If you have been living on a desert island for the last few years you may not know this but it’s fair to say that Disney is taking over the world. Not enough that they have been the top purveyors of animation since the 1930’s, Disney now have the likes of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm under their wing to help their plans for world domination, or should that be entertainment? Whichever way you view it, their power to enthrall, enlighten and transport us to the furthest reaches of our (and their) imaginations is why they are the masters of the universe. Their latest trip? The mystical islands of Polynesia.
From legendary Disney directors and collaborators John Musker and Ron Clements (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid), Moana tells the story of a young girl named, well, Moana (Cravalho) who is destined to lead her people of Motunui Island once she is older. But she wants to break free of the island to explore the vastness of the ocean and discover its secrets and with the guidance of her grandmother and against the strict wishes of her father, a 17-year old Moana sets off on her quest: to return the heart of Te Fiti, which legend has it that it has been stolen by demigod Mowi (Dwayne Johnson).
Drenched in sun-blazing colour, Moana is a feast for the eyes with the usual impeccable detail and design from Disney
Drenched in sun-blazing colour, Moana is a feast for the eyes with the usual impeccable detail and design from Disney: every blade of grass, every warm, blazing colour is bright and vibrant as if you could reach out and touch it. But their greatest accomplishment here is what they do with the ocean itself: water for many animators is the toughest of the tough but here guided by Clements & Musker’s playful sensibilities, the ocean is a character full of life and exuberance that harks back to their work on the carpet in Aladdin. Indeed the whole film feels like a flight of fancy with the blue lagoon it’s soaring guide glistening below our heroes and while the story is very familiar and has a definite Disney aura about it, it’s imagination and vitality sees it though, helped along by Lin-Manuel Miranda and co’s wonderful songbook and score.
Charming, courageous and fierce, Moana is a modern-day Disney female that will both delight and empower.
And then there are our two leads: one the biggest on the planet, the other just emerging for the first time but together Johnson and Cravalho are a perfect match. For a first timer, you’d be forgiven in to thinking young Cravalho wouldn’t match up to the might of Johnson but she more than holds her own here and more often than not exceeds the colossus of The Rock. Charming, courageous and fierce, Moana is a modern-day Disney female that will both delight and empower. Johnson meanwhile has a ball as you can imagine, reveling in the playfulness that animation offers such talents, and adds a wonderful singing voice to his already extraordinary CV.
While it perhaps lacks in the originality that made Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen such breaths of fresh air in the Disney canon, Moana can proudly sit alongside them as classic, magical House of Mouse that will have you singing, crying and laughing down the aisles as all good Disney should do.