So, although we’re a little late to the party, we watched Disney’s Moana last night, and it did not disappoint.
In recent years, I have shied away from Disney films, mostly because I don’t like watching yet another sub-par movie produced by a studio whose best decades appear to be behind it. It makes me sad; especially as someone who (like most of my generation) grew up on the Disney classics (not just the European fairytale adaptations, but also such brilliant pieces as Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, and Lady and the Tramp). After the extreme letdowns of Frozen, Zootopia, and Inside Out, I was ready to run the opposite direction from Disney/Pixar, and make my family exclusive Dreamworks viewers.
When we saw the trailers for Moana, and White Fang said, “Let’s give it a try,” I silently groaned.
Note to the preview people: Please stop making *such* cheesy trailers that do not do the actual movie justice.
I cried at least 4 times before the end of this film. Moana is amazing. Not only is the animation the complete, utter zenith of current technology and talent, the intense inner beauty of the story that permeates every single scene should move even the more jaded adult viewer. There are so many glorious individual moments, in character interaction, developing backstory, foreshadowing, and personal growth.
And can we just talk about our heroine for a minute here. The title character and protagonist is DA BOMB. Daughter of the village chief, Moana isn’t just beautiful and smart, she is a beautiful soul, and she is intuitively smart — she doesn’t simply retain knowledge and put it into practice well, she figures things out with her heart. The true absolute gorgeousness of this young woman as who she is makes me cheer and hold out hope for the future of humanity.
Moana is not a damsel in distress. Nor is she a clever girl who still ends up getting rescued by the guy. Unlike any Disney movie I’ve ever seen before, Moana becomes the embodiment of the power to change her circumstances and lead her people. (I feel my chest swelling with feminine pride even as I write this sentence.)
The female icons in this story are incredible. Moana’s grandmother; her mother (who shows unwavering faith in her daughter); even the island goddess; they’re all excellent examples of what and who little girls can grow up to be, whether they choose a traditional or pioneering path.
Let’s focus on the story itself for a bit. The messages of never giving up, of redemption and forgiveness, are powerful. The inner strength Moana must summon to continue her quest is awesome. The inclusion of Polynesian legend and culture feels authentic and interesting. This is not another “politically correct” grab at the diversity platform — this is simply a tale of a Hawaiian tribe and part of their history.
And the PIG. After the unbelievable cuteness of this fictional pig, I may be giving up pork products forever.
The music wasn’t just fun — it was relevant to its part in the story, it was well-produced, it was moving. (That’s another refreshing departure from my more recent experience of Disney.) And of course the animation of the ocean, the stars, the mountains was all breathtaking.
I have never been to Hawaii; I have often considered going (particularly after Lilo and Stitch — just without the aliens). But now I really want to go, and I think I’d be seeing this island paradise with new eyes — not merely the eyes of a European descendant who spends a lot of time in a rather cold climate; but as a tourist who can appreciate the rich and layered beauty of the landscapes, the culture, and the lifestyle. (That’s the real win for increasing tolerance, by the way.)
So, if you’ve already seen Moana, good for you. If you haven’t — rent it from Netflix (as we did), request it from your library, grab it from Redbox. Skip the popcorn this time; acquire some coconuts and bananas and mangoes. Gather the kids and grandkids round, and let this tale encourage them to go after their visions of the future.
Just one last note in my gushing about this film — can I have the pig?