an extraordinary yet dangerous adventure – when she grows up, Moana will try to retrieve the stone, for it is the only way to safe the island and its people.
Years pass by and Moana grows up to be a strong and independent young woman; every day, she feels like the waters are calling for her to sail beyond the reef. One evening, Tala tells Moana the true story behind the past generation of explorers and why they were stopped from sailing. Tala wants her granddaughter to realise that saving the island is her calling. After hearing the story, Moana is desperate, more than ever, to leave the island in search for Maui and the lost stone – which later turns to be the heart of Te-Fiti, a goddess who destroys Pacific islands. From this point onward, the film turns into a pure adventure; Moana’s journey through the ocean, in order to fulfil her mission, is the best part of the animation. She finally meets Maui, a muscled and ‘beautifully’ tattooed demigod. At the beginning, there is a great deal of bickering; however, with time, they build a strong and sincere friendship while facing various sea creatures. A few comedic moments are brilliantly written into the script, and with the irresistible Dwayne Johnson’s singing voice (yes, I know, who knew that Dwayne Johnson could sing), everything is balanced well; there is a lightness to the film. With compelling visuals, Moana takes the audience on an unforgettable journey.
I honestly don’t remember the last time I watched such a beautiful – sparkling with great colours and with wonderful landscapes – animation. What makes Moana different from other animated features is the subject matter, which is the – to many of us- unknown culture and mythology of the Polynesian tribes. It might not have been shown with great detail, but it was nevertheless interesting to learn even a little bit about it.
Another important element of Moana‘s is the music; it was composed by Mark Mancina, with songs written by the phenomenal Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of this year’s superb Broadway musical Hamilton. The songs are perfectly composed, with tremendous melodies and arrangements that echo the rhythm and the choirs of Polynesian tribes. Warning: you might even end up stomping your feet in the cinema!
Without a doubt, the creators’ imagination went wild while making Moana’s world, including all the characters; I cannot forget the scraggy rooster (clucked by Alan Tudyk), who seems to lack brain cells and any life skills- but that is what is charming about this bird; and it definitely adds to the film’s wit.
Ron Clements often collaborates with John Musker and they worked together on Aladdin, Hercules and The Princess and the Frog; to name just a few. Moana is Clements’ first CGI film, and what a great animation it is! Seriously, do not think twice, just trot to the cinema and enjoy watching the film as it is resplendent. I loved every minute of it!
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © Walt Disney Studios