RELEASED: 2nd December 2016
DIRECTORS: Ron Clements and John Musker
CAST: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temura Morrison, Christopher Jackson, Nicole Scherzinger, Jemaine Clement and Alan Tudyk
BOX OFFICE WORLDWIDE: $690.8m
AWARDS: None (2 Academy Award nominations, 2 Golden Globe nominations and 1 BAFTA nomination)
Moana is set in ancient Polynesia, where a terrible curse incurred by the shapeshifting demigod Maui after stealing the heart of goddess Te Fiti, reaches the island of Motunui, where the ocean chooses the Chieftain’s daughter, Moana, to return the heart to Te Fiti. The only way however to heal the island is to persuade Maui to return Te Fiti’s heart, so Moana sets off on an epic journey across the Pacific.
Disney’s Moana is a animated feature from studio that was striking hot again (particularly the Walt Disney Animations Studios side) this decade after a few duds in the 2000’s (outside of Treasure Planet, which I will defend on that hill, and The Princess and The Frog in terms of quality). Moana sees the returning collaboration of Ron Clements and John Musker (the directing-writing duo behind Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet and The Princess and The Frog) who direct and also collaborate on the screenplay with Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron and Jordan Kandell. From it’s opening narrative exposition, to witnessing the island of Motunui for the first time, Moana is vibrant with colour, the animation of the people of Motunui to the waves of the ocean, it’s all beautifully designed and engaging to watch. Going from the history of Disney animation vault, Moana as a main character in particular is a breath of fresh air, someone that didn’t grow up an orphan or is persisting a love interest, she’s charming, full of heart and desire, strong-willed and committed to the task at hand. Also from the archive of sidekicks the lead character gets in Disney animation, Heihei the bloody chicken is probably the dumbest sidekick of them all. What also works in the films favour is the score. The score from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina is great here, with the standout songs being ‘How Far I’ll Go’ to ‘We Know The Way’ to ‘You’re Welcome’. Auli’i Cravalho gives a fantastic voice performance as Moana, especially when it comes to the musical numbers. Also a standout is Dwayne Johnson as Maui, an egotistical demigod and, say it slowly, but it is still one of Johnson’s best performances. Out of the supporting characters, it’s Gramma Tala aka ‘the village crazy lady’ that is remembered the most as she provides the advice and lessons to Moana that stamps her importance in the story.
FAVOURITE SCENE: At her lowest moment, Tala’s spirit appears, inspiring Moana to find her true calling and return back to the island of Te Fiti to restore the heart herself. It’s a great moment, particularly with the addition of the ‘How Far I’ll Go (Reprise)’ song.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: “If you wear a dress, and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.” – Maui
DID YOU KNOW: Dwayne Johnson believes that voice acting is the most difficult career in acting, and is personally annoyed when celebrities are cast in animated films despite voicing their characters badly. When Johnson was cast for the film, he repeatedly asked the other voice actors present if he was really giving a good performance.