Moana’s theatrical debut was Thanksgiving weekend, so of course, like the faithful Disneyite I am, I went to see it that Wednesday. And Disney hit another one out of the park – home run for all the points. Moana follows the title character in her journey with Maui, demi-god and hero-of-men, and HeiHei, a dumb chicken, to restore the heart of Te Fiti. And it is delightful. If you haven’t yet, run out and go watch it.
Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!!!!!
Moana is an amazing character. She’s the next chief of her people and actually takes her responsibility to heart. She wants to go beyond the reef that protects her island but she turns away from her needs to be the daughter and leader her father and people expect her to be. She still dances with the waves with her grandmother, but she still helps in the day-to-day administration of her people. When needed though, she doesn’t shrink away from her destiny and follows the ocean to find Maui and return the heart of Te Fiti. Moana is a refreshing Disney “Princess” (in a dress with an animal side-kick, thus princess) because she actually admits at one point in the film that she has no idea what she’s doing, she doesn’t know why the ocean choose her, and she really isn’t anything special. She’s just a girl who loves her family and loves her island and loves the ocean. Which makes her very special.
Maui isn’t quite your typical side-kick either. In the movie version of the legend, Maui is a shape-shifting trickster who stole the heart of Te Fiti as a gift to humans. As a result, he lost his magic hook and can no longer shape shift. He definitely does not want to help Moana put the heart back and tries everything to get away from her, including stealing her boat, throwing her off her boat, and tricking her into going to realm of monsters. In the end, though, he comes to recognize that Moana is just the girl to succeed on their mission and helps her out.
The third star of this movie is the music. The songs were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote, among other things, Hamilton and In the Heights), Opetaia Foa’i (founder of the group Te Vaka, a contemporary Pacific music or “South Pacific Fusion” group), and Mark Mancina (worked in the music department for Disney movies from Lion King to Brother Bear and Tarzan). This soundtrack is a force of nature by itself. The original songs capture with their beautiful lyrics and the Pacific Island sounds. It doesn’t hurt that new comer Auli’i Cravalho, voice of Moana, has a powerhouse of a voice.
In the end, Moana is a wonderful addition to the Disney collection that will inspire young girls to go after their dreams while keeping their family in their hearts.