Movies

MOANA Movie Review + Concept Art: Only good vibes.

MOANA concept art winking

2016 | 1 hour 43 minutes | Dir. Ron Clements & John Musker | Disney

Moana was amazing.  Go see it.

If that’s all you needed to know, stop reading.  I have no bad things to say about Disney’s latest animated feature.

Well, I take that back.  I didn’t like this:

Moana HeiHei The Chicken

Worst. Sidekick. Ever.

And Moana herself got a little annoying, but she’s a teenage girl.

Here’s what made Moana so awesome:

  1. Lin- Manuel Miranda

moana voyagers we know the way

Lately, Disney’s picked theater folk over pop stars to write songs (Phil Collins, Sting and Elton John all enjoyed songwriting credits a couple decades ago). Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote Hamilton.  Disney teamed him up with Tarzan and Brother Bear composer Mark Mancina to craft Moana‘s songs.  Plunking a Broadway sensation into a Disney movie fared far better here than in Frozen.  Frozen used Book of Mormon songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.  Frozen had 10 original songs, but you probably only remember one or two.  The Lopez’s wrote great theater- ready tunes, but Miranda has a little more edge right now. Every one of his 6 songs soars.  His hip- hop sensibilities lend themselves perfectly to the island rhythms of Motan’nui.   Which brings me to my next point…

2. The Oceanic Story Trust

How do you make a movie without insulting a culture?  Let those people make the movie.  All of Moana’s voice leads are Polynesian.

moana-cast

The white guy plays the chicken.

Kiwi/Maori filmmaker Taika Waititi co-wrote the screenplay.  Moana‘s credits included over 15 advisers from Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa, Tetiaroa, Mo’orea, Manono, Hawaii, and New Zealand.  Disney created an Oceanic Story Trust to culture- check.  The songs use Oceanic languages.  The scene for “Where You Are” feels like a step into the Polynesian Cultural Center.  I’m not Polynesian, so I don’t know about the accuracy.  But it all felt pretty authentic.  Personally, I’m all for Disney glorifying the brown people of the world.  I’ve seen enough big- eyed Europeans.

Baby Moana

Also: Did anyone else notice that Moana’s costume looked like Chel’s from The Road to El Dorado?  Only way less slutty, of course.

chel-vs-moana

3. High Quality Production

As if animated features didn’t come with enough extra pressure, critics feel the need to go through every aspect of animation with a fine- toothed comb.  I personally ripped Frozen a new one.  Here’s how Moana fares:

tamatoa-the-hermit-crab-moana-disney SHINY

Animation A+
Story B+
Runtime C (too much exposition)
Soundtrack A
Voice Talent A-

4.  The Dream Team

Disney legends like Ron Clements, John Musker and John Lasseter know how to make a classic Disney film.  Moana has nothing terribly original, current or offensive, but it does what it does well.  And that’s why your kids will probably enjoy Moana in 10 years, but you’ll forget why the jokes in Trolls were so funny.

Everyone loves concept/ fan art!

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