The characters are beautifully developed, with exquisite details and great depth of personality. I felt connected with these characters as if they were dear friends or beloved family members. Oceanic and Polynesian culture is treated with reverence, as the story is set in this very real culture. I loved learning about it- what is treasured, the contrasting pull for family honor and loyalty contrasted with personal desire. Creating a character of the sea itself was both respectful and genius, as our main character wouldn’t have been able to even attempt her quest without an ally in the water.
The music- oh my stars, the music. It’s gorgeous. I’ve been saving an iTunes gift card for nearly two years, not wanting to waste it on something I don’t truly want because I so rarely spend money on iTunes. Within an hour of leaving the movie theatre, I used those funds to buy the Moana soundtrack. Normally I’d be on a Christmas-music only playlist this time of year, but I can’t stop listening to Moana instead. Lin Manuel Miranda collaborated with Disney prior to his Hamilton success, and the music definitely has a Broadway feel as a result. The songs are a bit expositional, yet they’re mostly about allowing you to understand the individual character more.
The animation is just gorgeous. I want to live in this movie, it’s so amazing. The water, especially, is just magnificently animated. Water is difficult to do, because of the varying properties, yet it’s perfect every time. When the sea is behaving as a character, it looks just slightly different than when it’s the natural back drop of the film. The blend of CGI and hand drawn animation is done flawlessly. The only hand drawn animation is Maui’s tattoos, which are reminiscent of the style of animation utilized in Hercules, but it fits well with the rest of the film.
The storyline is detailed and wondrous. Moana, the daughter of the village chief, is always drawn to the water. Everyone on her island is content to stay there, yet she feels the draw of the horizon. She is kind, fierce, intelligent, and diligent. She’s also quite real, in that she has moments of doubt, when she feels like she’s on the wrong path. The relationships between characters are exceptionally well done as well. There is conflict, internal and external, as Moana juggles who she wants herself to be with who she feels she must become due to her lineage. She has a wonderful relationship with her grandmother, the self-described village crazy lady, who consistently encourages Moana to be herself, even if that goes against what everyone else wants for her.
The lessons are great as well. It’s okay to not know who you are, to journey to find who you want to be. Tragedy doesn’t define you. You carry your loved ones with you wherever you go.
As we head into another holiday season with certain family members no longer with us, this film was a well-timed one for me.