Moana is the 56th animated film to be released by Walt Disney Animation Studios and it continues the studio’s reign of animated hits as it enters Disney lore.
Disney veteran directors Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess & the Frog) directed the animated musical, set across the Pacific Ocean. They were joined by co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams.
The voice cast is led by Auli‘i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson. Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Alan Tudyk also lend their voices to the film. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina composed songs for the film. Lin-Manuel Miranda could very well complete the EGOT should one of the songs he composed be awarded Best Song come February.
Moana is the daughter of the Motunui village chief and they descend from a people that have voyaged across the ocean for 3,000 years but for a period of 1,000 years, the voyaging stopped and nobody knows nor talks about why that is. Nobody goes beyond the reef.
The ocean comes calling to Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho), who must travel across the ocean to find demigod Maui (Johnson) so that he can return the heart he stole a millennium earlier to Te Fiti. Maui helps Moana to become a master wayfinder along the journey, which he is reluctant to take. The odds seem impossible but Moana discovers her identity as she fulfills the quest of her people.
Just as Moana is on her own journey, so is Maui. He’s been secluded on an island and can’t restore his powers until he gets his fish hook back.
Storytelling is a big part of the Pacific culture and it is on display in the film. Gramma Tala, the mother of Chief Tui, is shown in the beginning of the movie telling a story to young children, including her granddaughter, Moana. She tells of how Maui stole the heart and the darkness that was unleashed upon the world as a result.
“It’s a story that takes place many, many years ago, but with a contemporary feel,” producer Osnat Shurer says. “Our hope as filmmakers has been to create a universal story that is also an homage to the beautiful people of the Pacific Islands who inspired us along this journey.”
Moana is preceded by Inner Workings, a short from director Leo Matsuda. The first-time director gives us a film that displays the struggle between logic and free-spirit. The fast-paced style blends traditional hand-drawn animation with CG. The film shows just how important it is to have balance in once’s life.
Following its world premiere during AFI Fest, Walt Disney Pictures opened Moana on November 23rd. Moana joins fellow Disney release Zootopia and Pixar release Finding Dory in the competition for the best animated film of 2016.