Let's Discuss...Disney's Moana!!!

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
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Right now, the buzz on Disney's latest animated movie, Moana, is that people love it, meh it, or plan to see it. If you haven't seen it yet, should you? What camp will you fall into?

To me, it was absolutely worth seeing on the big screen! Seeing Disney getting things right with a diverse culture, going back, in part, to hand-drawn animation, turning the movie into a bona fide musical, having a strong female heroine, incorporating mythology...it hit all the right buttons for me!

So let's break down why 
the movie worked for me!

The Diversity

I love that when Disney decided that they wanted to make a movie using a culture they weren't super familiar with, THIS TIME, they decided they wanted to get it right. Story creators John Musker and Ron Clements were told by Disney Studio Head John Lasseter that if they wanted to do this movie, they had to do it RIGHT, and the duo took several trips to Polynesia to find out about the culture. There is a really in-depth article about the process on Vanity Fair that was fascinating to read if you want to see the steps Disney took to "get it right." Disney even made an Oceanic Trust with natives to get feedback as they proceeded. This feedback included such great changes as to have Maui have a head full of lush, curly hair, rather than no hair in the style of Maui's voice actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, because hair is a power point. They scrapped traveling in body paint and headdresses because the Trust told them it would be impractical, like wearing tuxedo suits in the ocean. Seriously, go read that article. It's fantastic!

Also!!!! There is a scene where Moana is seeing her ancestors, and you guys, the song starts off IN HER OWN LANGUAGE. Not English!!! If that doesn't slam you in the chest, I don't know what will!

My mom works with someone who visits Hawaii (not quite the same, I know) every year, and took a different meaning out of the movie than a lot of us have (Probably like when I took a different meaning out of Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away, having lived in Japan). I also know someone from the islands who was in happy tears over what Disney did for her culture.

They're finally on the right path when it comes to properly bringing other cultures to life!!!

Going back to...
hand-drawn animation!!!

You're reading that right!!!! Moana uses, in part, hand-drawn animation! Every time you see Maui's tattoos moving? HAND-DRAWN.

Like this whole musical number:

Yep, you're welcome for that visual! ^.~

The tattoos actually remind me A LOT of the vases from Disney's Hercules--which, yes, is a movie full of errors, but I have a soft spot for it because...THAT MUSIC!!!!

AKA, it reminds me of this number:

You can also see some of the other animation styles Disney played with in the above musical number!!!

Like the way they used fabric instead of animation at one point. There's also a really cool musical number called "Shiny" that uses black-lighting and neon colors in really cool ways!!!!

Becoming a bona fide musical!

What happens when you hire Broadway's hottest rising star, Hamilton creator's Lin-Manuel Miranda, to help score your animated movie?


Okay, some people are going to hate Moana for that alone. I'm a Broadway girl at heart, though, and I can't help but love it!

An animated movie where songs PROPEL THE STORY FORWARD AND HAVE MEANING? They're largely not just pretty showstoppers with no movement?

I WILL TAKE IT!!!!!!!!!!!

The music made me SO HAPPY. So, so happy, you guys!!!!

I saw this a week ago, and the music is STILL stuck in my head. And no, I haven't been listening to the movie soundtrack! I asked for it as a Christmas present, so I don't have it!!

Okay, and mayyyyyyyyyyyyyyybe Hamilton has rotted out my brain because I've listened to so dang many times this year, but I can ABSOLUTELY hear Lin-Manuel Miranda in the songs. I can hear the tonal structure of his music at times, the way it correlates back to both Hamilton and In the Heights. He has a very unique voice in the world, and I can see it reflected in this movie. AND THAT MADE ME SO HAPPY!!!

(Off-topic, but I was REALLY excited to see this week's announcement that Miranda has been tapped for the upcoming TV series [and possibly a stage adaptation!!] of Patrick Rothfuss' highly-anticipated Kingkiller Chronicles!)

A strong female heroine!

We always complain that a lot of the Disney gals are weak and don't set good examples, right?


Moana's ability to set out on her own and save her family at risk to herself is very reminiscent of Mulan's spunk. She also has a lot of Merida in her. They're all fiesty gals who want to set things right....AND they don't need a man to do it for them!

Maybe it's just that this generation's animators are doing...well, this generation's movies...but at times in the way Moana acts and moves (and gets sand twisted in her hair?), I'm visually reminded of both Rapunzel and Anna.

I love that Moana is NOT a princess, though she IS destined to become her tribe's chieftess. I love the emphasis on family in this movie.

I love that Moana isn't afraid of the unknown, and even when everyone thinks she's wrong, even a demi-god, she believes in herself and knows what's right.

YOU GUYS. I'm pretty sure that Moana is my favorite "princess" of this generation of Disney movies!!!


The Mythology!!!

I wish I knew more lore about Maui, etc., after seeing Moana

You can easily go to the bookstore and find a book of fairy tales, of Greek mythology, and even tales from Ireland and Japan. I would REALLY love more fairy tales from other culture to be books I could easily find at the bookstore.

Maybe Moana will inspire at least a book of island-based mythology?

My Verdict!

Ultimately, I REALLY loved Moana. It was so much more than I thought it could be, and I think it's one of Disney's best animated movies in several years.

Maybe it doesn't have a song like "A Whole New World" or "Beauty and the Beast" or "Under the Sea," but it has a lot of solid music that's memorable, that brings a nation to life.

There are so many great elements that appealed to me, and even when the movie isn't perfect or has spots that drag a little, I can easily overlook them because there was so much about the movie I DID love.

If you haven't watched it yet, it's definitely worth seeing on the big screen, but at the very least, rent or buy it when it's out on DVD/blu-ray in 2017!