Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Animation Studios

James Fagan, Photojournalist


One of Disney’s most anticipated movies of 2016, Moana, has stunning visuals, lighthearted, enjoyable songs and a cast of voice actors who make their characters truly come to life. Moana is a powerful story about independence, self growth and empowerment. The movie stars voices such as Auli’i Cravalho, who voices Moana, the daughter of the chief of the people of the island Motunui. As well as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who voices Maui, a trickster hero Demigod who has both helped and hurt humankind since long before the events of the movie take place.

Moana spends her childhood and teenage years on Motunui learning her people’s culture and customs from her grandmother, her parents and her people. Ever since she was a baby, Moana has spent half her time learning how to be the future chief and the other half of her time thinking about going out and sailing on the ocean.

Eventually Moana learns that there is a plague affecting the coconuts on the island. She found that the coconuts on the island are being affected because the Demigod Maui has taken “The heart of Te Fiti,” a stone with the power to grant the user power to create life. Moana then decides to go to find Maui so that he can return the heart of Te Fiti. When Moana confronts her father with the idea to leave the island in order to return the heart of Te Fiti he turns her down, saying that the waters past the reef surrounding the islands are too dangerous. When Moana’s grandmother passes away, it gives Moana the final incentive to leave the island, even without her father’s blessing.

Though her sailing skills were not highly developed, Moana sailed to the island that Maui was trapped on. When she gets to the island Maui starts to tell Moana some of the stories of how he brought the islands up from out of the ocean and how he created the coconuts for humans to be able to eat and use to further their civilizations. Maui uses this time distracting Moana as a way to keep her attention so she doesn’t notice that he is trying to steal her boat to escape the island. Despite Maui’s efforts Moana catches up to him and sails away with him to retrieve Maui’s magic hook.

Moana and Maui proceed to Lolotai, the proverbial underworld and realm of monsters in the movie, in order to retrieve Maui’s magic hook from Tamatoa, a giant, greedy crab who hoards treasure. In order to retrieve the magic hook, Maui sends Moana into Tamatoa’s chamber as a distraction so Maui can sneak in and grab his hook off of Tomatoa’s back. However, when Maui tries to get the hook Tomatoa notices him, and attacks him and Moana. Right as Tomatoa is about to defeat Maui, Moana tricks Tomatoa with a stone which she has made to look like the heart of Te Fiti. Tomatoa springs at the stone trying to add it to his collection, but Maui grabs his hook and escapes with Moana as Tomatoa is distracted.

After Moana gets the magic hook back, she and Maui sail to the island where the heart of Te Fiti needs to be returned. On the way to this island Maui teaches Moana how to sail. This is important to Moana because she has spent her whole life wanting to learn how to sail as it gives her a sense of freedom and exploration, though her father has tried to keep her from learning to sail, she learns how to at this point and it makes her feel free. As they approach the island, Moana and Maui are confronted by a lava monster named Te-Ka, after which Maui flees, doubting his abilities. Moana, also doubting herself, decides to sail back home to Motunui, but is met by the spirit of her grandmother, who encourages her to follow her own path, whether that be to go home, or to return the heart of Te Fiti herself. As she approaches the island where the heart of Te Fiti needs to go, Te-Ka attacks her again, but she sails away to avoid the monster as she gets closer. Maui then shows up to help Moana return the heart of Te Fiti. As this fight continues, Moana realizes that Te-Ka was Te Fiti all along, and returns the heart of Te Fiti to her.

Moana is an inspiring movie with beautiful visuals and a kid friendly story with good morals. Moana teaches kids and older viewers alike that they should follow their passions, and help people to the best of their ability even if others think it is improbable that they will succeed. Moana shows viewers the value of independence even more than other recent Disney movies do because Moana and Maui’s relationship is completely platonic, in most Disney movies the two main protagonists fall in love, but that doesn’t happen in Moana, the two main characters have a good friendship and that sets this apart from many recent Disney movies. Moana is a good movie for viewers of all ages, and is a great example of modern day Disney movies.


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