Moana, Changing the Disney Princess Game (Review with Only Minor Spoilers)

November 30, 2016

“If you wear a dress and have an animal for a sidekick, you are a princess.” - Maui


With last week’s release of Moana, snapchats of the movie’s credits and Instagram posts of the movie tickets have probably been dominating your social media. The hype has been building ever since news came out about Disney’s first Polynesian princess, and the movie itself does not disappoint. This newest addition to the collection of Disney princess movies not only challenges what it means to be a princess (as snarkily well-put above), but it also spins a tale that entraps your heart with complex characters, stunning animation, and beautiful musical numbers that your whole family is sure to enjoy.


From the very first moment that we see baby Moana intently listening to the spooky tales of the people of Motunui and then excitedly waddling to the sea, we already know that she fits into the classic mold for a Disney princess’s personality: exceptionally brave and caring, with an enthusiastic outlook on life. (Plus, LOOK AT HOW ADORABLE SHE IS.)



As she grows older, we see Moana balance the responsibility of being the chief’s daughter with her longing to explore the open seas, which is fueled by her grandmother, the ‘village crazy lady.’ Then, in order to save her family, her people, and her island, Moana goes against her father’s wishes and ventures out to find the demigod, Maui, and take him to the goddess, Te Fiti. One of my personal favorite things about this film and the thing makes Moana stand out from many other Disney princesses is that whenever someone tells her that she cannot do something, she does it by herself and she does it well. She does not take no for an answer, and she will not wait for Maui to come and save the day.



Maui, on the other hand, is introduced on less humble terms with his cocky musical number, You’re Welcome (did you know that The Rock can sing and rap? Neither did I, but I was pleasantly surprised). He and Moana do not hit it off at first, but the constant volley of sass between the two does a good job of keeping us entertained and on our toes. Gradually, we warm up to him at the same time that Moana does. Through his origin story, we find out that he is way more than just Maui, Shapeshifter, Demigod of the Wind and Sea, Hero of Men and Women.



To add to the great writing, Disney outdid themselves with the animation. The amount of work put into the careful details is evident in every astoundingly realistic shot of water... every vivid island scene.. every rosy sunset...


...and in the mystical purple and blue hues that glow whenever magic comes into play in the story. Perhaps the action keeps you engaged, but the visuals make it difficult to look away.



The visuals are matched by music equally as good. Mark Mancina provides an ambient score, with musical numbers by Lin-Manuel Miranda and additional music by Opetaia Foa'i and his Oceanic music group, Te Vaka. How Far I’ll Go, Moana’s solo and the film’s signature song, is a personal favorite because of the passion and determination that emanates from actress Auli’i Cravalho’s voice (and it’s a very fun ballad to sing). Lin-Manuel Miranda fans may also be happy to hear that the song Shiny gives off a Hamilton or In the Heights vibe.



All in all, Moana was a great watch, and I highly recommend treating yourself to a post-finals viewing. So bring your family, bring your friends, bring your bae, and even bring your derpy pet chicken (I’m looking at you, Heihei) because Moana of Motunui is about to take you on a crazy journey in her canoe.



Bonus Short



Disney’s short, Inner Workings, depicts personified organs of the human body among an ongoing tug-of-war between the brain and the heart. This theme of the tension between one’s duty and one’s desire sets the stage well for Moana, in which she must face the tough decision of playing it safe and sticking to her responsibility as the chief’s daughter, or taking the risk with her wanderlust and saving her people. Separately and generally, though, Inner Workings is a quirky mix of art and science that is sure to charm both north and south campus majors.


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