Disclosure: We received tickets to a screening of Moana for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ new feature film “Moana” is about an adventurous teenager who sails on a daring mission with a demi-god to save her people.
Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the South Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one today knows why. This sweeping, CG-animated adventure follows Moana (voice of Auli’i Cravalho) as she fulfills her ancestors’ unfinished quest. During her journey, she meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage with impossible odds.
“Moana is the 16-year-old daughter of the chief of Motunui,” says director Ron Clements. “She’s brave, determined, compassionate and incredibly smart. She has a never-say-die attitude and a profound connection to the ocean.” As a baby Moana is chosen by the ocean for a mission her parents don’t understand and are none too happy about. She feels the pull of the open water like her ancestors of old, but her current life and responsibilities keep her tied to her island paradise.
“…it’s troubling to her, to say the least, that her people don’t go beyond the reef surrounding their island,” adds director John Musker. “They stay within the confines of that reef, and Moana doesn’t really understand why, especially since she’s felt drawn to the ocean her whole life.”
The story is inspired in part by oral histories of the people and cultures of Oceania, where filmmakers traveled to learn as much as possible. “Navigation—wayfinding—is such a big part of Pacific culture,” says Musker. “Ancient Polynesians found their way across the seas, wayfinding island-to-island without the use of modern instruments, using their knowledge of nature, the stars, the waves and the currents.”
But for a thousand years these traditions were lost. With encouragement from her often seen as crazy Gramma Tala, Moana embraces her destiny and heads on a journey of adventure wayfinding to save the day.
She’s joined on her journey by the hilarious HeiHei, a very dumb chicken, who brought the theater to tears of laughter multiple times with it’s antics. After the watching “Monana,”Ellie was hysterically laughing recounting to me some of the film’s more funny HeiHei situations.
HeiHei definitely provided some fun comic relief, which was also true in the character of demi-god Maui. The fun and adventure of this film really began for me when she meets Maui, who doesn’t lack in confidence, or so it seems. In the end, Maui learns a valuable lesson about who he really is and what is important to him from his teenage wayfinder friend.
Ellie (6) absolutely loved Moana, with it’s sweeping oceanic views, gorgeous Pacific Island-inspired animation and Disney-worth musical numbers. But I have to admit that it was not a favorite of Ronin (9.) John and I both enjoyed it immensely, although the first 1/3 of the film did feel a little slow. But by the end, I had laughed a TON and even shed a few tears. I truly enjoyed the beauty of this film and the way the animators used both 2D and 3D animation to create a unique artistic look for this story, which takes place many many years ago but with a contemporary feel.
“Moana” is rated PG.
Is it scary for the kids?
There were a few instances with an enormous fiery creature that were a bit scary, but Ellie (6) tells me that she was really not that scared. I’d say younger kids can certainly enjoy this film with much laughter and awe without being too terribly frightened. My 9-year-old wasn’t scared at all.
“Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016.