Rating 5/5 – I did not expect Moana to be so good, I’ll admit that. My godson wanted to see it, it’s Disney and I figured why not. I was completely shocked at how really good this animation is, and I’m not exactly a Disney fan when it comes to a lot of their animations. The last ones that impressed me this much were The Lion King (because who the hell didn’t like The Lion King) and Aladdin. Okay, I have that soft spot for Frozen like everyone else too. I admit it. The songs were excellent, the story was great and Disney is getting better with the characters of color. There’s so much I can say about Moana, and since I have a blog for that I’m going to say it.
Moana and Characters of Color
Let’s tell the truth, Disney is always gonna be Disney. They have a formula, it works for them and they stick to it. They’ve been on a bit of a buying binge lately in their bid to control the entire entertainment universe and that has some scary aspect to it. But Disney is one of those companies who buy other companies then step back and let them do their thing. However Disney is first and formost about their animations. They’ve been doing it a very long time so you have to expect they got it down. Except the 1990’s was a bit of a mixed bag for Disney. With crap like Emporer’s New Groove, Brother Bear and (Odin help us all) Pocahontas. I’m not a Native American and Pocahontas insulted me. Alladin was a different thing based on the old Arabian Nights tales and who the holy hell knows how they came up with Lion King. And their track record of doing people of color has a long really typically white history of same shit different day. (Song of the South, anyone.) The only problem I have with stories like Alladin is it’s a distortion of a lot of African history, and their one attempt to feature a black character was Princess and the Frog which almost made me long for those Song of the South days. So when they announced Moana I’m sure Pacifica Islanders as well as a lot of people of color collectively groaned. I saw the trailer and heard future president of the goddamn world, The Rock, was in it and thought “Okay, it’s Disney. I’ll wait for the eventual shit-show.” And I was wrong.
Moana Song and Story
This movie tells the tales of Moana, a chief daughter being groomed to take over as the leader of her island’s people who longs to go out on the water and sale beyond the place her father warns her no one can go. It has the typical Disney tropes, young girl has a called but her parents forbid it, old grandmother who wants her to heed the calling and her adventure trying to find herself within that calling. I’ve heard this was not based on any one speciic Pacific Island culture but a mish-mash of a lot of their myths and legends. According to this story there’s a demi-god named Maui who stole the heart of a major Goddess name Te Fiti causing darkness to slowing grow through the Earth and making sailing beyond her Island very dangerous. The water want her to go find Maui and make him return the heart to Te Fiti in order to restore balance to everything. Now Moana is a Disney princess so she has to have a Disney Princess song, and what a hell of a song it is. I don’t think it will reach Frozen’s Let It Go level, but I was impressed. Instead of making just a song Moana sings at a crucial point in the story they made the song part of her growth. She sang slightly different versions throughout her journey and each version built to levels demonstrating where the character was in her growth. It totally worked. I have never heard of Auli’i Cravalho but she can sing her butt off and I think she seriously has a big future in this industry. We will get to the other songs in the animation, but let’s talk about our future leader, The Rock.
Moana and Dwayne Johnson
Is there anything Dwayne Johnson isn’t in? No, seriously, if I heard he had a walk-on in Downton Abbey you’d probably just shrug and consider it the natural course of his career track to becoming the eventual president of the damn planet. Everyone reviewing Moana joked the guy can’t sing, but the truth of the matter is his song “You’re Welcome” was fun and the most memorable of all the great songs in this movie. You could tell Dwayne Johnson was having a great time playing the demi-god Maui and him and Auli’i Cravalho had excellent chemestry. There were a lot of intelligent things Disney did with Moana, some of the others things I’ll get to in a minute, and one of them was not making this a love story. Maui and Moana were a team going on their quest to save Moana’s people. They had great dialogue and the comedy worked. Loved the little inside dig to Disney princesses too. It was the best line in the movie.
Moana: We Know The Way
I have no problem with musicals, especially if the songs are good. It’s no exageration to say Disney did a good job on the music in this animation, especially Moana’s song. I said Disney made a few really smart choices with Moana, and one of them was setting the story in pre-colonial times. You know, before white people be white people. So you didn’t get the trope of brown girl meets and falls in love with the first white guy she sees. (Thank you Disney.) In a Disney movie there’s always the point where the princess character discovers her quest or destany. Usually it’s done with some magical or mystical element. Even in the animations where there isn’t a direct magical element, it happens in some way. In Moana it’s done in a way to show her that her direct ancestors did a lot more than her father ever told her, connecting her with her roots and using this as the catalyst to start her on her eventual quest. Throughout the first act her father was constantly warning her that no one could ever sale beyond a certain point off the island. What he didn’t tell her was long before she was born her people were explorers saling across the seas, finding new places and charting their world. This was done with one of the other really strong songs in the movie, We Know The Way. This entire scene was just fantastic in how it used a combintion of the Tokelauan language and English giving the scene an epic quality rooted in Moana’s history as well as the possilities of what the future could bring if she took on her quest and made the world right again. In an animation with a lot of really strong parts, this was one of the strongest and the best.
Moana and Instant Disney Classic
It took a long time between Lion King, Alladin and Frozen, but I’m going to go out on a limb and declare Moana another Disney classic that belongs in any family collection. It’s got something for everyone, adults and children. Even with the usual Disney tropes the creators manage to pull of a great story with a strong female character. Most importantly Moana is a strong female character whose strong on her own. No love story, no white guys to instandly fall in love with, no “good white people” to offset the “bad white people.” The music is excellent, and acting fantastic. There’s really nothing more I can say except this is a movie you can see and enjoy over and over again. If you’re now walking around singing “I AM MOANA” to the top of your lungs afterwards, you just have no soul. Bottom line, I gave it a 5/5 and it absolutely deserves it.