As a little girl, I was enchanted by Disney’s fairy tale princesses. Cinderella, Belle and Ariel featured heavily in my childhood fantasies. Yet sadly I knew no matter how much I “wished upon a star”, there was never going to be a beautiful brown ballerina twirling inside a music box. With this in mind, it’s hard not to get excited about Disney’s latest offering.
Moana (meaning “ocean” in many Polynesian languages) is a 3D computer animation showcasing Pacific culture to the world, bringing to life the legends and stories of our ancestors. The creative talent is impressive. The images are filled with rich and vibrant colours. Cleverly crafted, the animation often gives the illusion the deep cool blue is in fact the sea, or the bright and beautiful petals of real frangipani.
Feisty, courageous and brave, Moana is a born leader. With no Prince Charming required, she breaks away from the traditional mold of Disney princesses. Instead, she is focused on the well being of her people, she is a natural voyager with a warrior spirit; every bit worthy of her heroine title.
Moana is set around 3,500 years ago, before the intrepid voyages that discovered many of the countries making up the Pacific Islands today. This is portrayed gracefully through the blend of cultural influences we see reflected in Moana’s story. The Maori haka Maui performs before battling the lava monster; the adaptation of the Samoan legend Sina and the eel (explaining why the coconut has three eyes) and the Kakamora, cave-dwelling goblins from the mythology of the Solomon Islands, portrayed as vicious (but cute) coconut pirates. When the characters break into traditional Disney song and dance, the movements are carefully choreographed to capture the skills and grace of the Polynesian siva and hula.
Above all the common theme binding together all Pacific people, is the importance of the ocean. "Way-finding” or ocean exploration, was an integral part of ancient Polynesians’ way of living, and sparks the ignition in Moana’s epic voyage. Moana delivers on everything magical we love about Disney, with the added sparkle of the Polynesian factor.
With no spoilers in sight, here is a run down of the key players: Newcomer Auli'i Cravalho (of Hawaiian origin) voices Moana, with a genuine authenticity that is sure to win you over. An array of New Zealand talent also contributes their vocals. Iconic Kiwi actor Temurea Morrison plays Moana’s Dad – Tui, while Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilder People) plays her Grandmother Tala. Comedian Jermaine Celement (Flight of the Concords) voices Tamatoa the crab with a cheeky little reference to Ariel the mermaid’s Sebastian. No doubt you would of heard Dwayne "The Rock” Johnson plays the deni-god Maui, but did you know PussyCat Doll Nicole Scherzinger voices Moana’s Mother Sina?
While I agree demi-god Maui should definitely be more attractive, seriously it is not believable Dwayne Johnson could be anything but! In Maori mythology, Maui is strong enough to both stop the sun, and fish up entire islands. Therefore in correctly conveying his personality, his build would need to be solid, powerful and reflect his immense strength. Let’s not forget first and foremost, Disney is the kingdom of magical make believe and fairy tales. Moana was made to entertain and delight families. Our Polynesian culture is showcased in a sweet and charming story of a heroic young princess, definitely a cut above her predecessors in girl power. Sit back and prepare to be delighted.
Ange S 4 out of 5 jaffas