#justwatched Moana (2016. dir Ron Clements and John Musker)

(Moana, 2016 – Walt Disney Animation)

With the Disney Companies’ cinematic output growing year on year, it is not a suprise that every film does not hold up to the Disney Guarantee of great groundbreaking entertainment with emotional stories that connect to a universal audience. Yet in terms of consistency, Disney Animation seems to be walking down the right path currently providing a wave of bold, thoughtful stories that conjure up the feeling of the Disney I grew up with from the 90s on VHS. Moana is another marker of poof to state that Disney is now back on top form after a messy period in the early 2000s when the studio didn’t know how to compete with Pixars computer animation efforts. Moana is exceptional in its excecution, it’s a vibrant portrayal of polynesian myths and folk tales brilliantly imagined by directors Ron Clements and John Musker, who were already previously determined legends of the Disney Empire due to films such as The Little Mermaid (1989) and Basil The Great Mouse Detective (1986).

I was suprised by the delicacy present in the film in the handling of someone elses culture, but the behind the scenes extras demonstrated the time and effort gone into making the feature animation, as well as how many people from that culture were invited to be involved in the process from start to finish. The Walt Disney Company has not always had the best attempts at authentic representations, nor have they always been careful with cultural sensivity. Films such as Songs of the South (1946) stand as evidence at the companies downfall, which Disney has never released from its vault due to the inclusion of problematic portayals of race. In contrast, the current set of films are a postive change. Moana isn’t the first film set in this enviroment, however Lilo and Stich (2002) didn’t include the ideas myths and stories told by the islands ancestors. Moana’s plot demanded more and it thankfully Disney went out, made the effort and got it.

The animation follows the self-titled Moana as she attempts to resist the ocean for her father’s sake as it beckons her heart. In the familar Disney way, Moana defies her fathers word out of curiosity and passion, embarking on a quest to meet demigod Maui to replace the heart of Te Fiti, which Maui previously stole for the humans. Moana is voiced effortlessly by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, who was cast from Hawaii itself. Dwayne Johnson sucessfully embodies the cocky yet fractured soul of Maui. There is only one weak moment as the song “Shiny” begins, while good it doesnt fit into the tapestry of the film very well.

The best moments ofcourse do coem from the music, Moana has some of the best songs and pieces of score I’ve heard since the likes of Tarzan and Hercules, although its a shame the film will live in the shadow of Frozen, when the film deserved a bigger reception than it recieved. And do yourself a great favour, watch the film on bluray, animated water has never looked so perfect.


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