'Moana' brings traditional Pacific island legends to the big screen

Disney’s “Moana,” is the 56th addition to Walt Disney’s animated film canon.

The film, which was directed by Disney Renaissance icons John Clements and Ron Musker, features the voice talents of wrestling star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Nicole Sherzinger and Jemaine Clement. The film opened in theaters Nov. 23 and grossed $512 million in box office revenue, making it the highest grossing animated film for that year.

The film tells the story of Moana Wailiki (voiced by Auli’I Cravalho), the daughter of a village chief who was chosen by an ocean spirit to confront the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) because he stole a gem from an island goddess who retaliated by cursing the island she lives on. This adventure takes her and Maui throughout the ocean, trying to return the stone to its rightful owner so things would be right again.

The movie is done in the classic Disney musical format with songs written by “Hamilton’s” Lin-Manuel Miranda. The song “How Far I’ll Go” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. The movie itself was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

I thought this was another well-made Disney animated feature. It had all the hallmarks of a Disney film: A strong main character who was on a mission to set things right, a charmingly comedic villain who has done wrong, but is also trying to fix things, and the classic musical overtures that appear throughout the film. The film also uses unique Polynesian aesthetics to illustrate certain scenes. The animators did research on traditional Polynesian art to remain fateful to the story’s setting.

Overall, this highly entertaining film brings traditional Pacific island myths to the big screen in a respectful, but modern form.

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