Disney brings it’s latest musical animation to the big screen with the Polynesian culture inspired ‘Moana’.
Directed by John Muster and Ron Clements (the double act whose previous work includes Disney hits such as Aladdin, Hercules and The Little Mermaid), this is a fusion of classic disney musical combined with a strong cultural theme and a shift away from the traditional ‘princess falls in love’ stories.
Moana is the young daughter of the chieftain of Motonui, destined to take over the role of village leader, however drawn to the idea of travelling on the sea. Her ancestors who were navigators across the oceans yet came to remain on the island, didn’t pass on the traditions of sailing and it is this ancestry that comes to draw Moana on an adventure to save her people.
Inspired by her grandmother, her journey sees her setting off across the ocean to meet the Demi God Maui, to return the lost heart of Te Fiti, on a fabled journey.
This film will instantly be compared to Frozen, the 2013 Disney super smash, and that would be unfair. The film somewhat shifts away from the traditional tale of Disney Princess, and even is self aware to joke that Moana ‘isn’t a princess even if she does have an animal sidekick’. It really brings the culture that the story is based on to life, and Moana (played by the newcoming 16 year old Auli’i Cravalho) is a strong female role model to be admired.
In terms of cast, the star name in the film is The Rock who plays the Maui, the Demi God that pulled mountains from the sea and slowed down the sun. It’s perfect casting which allows the Rock to even turn to song for the catchy ‘You’re Welcome’.
In terms of music, the songs were jointly created by Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of the Hamilton musical currently taking Broadway by storm) and Opetaia Foa’i and the score is by Mark Mancina. The songs range from ballads for the lead character to Maui’s big number, through to ‘Shiny’ a surreal moment featuring Jermaine Clement, as a blinged up crab Tamatoa.
The film is destined, in my eyes, for at least two oscars (animation and original song) and if given the chance, stands to be considered as one of the best Disney animations for a long time. It’s an absolute treat.