The newest animated installment by Disney and director Ron Clements, “Moana,” gives viewers a fresh take on an untapped source of imagination — ancient Polynesia.
Framed around a young lady named Moana (Aulil’l Cravalho), we follow her on a mythical journey during her quest to help the village prosper after they have problems with their crops and fish. Moana’s character is a great role model for children, especially little girls and teenagers. Her strong-willed nature and power to control the sea make her a worthy addition to the vast group of Disney leading ladies.
Colorful and vibrant, “Moana’s” appeal stems from the vast landscapes of the ocean and the contrast of blues and reds. The animation is lovely to look at — the water is clear and beautiful, there are vibrant greens and browns on land, and the cavernous scenes are just as beautiful.
Along with the stunning landscapes, the soundtrack is just as appealing, as expected from Disney. Although the musical pieces won’t likely be as popular as their “Frozen” counterparts, it does have its appeal in a “Lion King” and “Hercules” style of art and sound.
The humor within the film focuses mostly around the characters Moana and the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Their chemistry is fun and wacky as Maui’s overconfidence usually ends with him looking foolish yet charming in contrast to Moana’s down-to-earth and adventurous personality. There are plenty of chuckles to be had along the journey, especially from the plucky chicken sidekick, HeiHei, and Gramma Tala (Rachel House). The side characters, particularly all the creatures they must face, are varied and creative yet imposing in their own ways — not enough so to be scary for little kids, though. The Kakamora are oddly adorable and mischievous while the main antagonist, Te Kā, is powerful and impressive, giving off a sense of danger.
The mythology throughout the film, which has drawn some criticism of its depiction of Polynesian culture, doesn’t feel disrespectful. As the film is animated, it is natural to assume a sense of hyperbole to match the epic setting and this is done well, trying to honor the peaceful and creative nature of the Polynesian people.
Overall, “Moana” works well on many levels, making it a must-see for Disney animation fans. I commend Disney for expanding its creative capabilities to encompass Polynesian culture — there’s a lot to enjoy and observe. With vibrant landscapes, fun characters, a good sense of humor and a lovely sound score, everyone can find something to enjoy in “Moana.”