Director: Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, Chris Williams
Main: Auli’l Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House
Visually stunning with an irresistible Disney aesthetic, Moana is another notch on the mouse-eared belt. But it’s memorable, exciting, and a bold leap forward in terms of powerful animation with a cultural impact.
Even though she is forced to an isolated life on an island in Ancient Polynesia, Moana (Cravalho) dreams of a life as a seafarer, braving the unforgiving waves and crossing the reef into the unknown world beyond. Her wise sage of a grandmother, Gramma Tala (House), fully supports Moana’s dreams of travel, but her father isn’t too keen on his daughter leaving the nest. Moana is being primed for a life of leadership of her people. Leaving the island means facing the unknown, an unfathomable thought for her chieftain father. However, when things take the turn for the worst, Moana is forced to go against her father’s wishes and enter the crystal waters beyond the island. The goal—restore the heart of the ocean to its rightful owner in order to reverse the damage of a long ago curse placed upon the Pacific islands at the hands of demigod Maui (Johnson).
You can almost hear the writers consciously weighing every decision about how to bring Moana to life. And thankfully, they spare us the traditional damsel in distress with weak ankles (and a love interest) in favor of a stout, ambitious leader who is willing to take risks. It’s a breath of fresh air, calling upon the favorable characteristics of Pocahontas and Mulan. Between the Lin-Manuel Miranda scribed soundtrack, razor-sharp writing, and the gorgeous scenery, Moana is a Disney heroine worth immortalizing with ice shows, theme park rides, and Halloween costumes.