“See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me. And no one knows, how far it goes. If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me, one day I’ll know. If I go, theres just no telling how far I’ll go.” – Probably one of the most memorable songs of 2016. In Moana (2016), a young girl, who yearns for adventure, goes on a mission to save her people as well as a journey of self-discovery. Directed by legendary Disney directors Ron Clements and John Musker with music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Optaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina. The film stars Auli’i Cravalho as Moana and Dwanye Johnson as Maui. Could this film be an homage to the classic Disney renaissance films of the 90’s? Is Moana part of a new Disney renaissance of animated films for a new decade? YouTubers Andre from the channel Black Nerd Comedy, Dan Murrell and Roth Cornet from the channel Fandom Entertainment, AniMat from the channel ElectricDragon505 and Chris Stuckmann share their views on the beloved Disney animated film.
Moana is a wonderful movie that is capable of taking something familiar like the Disney formula and deliver it in a whole new way with an engagingly original story, beautiful animation, great characters and lovable songs. All packaged in one big love letter to the pacific islands.
The conception of the world and the extravagant looking animation, make Moana a fantastic film to see, says YouTuber AniMat. He describes the film as a definite winner for Disney lovers because it uses a familiar story formula while adding a fantasy-like story with charming characters and very catchy songs. One surprising aspect of the film the YouTuber finds is the story’s lack of a villain. Though the Moana does come face to face with many obstacles to restore peace and balance to her world, she does not face an actual villain character and is more focused on personal and character growth:
What’s probably surprising from this film though is that it doesn’t have a main antagonist.
YouTubers Dan Murrell and Roth Cornet also find this peculiar as well. Especially because the film is still just as entertaining and enjoyable without a main antagonist character like the villains from Aladdin (1992) and The Little Mermaid (1989).
One of the things that isn’t really there and it's actually kind of interesting is an out and out villain. Yeah, I like what they did with this movie in that it’s not the kind of cackling, twirling mustachioed thing. Jafar is great absolutely and of course Ursula … but I like the fact that this was more of a story, it wasn’t necessarily an opposition or versus story when you have to do the big boss battle. It was more of a tale of the journey.
In every good storyline there has to be a struggle of some sort. The YouTubers from Fandom Entertainment describe the struggle as less between “good vs evil” and more of an internal struggle for both Maui, as he faces his own past experiences and Moana, as she takes a journey of self-discovery to be the leader of her tribe or and explorer she has longed to be.
What was more interesting to me was the internal struggle that especially Maui was facing. But Moana as well because we’ve seen this before in some of the other movies … this is a young woman who is torn between her true nature and what she really desires and her parental expectations and so she’s got to find a way to tap into who she really is and what she really wants out of life.
Disney has done a great job in modernizing its stories and really gives a more feminist take on Moana. In classic Disney films, the princess would be destined to marry a prince and live happily ever after – The End. In Moana, she is destined to become a chief and leader, a female in a position of power and strength, a huge responsibility for a young girl.
She’s a princess who listens to her tribe and does what she can to take care of and lead her people, says Andre and Aleu from the channel Black Nerd Comedy:
I actually kind of like that. We see so many Disney princesses but you’re like what exactly do they do. in princess-ing, so it was nice to see they had a segment of Moana taking her position, taking her job and actually seeing her do the job. She’s actually helping out people, they’re asking her questions, she gives answers.
The music! Auli’i Cravalho brings so much emotion to Moana, especially in her singing, exclaims Andre and Aleu. They also love the catchiness of the songs and finding themselves singing them again and again. The YouTubers also describe the music in the film as not typical to traditional Disney songs in that most of them are more outright and are used to add to the story. Whereas in Moana, much of the music is used to set the scene and almost to enhance the visuals of the story and of the world of Moana.
That was a cool thing about this music in this movie, there’s obviously the typical Disney songs, but I think we were like well there’s only a couple of songs in this. Well it’s because there’s a lot of music that in this movie that’s just there to set the atmosphere of the movie. I think that’s really nice. Disney movies are used to story story story, stop music time, where this one, a lot of the time the music is actually part of the story or it sets the mood.
What stands out most for YouTuber Chris Stuckmann is the animation. Disney continues to get better and better with its animation work and does such a fantastic job in visualizing this amazing world with its shapes, sizes and textures and colors, says the YouTuber.
Just like with all of Disney’s animated films, the animation is stellar. With each passing year Disney is getting better and better at animating photo realistic backgrounds, especially the ocean. It felt like I could reach into the screen and touch these things, that’s how good it is.
The mix of realistic and mythological visuals in Moana do a great job at painting a picture of the world around the characters, says YouTuber AniMat, who also really enjoys the animation.
What the animators succeed in the most is the core mixture of the believable and the mythological. The believable aspect would be from most of the designs, from the well-respected looks of the Polynesian people to the whole layout of the village … as for the mythological part, that’s where the innovation and the clever use of effects kick in. from the creatures they face to the areas like the low tide, that’s where the colors become the most vibrant and the animators create importance on the size of Moana’s obstacles in order to present the grand scale of the journey that she has to go through.
Despite the stellar animation and lovable characters, Stuckmann does note the story is very simple and mostly follows traditional story tropes without giving too much more than surface level themes. He compares the film to another Disney film Zootpia (2016), in which he says gives the audience more in-depth critical thinking and is one he does think is better than Moana.
This is a really fun Disney movie with all of the things you’d want in a Disney film. great animation, good voice work, good songs, a good moral, a good message, all of those things that you need in a Disney animation like this but at the same time I wouldn’t say it’s as good as another film that came out this year by Disney called Zootopia.
Overall, all of the YouTubers agree, Moana is a must-see film for the whole family.
YouTubers Andre, Aleu, AniMat, Dan Murrell, Roth Cornet and Chris Stuckmann, review and rate new movies on their channel regularly.