Disney Animation Studio’s latest movie, Moana, is an original story about the daughter (and probably soon to be an official Disney princess) of a village chief who is attempting to save her people from disaster. This story takes place on an island in the Pacific in a past era and incorporates a lot of Polynesian mythology.
Chief Nui, Moana’s father is grooming her to become the leader of the village, but her heart is inexplicably drawn to the ocean. Only when her grandmother reveals to her the village’s history of being voyagers and the story of how the demigod Maui stole the “heart” of Island Goddess Te Fiti, does she realize that she must journey across the ocean in order to save her people.
Trying to navigate the ocean on her own, she encounters a storm and washes up on an island where she encounters Maui. Appealing to his ego, she convinces him to help her return Te Fiti’s heart, a small green pounamu stone. There are many perils along her ocean journey but she makes friends with Maui who teaches her to become a “wayfinder,” learning to navigate the ocean by the stars and waves.
Disney does take a break from some of their story formulas, such as both parents are alive and remain so during the entire movie; and like Merida from Brave, Moana is also a rebellious daughter who breaks from the rules of her parents. No Disney princess would be complete without her sidekick and the googly-eyed rooster, Heihei adds comic relief to the adventure as one wonders about this fowl’s apparent lack of intelligence.
Moana is a good movie, but we feel that it probably won’t be as successful as Frozen, Zootopia or Finding Dory. Its storyline is more complex with the blending of the cultural history and mythology, and the songs aren’t as memorable as “Let It Go.” One credit to the digital animators is that the visuals in these movies just keeps getting better and better. Knowing how Walt wanted to make animation look as real a possible, hence the invention of the Multi-plane camera, we think he would be impressed and proud of these digital productions coming from his studios.