Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
With still another month left on the calendar, it is safe to say that 2016 will go down in cinematic history as one of the greatest years ever for animation. Adding to the mythos is the brilliant Moana; the story of a girl destined to be Chief of a great tribe who wants nothing more than to travel and explore beyond the reef. When her father tells her to “find happiness right where you are” she looks out the Ocean and sees endless dreams and possibilities.
Encouraged by her Grandmother, Moana (newcomer Auli’I Cravalho) decides to find the demi-god Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to demand he right a wrong by returning the goddess Te Fiti’s jewel-like heart. To do this they must also defeat the demon who is slowly killing Moana’s home. The bitter demi-god has no intention of helping Moana even after she helps reunite him reunite with his magical Fish Hook and he does everything in his power to ditch her.
Along the way they meet perhaps the most adorable villains in Disney history: the Kakamora. These tiny coconut pirates are formidable foes who understand the power of team work – something Moana and Maui are still struggling with.
While animation is visual medium, the Movie would go nowhere without its brilliant voice cast. Cravalho and the Rock are fantastic and the supporting characters are equally memorable. Gramma Tala (Rachel House) provides the heart, Moana’s pet chicken Heihei (Alan Tudyk) provides the laughs, and silent but powerful Ocean is there to provide support and act as the heavy when Maui gets out-of-line.
That Moana feels like a return to the Disney of 90s is no shock seeing as its directing team (Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker and Chris Williams) are collectively responsible for the Golden Era of Disney animation that includes The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Tarzan and more. Sharp-eyed viewers will enjoy spotting homages big and small to these classic titles including Maui’s big musical number You’re Welcome, animated in the style of Hercules.
Frankly, an entirely separate article could be written breaking down the fantastic soundtrack featuring songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The opening song, Tulou Tagaloa, is reminiscent of The Lion King, and the traditional “I Want” song, How Far I’ll Go, is worthy of a top-ranked Disney princess. Jermaine Clement’s big number, Shiny, features his “crabulous” Tamatoa in a trippy toe-tapping song that will have audiences wanting to bedazzle everything in sight.
Encouraging someone to go see an animated Disney Film over American Thanksgiving seems trite. Calling Moana one of the best animated Films in a stellar year seems too easy. Saying that audiences will fall in love with the main characters and leave the theatre singing seems rather predictable. But it’s all true. So run – don’t walk – to your nearest multiplex and escape the cold by visiting the Pacific Islands with Moana, Maui, Heihei and all their friends. You won’t be disappointed!
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada release Moana on Wednesday, November 23, 2016.