“Moana” is Disney’s Best Princess Movie to Date
On Nov. 23, 2016, Disney released its newest princess film, Moana. The story follows the life of Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), a Polynesian princess who is itching to break free to adventure outside of her island community. As a baby, Moana is befriended and entrusted by the Ocean with a precious stone from an ancient goddess. As a teenager, her people discover that the local fish population has disappeared, threatening their lives and their future. In order to save her people, Moana teams up with the demigod, Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Portrayed by Polynesian teenager, Auli’i Cravalho, Moana is hard-working, charming, sincere, and courageous. Her foil, Maui, is played by Dwayne Johnson, who infuses his flashy, captivating, and humorous personality into the character. Together the two fight their way past creatures like a giant crab monster named Tamatoa, voiced by Jemaine Clements.
Directors John Musker and Ron Clements are not new to the Disney scene. These two have directed multiple well-known Disney classics including The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and The Princess and the Frog. Musker and Clements worked for many months researching and consulting with people in the Polynesian region in order to create characters that accurately reflected their lives. Moana keeps true to its roots and to the culture this story derives all of its characters and customs from. Unlike films like Pocahontas, which skewed history to made it look like the European invaders left the Americas and the Natives in peace Moana carefully addresses, respects, and brings Polynesian culture and heritage to the forefront.
As with all Disney films, the soundtrack to the movie is almost better than the movie itself. The songs included on the soundtrack have been created and crafted by Samoan musician Opetaia Foa’i, composer Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer and the star of the largest Broadway hit of year, Hamilton: An American Musical. These three weaved Polynesian drumming and beautiful choral vocals together in order to create mesmerizing and spellbinding music to accompany the story. The most notable of the songs includes Maui’s “You’re Welcome” and “Shiny,” a David Bowie-esque tune sang by Tamatoa. This soundtrack is sure to leave audiences humming the tunes, while also getting the songs stuck in their heads for many weeks to come.
Moana is a fantastic addition to Disney’s ever-growing list of princesses. While Moana is one of the best Disney films to come out in recent years, those of us who have seen every Disney movie in existence recognize the same plot-line formula – a disgruntled and adventure seeking heroine looks to break free from the constraints in her life, and she is accompanied by an animal companion, as well as a swaggering bad boy sidekick. For older audiences, this basic plot-line may feel worn out or slightly boring due to its over-saturation in many movies today. However, for all of the children who will get to see this film, this movie will entrance, inspire, and be re-watched over and over again for its beautiful animation, catchy songs, and wonderful story line.