Moana is a new kind of classic. While it’s inspired by classic Disney films, it isn’t afraid to be liberal with their inspiration, often using old ideas and making them into something new.
The movie is advertised as being something entirely different than previous Disney films, Disney figures emphasizing that Moana will not have a love story (a first for a film like this!). Yet can something as different as Moana still be called a Disney movie?
Though Moana makes some major moves away from what we might call Disney tropes, it doesn’t banish them altogether – rather, the movie bases its new concepts on the classics we know and love and, in my opinion, does so successfully. Check out our Moana review of the movie’s main points, and by the end you’ll be better informed of what’s great about the movie (and what’s not so great!).
(Trust me, that gif looks way better in HD).
Disney’s always been at the forefront of animation, but Moana really moves the field forward visually. The movie pushed animation beyond its limits, most notably for the way the team created new, innovative ways to animate water. The ocean plays a very important part in the movie, and Disney did a great job animating incredibly realistic waves, storms, and waterfalls.
Already regarded as a pioneer in animation, Disney’s done another great job with Moana, and I believe the animation alone is a good reason to watch the film.
While Moana‘s visuals are undeniably Disney, its music departs from traditional Disney tunes. A few classical aspects, of course, stay the same – important characters like Moana and Maui get their own songs, Moana’s is a heartfelt ballad, and a catchy tune ties the whole film together, as with older Disney films like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. Mark Mancina, who did the music for Brother Bear, The Haunted Mansion, and Tarzan II also wrote the score for the film, again giving it a Disney background.
Moana‘s music, however, isn’t a carbon copy of older Disney classics, probably due to the fact that it was written by newcomers Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i alongwith Mark Mancina. Miranda’s hip-top style shines through many of the songs, and when paired with Foa’i’s catchy South Pacific tunes results in a brand new kind of Disney music.
It’s certainly not the exact same sound as Alan Menken’s “A Whole New World” or even the more recent “Let it Go” by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, but Moana demands a kind of music that’s more modern and more suited to a movie with a clear cultural foundation. Moana’s music is notable on its own, but is especially unique, as it might be signifying a new age of Disney movies – ones that are unafraid to move away from what older films have already done musically.
While Moana generally sticks to its Disney roots in animation and even music, it’s in its story that the film really dares to go beyond.
Yes, of course, Moana is still the story of a girl growing up, just like previous Disney heroines before her. The ending is, of course, happy. But gone are the days of missing mothers (Moana’s mother is not only present, but important to her journey), perfect main characters (Moana’s character development involves multiple moments of self reevaluation), and even princesses (which Moana herself takes issue with). Moana, unlike its predecessors, is less concerned with romance and “good versus evil” binaries than it is with identity and knowing one’s self.
This was what made the movie a little jarring for me – it’s unlike other Disney movies to the point where I had to recognize that while it doesn’t meet the expectations I had coming into the theater, it really is a well-written film. Moana may not be like our well-love Disney favorites, but its differences only hint at other genre-breaking films that Disney might create in the future.
Should you watch Moana?
Yes! It’s a fun watch, and has top-notch music and animation. While the story may not be the traditional Disney-esque tale we’re all used to, it nonetheless introduces us to a great heroine and tells us how she matures.
Is Moana a classic Disney movie? Not necessarily, but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it may even tell us that Disney is changing, and from Moana it seems like it could be changing for the better.
This Moana review, of course, only touches on the main aspects of the film, so be sure to catch Moana in theaters yourself at the end of this week, beginning November 23rd, 2016.
Our rating: 4.5/5
Details (from IMDB) –
- Runtime: 113 minutes
- Rating: Rated PG for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements
All reviews are personal opinions and may not reflect the attitudes of other writers for DisneyExaminer.com unless stated otherwise.
These films have been screened prior to the release date for review purposes and therefore are viewed without charge courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios.