There’s no denying the success that Disney has had this year. They are dominating the box office whenever they release a blockbuster film, and now they’re back with their second animated classic of the year, Moana.
Directed by Disney veterans Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules) Moana is the story following the daughter of the chief of a Polynesian tribe as she sets out to find a legendary demigod Maui and restore a mystical artifact to the goddess Maui stole it from. It’s great to see Disney making a film that really celebrates a different culture, in this case Polynesian.
Clements and Musker are responsible for some of the most popular films in the Disney canon, and they’ve recaptured this with another great story here. The character of Moana is one of the strongest female characters that Disney has ever produced. Throughout the film Moana must learn to find who she really is and where she belongs in the world. She is also the one to bring the strength out of Maui. Moana is a true three-dimensional character, not falling into the usual pitfalls of Disney Princesses as a damsel in distress or romantic lead, something that the filmmakers were clearly aware of and mock in the film.
Obviously the big draw in terms of the cast will be Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as Maui. And he delivers exactly what you want from a Dwayne Johnson performance, he has the charm and wit that Johnson has become know for, and also proves he has some vocal talent with his number You’re Welcome. But the real star is Auli’i Cravalho, a complete newcomer to the world of film, whose vocal performance of the titular Moana is brilliant. She gives a brilliantly expressive performance, and really nails the musical numbers.
Alongside Johnson one of the other big draws for the film is sure to be the presence of composer Lin-Manuel Miranda as the songwriter for the film. Fresh from the smash hit musical Hamilton Miranda has brought his songwriting talents to Disney, and it’s a match made in heaven. The Moana soundtrack is brilliant, and I think one of the strongest Disney soundtracks since the days of The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. There isn’t just one or two stand out tracks, but 5 or 6 great ones. The songs are so catchy and easy to listen to. Whilst none of them are likely to reach the popularity of Let It Go, it’s a soundtrack that I immediately purchased after watching the film and am enjoying immensely.
Finally Disney has also done a brilliant job on the animation side. The film looks beautiful. When so much of the film is set on or around water, something that is often hard to get right in animation, they really had to step up their animation game to make it work, and boy have they done that. The look of Maui’s tattoos that come to life is equally brilliant. The entire film is a visual delight, and amid so many beautifully designed animated films, Moana stands out alone at the top as the most eye catching.
It’s fair to say that Disney have kept their tremendous streak of great animated films in the 2010s going. It’s strange to think that Disney are now delivering more consistent high quality films than their subsidiary Pixar, but right now Moana is proving that they are. Moana is a truly great family film that anyone can enjoy. The infectious music, hysterical script, and the heart and emotion that you expect from Disney combine to make one of the stand out animated films of the year.