Moana delivers on pretty much every front, Disney didn’t disappoint with this Polynesian inspired tale. This is probably one of the most classically “Disney” fairytales they’ve put to film in a long time, bringing back that tradition of an animated story that inspires, tugs the heartstrings, and leaves you humming songs as you leave the theater.  The most common comparison to the House of Mouse lexicon is Tangled, but honestly Moana is closer to Hercules in the majority of the story telling.

Te Ka and Maui fight
Te Ka and Maui fight

The story centers around myth, with Goddess Te Fiti (nature) losing her literal heart when trickster demigod Maui steals it in his Promethean quest to provide mortals with the power of creation. An ‘evil’ lava god, Te Ka, arises in Te Fiti’s heartless place, spreading death and destruction instead of love and life. Maui loses his magical fish hook that allows him to shapeshift in his flight from Te Ka with Te Fiti’s heart, and disappears from the world.

Moana and her trusty oar

A thousand years pass. We’re taken to Motu-Nui, a fictional island with a self sustaining culture and eco system.  Remember the first trailers we saw for Moana? The wave playing with the tiny cutie pie?  That’s Moana, and her friend the Ocean.  We learn she’s the daughter of the chief, who is being groomed to take her place as the head of the island.

She of course in true Disney fashion wants more than what she has, because the sea calls to her.  16 year old Auli’i Cravalho is the voice of our newest ‘princess’ (“Daughter of the chief, animal friends, you’re a princess”) and she brings such a formidable spirit to the character.  So often the best animated personalities have pieces and parts of their voice actors, as made apparent with Maui (The Rock).  His sentient tattoos will remind you of the Muses from Disney’s Hercules, as will his demigod hero tales.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is Maui the Demi-god

The songs are wonderful, my one complaint being I was sort of hoping for more drums in the base score. Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin Manuel Miranda wrote beautiful songs, goosebump inducing and singalong worthy.  No really, tell me you don’t have Maui’s “You’re Welcome” stuck in your head for days after viewing.

*cries* Wise ol Sea Flapflap
*cries* Wise ol Sea Flapflap

Grandma Tala is my favorite part, character, song, pretty much everything.  She is wisdom, she is soul, she is the spirit that inspires Moana to continue her quest when all seems lost.  We call her Grandma Sea Flap Flap.  You’ll see why.

SCORE: 9 OUT OF 10, viewed in 3D, will see again in standard

Moana returns us to the classic Disney form where the film has something for everyone.  Songs, story, character, and even a Mad Max: Fury Road in joke.  Seriously, wait til you meet the tiny coconut armored Kakamora and their Doof Warrior ships.  You will know immediately what I’m talking about when it happens. I almost yelled out “WITNESS”.

The middle of the film doesn’t flow as strongly as the beginning and end, but stay with it and you won’t be disappointed.

Moana opens worldwide on Wednesday, November 23rd 2016.

ABOUT >> Mary Anne Butler
  • BIO >> Mary Anne Butler (Mab) is a reporter and photographer from San Francisco California. She is a lifelong geek, huge music nerd, occasionally cosplays at conventions, does Renaissance Faires, and in general lives the life of a True Believer. She may be short, but she makes up for it with a loud voice.
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