I went and saw the hit Disney movie Moana last night. I was embarrassingly excited, to be honest. I’d heard great things about it, including that it was the biggest “anti-princess” movie Disney has ever produced (Moana refuses to be called a princess, which is really incredible). There’s no romance, no mention of having to marry to inherit her royal position, no mention of boys at all, actually. The plot focuses around Moana discovering who she is, where she belongs, and rescuing her people.
Moana’s quest, focused around retrieving the heart of their goddess, stolen long ago, and returning it to her to restore her dying island, connects her to the ocean as its chosen one. The ocean becomes a character itself, albeit a silent one. Moana’s journey takes place and centers around the ocean, her relationship with it, and how to helps her and her people. All her life she’s wanted to journey away from her safe island in the lagoon, but has been forbid by her father, the village chief. Eventually, however, she discovers her destiny and journeys out, accompanied only by a ridiculously stupid chicken named HeiHei, to rescue her island and her people. The story is incredible and interesting and oh so new for Disney. I was hoping Frozen’s emphasis on familial over romantic love would open a gateway for Mickey Mouse to explore something without a typical romantic subplot and wow, did they blow my expectations out of the water.
Aside from the story, if you have any interest or appreciation for visual art and/or animation, you must see Moana immediately. Each and every detail in the water, each strand of hair, and each eyelash flow so beautifully throughout this movie; I found myself distracted from the actual plot just because it was so pretty. Nothing goes without distinct attention to detail and it moves so smoothly and gracefully that I could stare at the water from Moana for hours. Everything is so multi-faceted and well done. It’s truly a work of art. Take Pixar detail and multiply it by a hundred.
Now to the music. Moana has a shorter soundtrack than most Disney movies, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for many times over in substance. Mixing the classic Disney style with Pacific Islander music made for a whirlwind of beautiful ballads, unsettling villain numbers, and even a rap by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Did I mention Lin-Manuel Miranda voices a character, as well? That’s how you know a soundtrack is gold. Moana, voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, has more than a few solos that will absolutely blow you away; I got chills multiple times throughout the film just from her voice. With strong vocals, pounding drums, and a recurring tune that will break your heart in two, Moana’s soundtrack is guaranteed to render you speechless.
I’ve honestly been a bit disappointed by Disney movies in the past few years; the complete change to solely 3-D animation really stunned me, as a kid who grew up with The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. I was apprehensive to try their newest films and they didn’t impress me much: Tangled was a bit boring, Inside Out reminded me of The Bee Movie for some reason, and Zootopia…was just weird. But Moana was arguably one of the greatest movies I’ve seen in years, and I highly recommend it to everyone, regardless of your movie preferences. With stunning animation, a rousing soundtrack, and a story unlike anything Disney has done before, Moana is the newest not-princess, and she’s really making waves.