Despite declaring herself very firmly “Not a princess” during the film, Moana has easily become one of my favorite Disney Princesses.
I was invited to the press screening for this film and let me say there isn’t anything I don’t love about this movie. It is a story about worth and fulfilling destiny, about believing in yourself and not giving up, despite the odds or the appearance of what you’re facing. Moana is a 16-year-old girl and her story is that she’s been chosen by the ocean to save her people by returning the heart of Tehiti.
Of course, it’s not that simple or direct.
Moana is beautiful in spirit and brave of heart. She answers a calling on her soul and undertakes the daunting task of saving her people despite the fact it meant going against her parents, and especially her father’s wishes. I loved the way the movie handled the relationship between father and daughter, doing an excellent job of humanizing her parents and helping us understand why he was so determined to keep her from the ocean, while showing us a lineage of leaders and a history of a people who changed over time into something that was never meant for them to become.
Yes, of course, it is charming and funny in all the ways we’ve come to expect from Disney. The animal sidekicks are an adorable puppy-like pig named Pua, who sadly doesn’t get enough screentime in my opinion, and a dimwitted chicken named Hei-Hei, who I found absolutely loveable despite the poor chicken being as close to an inanimate object as you could get.
This is another film in the new land we’ve come to where there is no prince or love interest, but in this film it very much works. Moana is not a heroine out to prove she doesn’t need a man, she’s simply a girl chosen for a destiny greater than she knew she was capable.
One other nice thing about this film, the 3D was used perfectly to add depth and dimension to scenes, rather than to shock us by throwing things at our faces.
The relationship between Moana and Maui is fantastic because they come to respect and need one another as they share this journey, each having their own lessons to learn and obstacles to overcome along the way.
The demi-god Maui is a culture hero in both Polynesian and Hawaiian mythology. Although his origin story is tweaked and made a bit more kid-friendly for this Disney tale, he is an important figure in many of the island cultures. And for any of you wondering if there is any connection between Maui the demi-god and the Hawaiian island, the Hawaiian Island was named after the son of Hawaiʻiloa who settled the islands and named them after his children. His son, Maui, was in fact named after the demi-god. So there’s your mythology-slash-history lesson for the day. 😉
As we’re coming to see more and more, of late, there is no “bad guy” per se to fight against, no defining villain. It is a film about overcoming the obstacles we carry within. While we do get an attempt at a villain song, I think it falls flat and felt out of place to a certain degree. Honestly, I think I would have rather seen a second round with the coconut pirates then the odd encounter with the crab, Tamatoa, but that may just be me.
The soundtrack on the whole isn’t as strong as say, Frozen, but does have a couple of great moments. I do love Moana’s main theme and how it changes just slightly throughout the film as she comes to better understand the call on her soul.
Moana is entirely entertaining from beginning to end, but what pushes this film over-the-top straight to my heart is the theme of someone having a calling on their heart or soul all of their life and the need to answer that call. That’s the story of my own life so to see it played out in a Disney Princess was more than I had ever hoped to see.
I recommend this one wholeheartedly! Don’t miss Moana’s journey. Go with an open mind and heart and let yourself be inspired.
And as is the case with all the best films, you do want to sit through the credits for your little treat at the end. 😉
Also shown with this film is the short film Inner Workings, the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited, adventurous half. Created by a small team at Walt Disney Animation Studios in a unique, fast-paced style that blends CG and traditional hand-drawn animation, the short explores the importance of finding balance in daily life. Leo Matsuda, a story artist on Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph directed the film, which Sean Lurie produced. – From Wikepeidia
I loved this film so much I even found myself tearing up as we were shown the daily struggle between heart and mind. Actually, in the case of this short film, the literal battle between heart and mind. Many people are making comparisons to Inside Out, and there’s obvious reason, but don’t make the comparison if you can keep yourself from doing so. Just watch this and enjoy it for its own merits. It was wonderful to see the hand drawn animation. I found such joy in watching this little film so get there early enough to make sure you get to enjoy both Inner Workings and Moana.
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