“I am Moana of Motunui. You will board my boat, sail across the sea, and restore the heart of Te Fiti.”
Ever since their first animated feature in 1937, Disney films have found their footing in the world of the Disney Princess.
Starting with Snow White & The Seven Dwarves, the titles became a flagship for the brand, with this style of film releasing almost annually from the House Of Mouse.
Yet as time moved forward, the need for stronger stories and messages became prevalent, and this was where Disney started to find its mark again.
Beginning with The Princess & The Frog, the Disney Revival had taken the formula of the Princess and turned her into the Hero.
And Moana is the first one to really take this message and run with it.
A sweeping, animated adventure about a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest.
During her journey, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous fiery creatures and impossible odds.
I felt like it was going to be hard for me to convey the importance of this film.
With the initial screenplay written by Taika Waititi, Directors John Musker and Ron Clements have done an incredible job in bringing the culture of the South Pacific to the big screen.
Researching the culture by travelling to Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti and debating the style of animation for the film to best represent the peoples, it’s clear that the tale of Moana was going to be treated with respect.
And this shows.
Actress Auli’i Cravalho carves out the role of the young warrior Moana with ease, settling herself in amongst a stellar cast drawn from Pacifica themselves.
Temuera Morrison and Nicole Scherzinger play the role of Moana’s parents, with Rachel House playing Tala, Moana’s (mystical) Grandmother (ed. The best sort of Disney role if you ask me), while Jamine Clement clops in as the monster Tamatoa (ed. so shiny…).
Dwayne Johnson rounds out the cast as the demi-god Maui, who finds himself instantly recognizable to those who grew up not only on the stories of Maui shared around New Zealand, but of those throughout Polynesia.
With Moana’s adventure taking her across the sea, it taps into the journey of our Polynesian ancestors; that sacrifice of a stable home, for the hopes of something more across an uncharted horizon.
With Opetaia Foa’i of Te Vaka fame, joined by Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda to create a spectacle of a soundtrack, another key to a successful Disney film, Moana climbs to the heights of its predecessors, and may find itself soaring past them.
A film that not only presents a beautiful image of Polynesia, it also delivers the story of a young woman doing what she does for herself and her family.
There’s no other motivation here than the call of the sea, and that hope I mentioned earlier of something more for her and her people.
And this is what makes Moana an incredible film. Melting my heart, it made me yearn to hear the story of my tīpuna once more.
Moana is a film not only for Polynesia, but also for the world. It reminds us not only of where we are and what we have now, but where we were and where we have come from.