Moana Reviewed By Clayton Barnett


The Premise
Moana Waialiki is a sea voyaging enthusiast and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of navigators. When her island's fisherman can't catch any fish and the crops fail, she learns that the demigod Maui caused the blight by stealing the heart of the goddess Te Fiti. The only way to heal the island is to persuade Maui to return Te Fiti's heart, so Moana sets off on an epic journey across the Pacific. The film is based on stories from Polynesian mythology.
The Review
Disney’s Midas touch continues with Moana, a powerful and adventure-filled tribute to the people of the Pacific.
Since the brilliant Tangled Disney’s been on a hot-streak not seen since the early 90’s - Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia – and whack the blockbusting Moana on that list, it’s an instant classic.
You’ll feel proud watching this movie thanks to a strong Kiwi influence. Taika Waititi wrote the first draft, Opetaia Foa’i composed the stirring Polynesian soundtrack, and the local vocal cast including Temuera Morrison, Rachel Wilson, Jermaine Clement do great work. Rachel, the Terminator cop from Hunt for the Wilderpeople is particularly touching as Moana’s Gran, and Jermaine is hilarious as the giant crab Tamatoa. His song Shiny is pure Flight of the Concords and there’s a bonus scene with him post credits.
And let’s not forget Maui himself Dwanye ‘ The Rock’ Johnson spent some time in Auckland as a youngster. Dwayne’s larger than life personality is a perfect fit for the demigod-sized ego of Maui and provides a lot of the laughs in this buddy-comedy adventure. Kudos to newcomer Auli’I Cravalho too, who beat out hundreds of other island girls in the open casting call for obvious reason as she absolutely shines here.
And what a soundtrack. I’m warning you now the film’s anthem How Far I’ll Go is 2017’s Let it Go, a corker of a tune you’ll be humming for days after. The man behind Broadway mega-hit Hamilton - Lin-Manuel Miranda - writes some toe-tapping tunes like Maui’s solo number You’re Welcome. Samoan-born and New Zealand raised Foa’i contributes the powerful score and rousing tracks like We Know The Way.
Wanting some of that 90’s magic Disney hired Aladdin and The Little Mermaid directors Ron Clements and John Musker and these two did their homework. They went on research trips around the islands and you can feel the respect and authenticity on screen.
But aside from the wealth of talent in this production – the sweeping animation is stunning stuff - this is an inspirational story for young girls out there. For once there is no romantic interest and search for true love – it’s a girl (and not a one-inch waist one at that) trying to find her calling. During the movie Moana raises her hand to the stars to guide her way, and my eight-year-old cousin did just that on the drive home. Now that’s a touch of Disney magic.

The Verdict
Moana is an instant Disney classic and continues their red-hot run at the box office. Not only is funny and powerful stuff, you’ll have the toe-tapping songs stuck in your head and be incredibly proud of the Kiwi talent on display.   
The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 26th December 2016
Rating: PG – Contains Some scenes may scare very young children
Duration: 113 minutes
Genre:  Animation, Family
Starring: Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House & Jemaine Clement
Director: Ron Clements and John Musker
The Extras
The word "moana" is the Polynesian word for ocean or sea. It is also a common Polynesian word for the colour blue.
Lin-Manuel Miranda was signed on to write the music for Moana (2016) before the Broadway stage musical "Hamilton" became a worldwide phenomenal hit. After it did, he would often chat with the rest of the crew through Skype from backstage, sometimes still in costume.
In the trailer Maui says he lassoed the sun with a fish hook and pulled the land from the ocean. These are Maori legends detailing how New Zealand came to be. Maui pulled the land up while fishing. He lassoed the sun because the days were too short. There is also a version that Maui lassoed the sun with a net.
Dwayne Johnson is a firm believer that voice-acting is the most difficult career in acting, and is personally annoyed by celebrities being cast in animated films despite their bad delivery in voicing their characters. When Johnson was cast for the film, he repeatedly asked the other voice-actors present if he was indeed giving a good performance.
Auli'i Cravalho is the youngest Disney Princess voice ever, being only 14 years old (16 by the time the film came out).
This is the fifth consecutive Disney animated feature for Alan Tudyk following Wreck-It Ralph (2012), Frozen (2013), Big Hero 6 (2014), and Zootopia (2016).
Moana is the second Disney Princess to have a story not based on a fairy tale or legend, nor having a love interest. The first one was Merida from Brave (2012), four years prior.
In the October 20, 2014 interview with Huffington Post, director Ron Clements recalls the experience of visiting the islands of the South Pacific to gain artistic and authentic references for the film: "When we visited those islands, John [Musker] and I were especially interested in meeting people who lived on islands where they had grown up surrounded by an ocean. We wondered how that might affect your point-of-view. And we learned a lot. We learned all kinds of things that we didn't know. We learned how the sea and the land are one and the same. How these people think of the ocean as something that unites the islands, not something that separates them. And then we learned about the great migration and how the people of the Islands take great pride in the fact that their ancient ancestors invented this way of navigation called dead reckoning which involved studying the stars and the currents. And way before the European explorers or the Vikings, these people had this very, very incredibly advanced techniques of navigation." As Clements continued, "So many of these ideas in terms of respect for nature, respect for the ocean and the elements - all of these things - really had a huge influence on us and then began to make their way into this film's story," Ron continued. "Which is why Moana is now the most ambitious thing that John and I have ever attempted. There's definitely an epic aspect to this story. Not to mention huge opportunities for comedy and action and adventure. But at the same time, there's also a key relationship at the very heart of this story. An emotional core that - I think - is especially important with this film. But as it is with any of these things, you just hope that - in the end - you can get it right."