Disney’s MOANA, in theaters November 23, 2016, is the must-see film of the holiday season. While in LA this week I had the opportunity to see it (twice!) and I cannot wait to see it again with my kids. This movie is SO good and I am anxiously awaiting its release so everyone can see it and we can talk about it. I just can’t stop thinking about it and singing these songs!
Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows why.
From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once-mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “The Princess & the Frog”) and produced by Osnat Shurer (“Lifted,” “One Man Band”), “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016.
Moana Official Trailer
5 stars. The end. Seriously, Moana is just one of those films that stays with you. There is so much to love here, but here are the things that are stuck in my mind days after seeing it.
The film is BEAUTIFUL. The setting of the Polynesian islands is just stunning with the gorgeous blue water, lush islands, and vibrant people. Do you remember how Frozen was so pretty with the ice and snow? It’s like that, but dare I say, better. The water is actually a living character in the film and plays a huge role, which is very difficult to animate but of course Disney nails it.
The Polynesian Culture
I had the opportunity to interview several of the cast and filmmakers and they are so committed to sharing an authentic Polynesian story. The cast includes Dwayne Johnson who is half Samoan, Auli’i Cravalho who is Hawaiian, and Nicole Sherzinger, also Hawaiian. The musician, Opetaia Foa’i, probably made the biggest impact on me when he shared how proud he is of this film sharing the richness of the Polynesian culture with the world. Their stories, music, and traditions are all reflected accurately (Disney had an Oceanic trust in place to see to that) so not only is it entertaining but it’s actually pretty culturally educational.
“The Way To Moana” Featurette – Moana
The featurette above includes cast and filmmakers talking about how they infused the film with Polynesian culture. Disney does its research!
The Story (and my thoughts on if it’s kid-friendly)
I LOVE this story. It’s really about listening to that little voice inside of you that tells you who you are and wants you to follow your dreams. I think Dwayne Johnson said it best in my interview with him: “Life is noisy. Listen to that little voice.” Moana is a heroine for both girls and boys. This is definitely not a Disney princess story in the traditional sense. She’s tough, brave, strong, and kind. I pretty much love her.
And Maui, while clearly a pretty tough guy, learns a thing or two about himself in this film as well. I love how Disney has created these multifaceted characters that can be both strong and soft at the right times.
So let’s talk about taking the kids. The movie is rated PG. It’s a Disney movie so there are a few tear-jerking moments but I managed to basically keep it together both times I saw it. Moana has a close relationship with her grandmother and their interactions are really the only time I got a bit choked up. Is it scary? Well, depends. I didn’t think so. My kids are 7 and 11 and I am not worried about them seeing it. There are a couple of intense scenes though with the ‘bad guy’ who, without giving it away, I don’t want you to freak out about. In the end this isn’t a good versus evil movie. You’ll have to watch it to understand. If your children are easily scared, you might want to try to see it first and judge if it’s going to upset them. The scenes that are intense are NOT a huge part of the movie. They’re an important part of the plot but for the most part the movie is very much upbeat and entertaining. Take a look at the trailer up above and you’ll get at least a taste of anything that might startle the kids. And rest assured that there is a VERY happy ending.
I came home from my press trip for this film on Tuesday night right around midnight. By 8am Wednesday morning I had ordered the soundtrack which comes out Friday November 18. I cannot wait to play this music non-stop.
“We Know The Way” Clip – Moana
Lin-Manuel Miranda, musical genius, and Opetaia Foa’i, a real Polynesian musician created the music for this movie and it is AMAZING. Inspiring, catchy, upbeat, feel-good, beautiful, fun. I need more adjectives. I can’t say enough about the songs in this film. I’ve been singing them all. day. long.
“You’re Welcome” Clip – Moana
Yes, that’s The Rock singing. I love this song! I love all the songs. I said that already, right?
I truly love when Disney puts a short film in front of the feature. Playing before Moana is the newest Disney short, Inner Workings.
I’ll had the chance to sit in on a presentation with Director Leo Matsuda and Producer Sean Lurie and I saw the short three times! It made me laugh and inspired me each time.
“Inner Workings,” a new short from first-time director Leo Matsuda (story artist for “Big Hero 6,” “WreckIt Ralph”) is the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited, adventurous half. Created by a small team at Walt Disney Animation Studios in a unique, fast-paced style that blends CG and traditional hand-drawn animation, the short explores the importance of finding balance in daily life.
Initially I felt a bit of in Inside Out vibe here with the organs being the main characters in the short. The man who ‘houses’ the organs is Paul but as Director Leo Matsuda told us, he’s really just a vessel to tell the story. And the story is about the struggle between listening to your head and following your heart.
Is it possible to find balance between the two? Let’s face it. As much as we’d love to run off and hop on a plane to an island, we have responsibilities at home. I love how they’ve told this story that reconciles the two.
If you’ve ever sat behind your computer staring out the window wishing you could just walk out the door (that’s all of us, right?) you’re going to love Inner Workings. I bought myself this Inner Workings Mug at the Disney Store on the Studio Lot. Love it, and it’s been a good reminder to me to take a break and indulge in a few Inner Workings moments throughout the day.