Moana: A true spectacle to sea(Spoiler-free)


By Brian Herman


Its no secret that Disney is on a roll lately. They purchased Star Wars and Marvel Studios, not to mention Pixar is still making tons of great films. While many people relish in the classic fairy tales on which they grew up, Disney’s more recent films have undoubtedly begun to emphasize the character driven plots of their former competitors. So with Wreck-It Ralph, Tangled, Frozen, and Zootopia all being hits, does Moana continue this trend?

To put it bluntly: Yes.

Moana, also the name of the title character, tells the story of island dweller and future chief of the village of Motunui. Moana’s fellow islanders are afraid of the dangers of the water and never sail past the reef. Moana, however, yearns to explore the sea, but is restricted by both her father’s desire to see her become chief, and her sense of duty. When the island is in peril, Moana must journey out to sea to find the demigod Maui, and make him return an artifact to restore peace to the world. From the start, she faces a myriad of threats, including pirates and giant crabs.

Overall, the plot is expertly crafted, not moving too quickly or slowly. The world is well fleshed out and detailed, with interesting lore. The story succeeds at staying quick for the kids, and deep enough for the older crowd.

Moana’s characters feel like soon to be beloved members of the Disney ensemble. Moana herself is a character who deals with a relatable struggle: Should I embrace my passion or my role? Her conflict between desire and dedication is one people can relate to. She also succeeds at not being too good at everything, and has genuine flaws, something Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens was accused of. Auli’i Cravalho does a great job bringing Moana to life, and has a fantastic singing voice.

Meanwhile,  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the highlight as Maui. He brings his signature charisma and charm, while also portraying Maui as a complex character. Maui is a fun sidekick, but he walks a fine line between sidekick and anti-hero at certain points.

 Alan Tudyk as Hei-Hei the chicken is a joy to watch. He is a particularly low intelligence creature that has plenty of hilarious gags. Although his gimmick could have gotten old quickly, the writers knew this, and had the characters react in different and funny was to his antics. The side characters like Tamatoa, Gramma Tala, and Chief Tui have brief roles, but are entertaining and a joy to see.

Moana got an Oscar nomination for “How Far I’ll Go,” but the entire soundtrack is incredible. Composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton, the songs are all catchy and pleasing to the ear. The soundtrack also succeeds at diversifying the music. Each song feels distinct, and they each have their own merits. Highlights include: “You’re Welcome,” “Shiny,” and “We Know the Way.” All the voice actors sing beautifully, and Dwayne Johnson singing shows “How Far He’ll Go” to get another lead role.

The animation takes clear inspiration from Pixar, like many of Disney’s more recent films. The 3-D models are rendered well, and the mouths sync up perfectly. Things move as they should, but the real highlight of the animation is the backgrounds. The color palette allows beautiful environments, the water looks gorgeous, and  the lighting vividly emphasizes even the most minute detail.

Beyond the objective quality of Moana, a major success of animated films is appeal to both children and adults. Some of the most acclaimed animated classics do this, from Toy Story to Kung Fu Panda and The Lion King.

“I think the animation and original concept were the best parts to me,” remarked Paul Hood, a junior and film aficionado. “I think you have to rank it among the top of Disney musicals, it appeals to both kids and adults.”

“The animation was gorgeous in every scene, and the music was fantastic,” said senior Jordan Goodman. “ It has appeal for kids, but plenty of themes and aspects adults can enjoy.”

The best of cinema follows certain criteria and succeeds in certain areas. Animation works best when appealing to every audience, and plenty of Oakdale’s students think Moana works for everyone.