Walt Disney’s Moana! I can’t believe it took so long for me to see this movie. I think I was super busy when it was out in theatres and then when I noticed it was on Netflix it was just never the right time to watch it. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I finally sat down and watched it. And I got to watch it with my sister so that was awesome!
Summary *Mild Spoilers*
The story follows a young Polynesian princess named Moana as she struggles to find her place in the world. Torn between the life that her father and her society have chosen for her, and the person she knows that she is meant to be. Very similar plot to Frozen…and Pocahontas… and Classic Disney but, I guess they figure why mess with a good thing!
It is forbidden to travel beyond the reef that circles Moana’s home because the ocean is dangerous and unknown, not to mention filled with monsters and demons. The people of Moana’s island never leave or venture out to sea. But when Moana breaks this law she finds not only who she is meant to be, but who her people truly are.
*Forreal spoilers of a movie ruining nature ahead!!!*
The movie opens with Moana’s grandmother Tala, the village elder and resident crazy lady, telling the children of the village the story of creation. How the islands were formed and how the demigod Maui in his arrogance stole the heart of the Goddess Te Fiti so that he could give the powers of creation to humanity.
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When Maui did this he unknowingly allowed monsters, demons, and an island consuming rot loose upon the world. The most horrible of these monsters being the demon of fire and destruction, Te Kā, that lies on the border of Te Fiti’s island. She tells the children that someone must go find Maui and take him across the Ocean to restore the Heart of Te Fiti in order for the world to be made right again.
While all the other children were running around scared Moana could only smile at the thought of sailing the ocean on an adventure.
The ocean of course chooses Moana to save the world from destruction, literally handpicked, because the ocean is sentient in this movie (and the animation looks beautiful). As her island begins to feel the effects of the rot that has started spreading across the world, Moana accepts that it will be her duty to take Maui across the ocean to return the Heart of Te Fiti.
Following the death of her grandmother, Moana and her animal sidekick, Hei-Hei, take to the sea in order to find Maui. After sailing for sometime she gets caught up in a storm and happens to land on the island Maui is currently marooned on. From there they reluctantly travel together traversing the ocean battling pirates and monsters.
They also tackle their own mental obstacles (I’ll go into this a little later).
Moana wants to be the leader that her people need, but also wants to follow her heart and the calling of the sea, and Maui who was abandoned by his parents has tried to do everything he can to gain the favor of humanity so that he can fill the emptiness in his heart. Their journey culminates in the battle against Ta Kā, a powerful demon of destruction made of magma, fire, and smoke.
In their first battle Ta Kā manages to fend off the pair pushing them back and cracking Maui’s fish hook. After they are out of danger, Maui abandons Moana, and Moana abandons her mission. But before she begins to make her way home, she is greeted by the spirit of her grandmother and a vision of her ancestors which gives her the strength to try one more time.
Maui comes to the same decision with a little help from his tattoos and races to help Moana. The two manage to get past the monster, but at the cost of Maui’s fish hook and by extension his godly powers.
Ready to fulfill her destiny Moana, with the heart in hand climbs up Te Fiti’s island, but when she arrives at the summit the goddess is not there. Confused at first Moana begins to lose hope, but then realizes that Te Kā is Te Fiti without her heart.
Without fear or hesitation Moana confronts Te Kā. As the fire demon prepares to destroy her Moana restores the heart, changing the goddess from the avatar of destruction Te Kā, back to the loving goddess of creation Te Fiti. After Maui apologizes for stealing it Te Fiti thanks them for returning her heart.
Te Fiti gives Maui a new fish hook and she gives Moana a sailing canoe.
After saying their goodbyes Maui departs and Moana returns home. Upon her return she ushers in a new age of exploration for her people. The movie ends on many of the islanders sailing canoes voyaging toward a new island and a new adventure.
Theme Analysis (Who Are You?)
This movie does a great job of driving home the message that you should be true to who you are. This theme is highlighted by the characters Te Fiti, Moana, Maui, and Tala (Moana’s grandmother). Each of these characters helps us to understand the theme in their own way.
Moana and Maui
Throughout the movie Moana and Maui have circumstances that try to force them to be something that they are not. The former is the daughter of the chief, and therefore the next chief. She cannot be reckless and carefree and must stay on the island to uphold the laws. The latter, was abandoned as a child and would do anything for humans to show him affection (even stealing the Heart of Te Fiti which led to the events of the movie).
In this way both of these characters have pressures that attempt to force them to become something they are not. Moana is not a “traditional” chief like her father, and Maui is not a thief.
Te Fiti shows us what can happen when you lose your way and are forced down a path that is not yours. Her heart was stolen and because of this she was pushed to destroy all that she had created. Te Kā is the embodiment of all of Te Fiti’s negative emotions towards humanity. The form the goddess takes when she does not believe that humanity is worthy of her gifts and creations. Te Kā tries to reduce everything to ash.
Te Fiti gives us an exaggerated look into how horrible things can get if people are forced to change and not allowed to be who they are.
(Every time I type “who you are” I hear it in Mufasa’s voice from Lion King telling Simba, “Remember, who you are.”)
Lastly Tala, Moana’s grandmother, shows us that staying true to yourself is not always easy, but is definitely worth it. Regardless of what anyone in the village says or thinks about her, Tala is true to herself and will not be swayed by the influences of others. She lives her life the ways she wants to and you can see how happy it makes her. Even after her death she was able to continue to help and watch over Moana.
Not sure why but she was also the only reincarnation we got to see. Maybe her spirit was so strong that she was allowed to stay in the physical world? Who knows!
All I’m saying is that we could all learn a thing or two from Tala!
A Little Bit of History
A good bit of the training montage when Maui was teaching Moana how to sail is historically accurate to the Polynesian cultures that the movie draws from.
Using techniques like measuring the stars and wave shadows, as well as feeling the temperature of the current. Early Polynesian tribes were able to sail better than anyone else in the world. The emergence of modern GPS has been the only challenge to the dominance of their techniques.
Yeah I’m definitely a nerd for this kind of stuff I would love to get a boat!
I love that this movie weaves realism and fantasy together so well. We get to have a look into Polynesian sailing culture while also fighting monsters. All this while a chicken tries to walk over board at every possible opportunity (you gotta love Hei-Hei).
Top 10 Moments
- Moana discovering that Te Fiti is missing and realizing that Te Kā (the fire demon) is actually the goddess!
- The parts when Hei-Hei was doing something!
- The part when the ocean opened up around baby Moana!
- The parts when we got flashbacks to the ancestors sailing!
- The part when Tala got reincarnated!
- The animation was absolutely beautiful!
- The part when Maui called Moana out for being a standard Disney Princess with a cute animal sidekick!!! (I almost died laughing!)
- The part when Maui taught Moana how to sail/ wayfind!
- The part when Chief Tui told Moana,“when you place your stone, you will raise this whole island higher.”
- Adding some more diversity to the Disney princess line up!
Moana feels like a throwback to classic Disney. Back when everything meant something, but also new and improved because of the superior production and animation!
So in conclusion was it the classic Disney formula? Yes! Was it also worthy of all the praise and accolades (It has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes)? Also Yes!