Disney have managed to weave a gorgeous, rich tapestry when it comes to Moana. Everything looks and sounds glorious; the colours are bright and the characters are ones you genuinely invest in. Moana (newcomer Auli’i Cravalho) is the young daughter of tribe leader Chief Tui, ruling a mystical island in Polynesia.
Naturally, Moana follows in the footsteps of recent Disney heroines; she’s rebellious, strong-willed, and, obviously, has been given a specific quest: the ocean chooses her to rescue her island, starting her on a journey to find demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Disney do a great job of demonstrating Moana fighting her stereotyped role as a Disney princess, with her arguing to Maui that she is in fact a soon-to-be tribal leader. Maui soon puts her back into her Disney box by proclaiming: “You’re wearing a dress and you have an animal sidekick… you’re a princess”.
If you are, quite understandably, a little reticent about another Dwayne Johnson lead role, you can put your mind at ease. Honestly? He gives the role his all. He’s goofy, warm, and boy can he sing a Disney song. Cravalho is the youngest ever Disney princess, recording her performance when she was just 14.
A nice touch is the number of cast members of Polynesian heritage, from the supporting cast to lead roles. Johnson’s mother is of Samoan descent, Cravalho is Hawaiian, and there’s a truly sublime cameo from Jemaine Clement as gold-crazed crustacean Tamatoa, giving an almost Bowie-esque turn.
It’s no Frozen, but Moana is without a doubt one of the strongest Disney offerings of recent years. They’ve created a beautiful world in which funny and sweet characters dwell. There are strong role models for the younger viewers to look up to, catchy songs, and spot-on jokes. This ticks all the Disney boxes.
CAST: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement
DIRECTORS: Ron Clements and John Musker
WRITER: Jared Bush
SYNOPSIS: On a mystical Polynesian island, Moana, daughter of the tribe’s chief, is called upon by the ocean to break an ancient curse and go in search of long-lost demigod Maui.