Moana, is truly beautiful.
It also, unsurprisingly given it's directing and writing pedigree, feels properly old-school Disney (while still being all kinds of modern and shiny). Ron Clements and John Musker also directed and had writing credits on The Princess and the Frog, Treasure Planet, Hercules, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and The Great Mouse Detective.
Not to mention Don Hall and Chris Williams who co-directed Big Hero 6 (amongst a bunch of other writing and directing credits between them).
And add to that the current superstar of the musical theatre world, Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame for anyone who's been living on an island in the middle of the Pacific... although he started work on this film before Hamilton blew up into the phenomenon it is currently) wrote all the songs along with "South Pacific fusion" musician, Opetaia Foa'i. I actually have an online version of the soundtrack on shuffle in the background while I'm writing this and while I'm not usually a music guy (although I do love me a good musical), this is really, really lovely... and I'm pretty sure I'm probably going to end up going and getting the album before the week is out.
Normally I wouldn't drill this much into a Disney movie's lineage but this one has some seriously talented people behind it.
It's also stunningly, stunningly beautiful.
From the hair to the water (oh my god, the water... ALL the water... and the wet hair... so much wet hair), to the flora... and just the way the characters, Moana especially, move and pose... she's essentially a fully flesh and blood character.
Clearly Disney have taken everything they've learned from 2 Finding Nemo/Dory movies over at Pixar and really gone to work on the water in Moana. I'm also guessing that work on Tangled didn't hurt when it came to hair technology.
It also feels like an incredibly accurate and respectful interpretation of Polynesian culture... I'm sure they've taken bits from different places and mixed them together, in the usual Disney fashion. But a little bit like (my all-time favourite Disney movie) Lilo and Stitch took the Hawaiian culture, especially hula dancing, very seriously within their story, Moana appears to treat the traditional elements both seriously and respectfully.
Interestingly, because Polynesian covers such a wide area (essentially a big triangle between Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island), the voice cast includes people of Hawaiian, Maori, Samoan descent... which is awesome.
This is also a movie with no romantic sub-plot... if anything, Moana is really an action/adventure movie. The plot is simple (and very Disney)... girl with a path laid out for her by other people feels the tug of the outside world/her own path... follows her path, learns who she really is and has an amazing adventure. In her case the adventure includes sailing across the ocean, finding a demi-god and returning the heart to a goddess.
Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout-out to both Rachel House and Michael Woodside as the voice and animator respectively of Gramma Tala, Moana's grandmother and self proclaimed "village crazy lady". She's amazing, and probably my favourite character in the whole movie.
And Auli'i Cravalho, who was only 14 when she was cast, does a fantastic job as Moana.
yani's rating: 5 fishing hooks out of 5