Moana (2016)

Directed by: Ron Clements/John Musker

Written by: Jared Bush/Ron Clements/John Musker/Chris Williams/Don Hall/Pamela Ribon/Aaron Kandell/Jordan Kandell

This is where things start to get really, really good…and psychological.

Moana is the story of a young girl (a princess, of course) who takes it upon herself to try to save her village on a small Polynesian island. The problem is that this involves her leaving their island against the wishes of her father, who is afraid to let anyone go out too far into the ocean.

Why would she need to leave the island? Because her grandmother has put it in her head that she is the chosen one to go out and find Maui (Dwayne Johnson), trickster demigod and hero to all, and force him to board her boat and help her take the Heart of Te Fiti back to the goddess. Of course, her dad doesn’t believe any of this.

She finds Maui, meets a giant crab (Jemaine Clement, who sings my favorite song of he movie. Shiny), basically goes through the depths of Hell, and of course saves the world.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this movie. From the voice acting, to the songs (co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda), to the story that is steeped in Polynesian lore, it’s just a beautiful film. It’s my favorite of the modern princess movies, although I guess Vanellope counts as a princess.

Disney made sure that all of the voice actors were Polynesian except for new good luck charm Alan Tudyk, who voices Heihei, the chicken. The story was mostly written by Aaron and Jordan Kandell, who are Hawaiian. The music was co-written by Opetaia Foa’i who is a member of Te Vaka, a band that performs traditional Pacific music. So, Disney was trying to be as authentic as possible when creating an animated film based on an original story partly about Polynesian gods. They’ve come a long way since Peggy Lee voiced two Asian stereotypes.

So, why did I say that it was so psychological? Because the climax deals with abuse and past trauma. (Spoilers, so stop reading if you’ve never seen the movie. Go see it. Then come back and finish reading.

And why have you not seen this movie, yet?)

Maui basically seduced Te Fiti. When he left her after using her for her gifts, she was transformed into the lava monster, Te Ka, attacking all who come near her. In the end, Moana sees Te Ka for who she really is and returns her heart to her. She transforms back into Te Fiti, Maui apologizes, and all is right in the world.

Yeah, Maui’s not a good guy. But he changes by the end and becomes a good guy. Still a trickster, but definitely a hero to all.

This is one that I think I could watch over and over again. It’s pretty much a perfect film.