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Monday, December 19, 2016

REVIEW | Moana (Disney Film)

Video Courtesy: Youtube channel Walt Disney Animation Studios

Moana is the story of an adventure of Moana Waialiki, the daughter of a Polynesian tribal chieftain, whom the ocean chooses to look for the demigod Maui and return a precious gem that was once the heart of a mythical Mother Island, Te Fiti, from whom Maui stole—the reason being that he wanted to give human beings the power to give life.

Plot Summary

Image Courtesy: Disney Movies UK

Despite being the successor to her father’s throne as the next chief of their own village, Moana has her own dreams. She wants to go out to the seas and follow her ancestors’ footsteps, that is, to voyage across oceans. Her father disagrees with that view though as he believes that whatever they need are already provided for by the island where they are in.

Then, the unexpected happens. Crops begin to fail, coconuts start to spoil, and fishermen catch little to no fish. This prompts her to look for what-legend-has-told that the demigod is the culprit for the fate her village is heading towards. To heal the island, she needs to persuade Maui to return the gem and get things back to normal.

Image result for kakamoraImage result for tamatoa
Images Courtesy: Moana, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Along the trip, she meets coconut-shaped beings called Kakamora (pygmy pirates), a conceited giant coconut crab named Tamatoa, and a magma god named Te Ka. 

Image result for moana te fiti
Image Courtesy: Moana, Walt Disney Animation Studios

As they face Te Ka, Maui almost gets a severely damaged hook which he usually uses to transform himself into any animal being that could help him win over his opponents. They fail to reach Te Fiti after being carried away by the tides created by Te Ka. Maui leaves Moana and tells her that the ocean made a mistake picking her.

Losing hope, she begs the ocean to find another person to return the gem to Te Fiti. In an unanticipated twist, the spirit of her grandmother Tala appears and encourages her to seek her true calling. Moana then decides to try one more time and travels towards Te Fiti.

Te Ka, still guarding the area near Te Fiti, shows aggression. Moana bravely heads towards the lava demon. Maui then shows up and battles Te Ka. This helps Moana reach the mythical island, but to her surprise, the island is already gone. Soon, she realizes Te Ka and Te Fiti are one and the same.

Moana asks the ocean to clear the path between her and Te Ka, so that Te Ka can traverse the land. As Te Ka runs towards her angrily, Moana sings a song and tells Te Ka to remember who she really is. Te Ka slows down and feels Moana, who then is able to restore the heart successfully. The transformation to Te Fiti begins. The Mother Island, as a sign of gratitude, creates a new canoe as a gift for Moana. She also gives Maui a new magical hook. Te Fiti then returns back to her island form.

The Polynesian princess says goodbye to Maui and heads back to her own village that is now beginning recovery. And the once-held-back inter-island voyaging of the villagers resumes.

Moana Review

What is truly remarkable about this Disney film is that Moana is the first princess to have had no love interest. Add to that the fact that there’s a touch of genius Hamilton-creator Lin-Manuel Miranda all over it. Don’t forget the (Pacific) culture it is representing that’s totally different from what we’ve seen in the past Disney films. Then there’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson voicing over for Maui whose charm and humor, as unleashed by the character, are on point. What I find hilarious though is Te Fiti. She looks like Gamora of Guardians of the Galaxy!

Moana is not just a display of the elegant storytelling capability of the writers, but also it showcases a major life stage that parents get subjected to as their children go through adolescence—the need for independence, sense of accomplishment, and the search for thrills. There’s this challenge of autonomy for adolescents to assert their own decision-making capacity (as presented in the song “How Far I’ll Go”) as thinking individuals versus the stay-at-home rules parents impose on them. C’mon, we’ve all been through that stage moms and dads.

Image Courtesy: Moana, Walt Disney Animation Studios

And of course, let us not forget Heihei, Moana’s cute traumatized rooster companion who is actually an influential character in the finals minutes of the animated film. Truly, Disney crafts beautiful stories, not just fairytales where the princess needs saving, but more like heroine adventures where the princess, just like Anna, has a mission to accomplish.

But wait, is Moana a princess? Adopting Maui’s words, “if you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.” This princess's life story deserves a 9/10 in my ratings list. So watch it guys!

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