The day that John Lasseter crossed over from Pixar to Disney signaled a monumental shift in Western animation. Ever since Tangled hit cinemas back in 2010 they have gone from strength to strength, breaking convention and shaping the medium for the future. Moana is the latest in this line of revamped animation that tries to stand out among the crowd, a job made harder by Disney’s recent success. Channeling tales of Polynesian adventurers, Moana combines the best of the studio’s charm while continuing to cast off the tropes of yesteryear.
Moana chronicles the story of a young spirited girl who finds herself at an impasse between what is asked of her and what she believes could be her true calling. One day she is thrust into a daring mission to seek the help of the Demi-God Maui (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) in order to save her people and their island from complete destruction. Traversing the waves and battling various demons along the way, the two attempt to overcome impossible odds in an adventure that will shape their lives.
Though not a given for Disney films, Moana comes with a bag full of melodies that attempt to bury themselves into your spotify playlist. The music is absolutely fantastic, unique in its structure and native sound while balancing that with the heart and power that you get with those classic Disney ballads. The songs ‘How Far I’ll Go’ and ‘We Know the Way’ are instant sing-a-longs, while the surprising hit of Dwayne Johnson’s ‘You’re Welcome’ balances that out with some comedic swing.
Away from that, the characters are all lovable and likeable, with the buddy partnership of Moana and Maui growing and developing smoothly throughout the film. Continuing the destruction of the need for a romantic subplot in Disney films, the two have great chemistry and heart felt fondness for each other, but you never expect that to fall over to romantic undertones. Though Maui has the natural power in his Demi-God role, the two are consistently equal throughout, initially balancing ones pros with the others cons, until they both reach a point of perfect balance within themselves.
Throw in a few more features from the Disney treasure chest such as the likes of comedic relief characters (a mentally frail Chicken) and marketable plush animals (a black and white Piglett) you struggle to see how Moana could not be a success. Even where Disney has in the past been perpetrators of cultural appropriation in skewing ethnic diversity for profitable gain, Moana seems inherently accurate in its depiction of Polynesian culture. Moana is a sure fire hit and potential future standout in Disney’s catalogue of classics, not because it managed to hit the right notes in elements like story and song, but more because all those parts come together to create one mesmerizing feature film.