Moana Sails Past Frozen

Written by on November 25, 2016

The newest addition to the Disney franchise, Moana, is already becoming another success for the company, by beating the world renown, Frozen, for drawing a preview record of US$2.6 million, compared to the latter at US$1.2 million.


The Story


Moana tells the story of a teenage girl, Moana, daughter of the Chief of a fictional Pacific island, Motunui. Even at a young age, she has always been told what she is and what she has to become. She thought that succeeding her father as the next chief was her only reason to exist. This all changed when Moana was forced (again), to take up a dangerous task to save her island from an old and raging darkness that has been killing the life of other islands.


Although it might seem like a typical ‘young girl saves the entire world’, kind of story, the 56th animated feature film by Disney has reinvented the genre and has executed a work of art, telling a story about the journey of a teen girl, both physically and mentally.


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Some of the notable cast members included Dwayne Johnson, who is playing demigod, Maui, who assists Moana on her journey across the ocean. Dwayne was chosen to play Maui as the filmmakers wanted Maui to be confident and strong, characteristics that Dwayne embodies.


As for Moana, Auli’i Cravalho was chosen amongst hundreds of young female Pacific Islanders, to give the character the voice. Auli’i’s love for her culture, the ocean, as well as having a character based on her physicalities, such as age and ethnicity, made her perfect for the role of Moana.


The Culture


Throughout the movie, I was engrossed by the details that were included in the film. The film was inspired by the Polynesian myth of Māui, thus the characters, music, and details were all created and based on the cultures of the Pacific Islanders.


To represent the cultures as accurately as possible, the directors of the film, Ron Clements and John Musker, as well as other members of the team, spent time going to some of the islands, such as Tahiti, Fiji, and Samoa, to learn from the Islanders themselves, including wayfinders, tattoo artists and dancers.


Griselda Sastrawinata, a Visual Development Artist who worked on Moana, said, “Disney had done some incredible research to respect the culture and they also interviewed archeologists, as well as the villagers.”



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Auli’i adds, “I am of Polynesian descent and I am proud of this film as it was inspired by my culture. Moana, though a work of fiction, does include some truth such as wayfinding being part of our culture.”


Additionally, to go into greater detail, the team vastly studied the way the water moved, the colours of the sand and sky, and even the movement of the flora through a breeze. Such detail definitely made me feel like I was on one of the Pacific Islands myself.


The Music


Frozen couldn’t have gotten what it had achieved if not for the music that accompanied the film (I’m sure the lyrics to ‘Let It Go’ is still stuck in our heads). Although the characters in Moana do break into some singing and dancing every now and then in the film, most of the songs are not as easy to sing along to compared to previous Disney films, especially Frozen. However, the music has a Polynesian chime to them, thus accentuating the representation of the culture the filmmakers were trying to achieve.


My favourite song from the film would definitely be ‘How Far I’ll Go’, sung by Moana’s voice actress, Auli’i Cravalho for the film version, and by Canadian Singer Alessia Cara for the End Credits version. The song is catchy, magical, and gets stuck in your head (possibly forever). ‘How Far I’ll Go’, is basically the ‘Let It Go’ of Moana.





The song portrays the thoughts and wishes of Moana, allowing the audience to understand Moana’s point of view regarding the decisions she made in the film. Other than, ‘How Far I’ll Go’, all the other amazing songs in the film give the audience the feel of the messages and culture the film is trying to showcase.


The Message


The film may be from Disney, but the story can be relatable to anyone of all ages, all genders, and all identities. Moana had to go through a challenging journey to finally know what she is and what was her worth.


Osnat Shurer, the producer of Moana, explained, “This film is about listening to your voice and follow that calling no matter the age, etc.”


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Auli’i adds, “Today, the world needs more heroes and heroines, and this film gives me a sense of pride, as it is based on individuals that could inspire people to take certain actions.”


Osnat explains that another message from the film that is relevant to the real world is the necessity to have a healthy relationship with nature and the need to restore balance.


The film definitely ignited various thoughts and emotions in me, such as the importance of community and respect to the people, the animals, and the environment itself. Moreover, I was able to relate to Moana regarding the fact that it is a difficult journey to find out who you truly are, and although the journey can break you before you reach your desired destination, if it is meant to be, doors will open to guide you, and when you finally reach the end point, you will be more empowered than ever before.


Final Take


Moana is definitely a must watch film. It has so much depth to it that you might find new things after watching it again and again, although some of the lines were cheesy, and some characters were not given enough screen time to allow the audience to understand their decisions and actions easily.


However, Moana can make you feel good and make you fall in love the ocean and nature as the film did an amazing job portraying the elements of the Pacific. The characters that have more screen time are lovable, and there are inspiring, touching moments in the film. The action present in the film also manages to keep you at the edge of your seat till the end. But the most important of all, it is a Disney film starring a new Disney Princess. What could go wrong?


Writer: Prashain

Editor: Christy Heah

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