‘Moana’ is a fresh take on a classic story

Julia Dzurillay
Staff Writer

How far will you go to help the ones you love?

Disney’s newest movie, “Moana,” made a splash in November when families followed the adventures of Moana and Maui as they restore the heart of Te Fiti, a goddess with the power to create life.  

Children welcomed Moana, a Polynesian chief-in-training, to the Disney family with open arms. We’ve seen elements of the story of “Moana” in past animated Disney films. For example, in “The Little Mermaid,” another successor to the throne, Ariel, wants to explore the human world even though her father forbids it because of his fear of humans.

Similarly, Moana wants to explore the ocean even though her father is afraid of Moana getting hurt. Rapunzel’s story also seems similar, although Mother Gothel does not worry about Rapunzel the same way Moana’s father does.

That being said, Moana brings a fresh perspective to familiar tropes. Unlike other female Disney characters, Moana is witty, yet clumsy. More than anything, she wants to help her people and please her family.

This selflessness adds a whole new twist to Moana’s story because unlike Ariel, Moana ventures into the unknown to restore life on her island on behalf of her people rather than seek the approval of a man.

The cast of "Moana" is memorable and engaging.
The cast of “Moana” is memorable and engaging.

Moana is also physically different from other Disney princesses. Without Barbie-like proportions, she appears more likeable and human to children of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. As a woman who will become the leader of her village, Moana also speaks volumes to the feminist movement of today’s society, especially because of the running joke throughout the movie that Moana is “not a princess.”

Maui, Moana’s demigod friend, also plays a significant role by illustrating the selfishness of humankind. Maui gave the humans everything they wanted so he would fit in with them, but in the end, Maui was still left in isolation. Moana’s determination and kindness toward Maui allows them both to achieve their goals and mature as people.

As a woman who becomes the chief of her people, Moana teaches children that their background doesn’t matter because they can accomplish anything with hard work. By facing her fears alone and succeeding, Moana teaches children to be courageous. By achieving greatness without a man at her side, Moana teaches children — and adults — that independence is not a scary thing. You are not a lesser person because you aren’t loved by a significant other. The support of your family and your friends is worth just as much.

Disney also does an incredible job of illustrating and animating its newest masterpiece. The landscapes are colorful and detailed. The music is written by “Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda and features songs that are a mixture pacific island flair with today’s hit songs. Miranda is even featured on “We Know The Way,” the song where Moana discovers the history of her people.

Although the charming story of “Moana” is told well, the plot is very predictable. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make the film appear less impressive than Disney’s 2013 hit “Frozen, Perhaps this was intentional because of the turbulent current events, maybe “Moana” was meant to be a breath of fresh air and familiarity. So, if you’re looking for a feel-good movie, “Moana” will definitely hit the spot.