by CELINE PHU
Debuting its first Polynesian princess, Disney’s “Moana” infuses South Pacific legends with modern computer-generated imagery to create a unique, eye-catching film.
Set during the exploration of the Pacific Islands, the plot revolves around heroine Moana Waialiki, voiced by Auili’I Cravalho, and her determination to uncover the mystery of her ancestors’ unfinished quest while journeying into the great unknown to save the dying island of her people. Assisted by the arrogant demigod Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, Moana sails across the vast ocean, confronting pirates and various larger than-life-creatures. Tailed by stowaway chicken Heihei, the humorous character contributes scenes of comic relief.
Disney’s time and effort in research to make “Moana” culturally and historically accurate can also be seen in the animation, with canoe designs and traditional names. Being of Samoan descent himself, Johnson has said he was proud to play the part and embrace his cultural roots.
Similar to many iconic Disney animated movies, the scenes of Moana are tied together with an uplifting soundtrack. “Moana” includes the works of Samoan artist Opetaia Foa’i and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer of The Tony-award-winning Hamilton himself. The two perform a duet in “We Know the Way” which features members of Foa’i’s band Ke Vata.
A highlight of the soundtrack, “How Far I’ll Go,” expresses Moana’s internal conflict between her sense of obedience and burning desire to venture. Foa’i and Miranda also integrate Polynesian legends within their lyrics, having Johnson’s character sing about his achievements for mankind, including bringing fire and creating islands, in “You’re Welcome.”
Released Nov. 23, “Moana” has a PG rating and has remained a Box Office hit through the Thanksgiving holiday. “Moana” is sure to touch the hearts of audiences of all ages with its bold and loveable heroine and catchy musical accompaniment.