Get ready to set sail on an epic adventure with Disney's Moana. This Disney heroine is unlike the others and I'm sharing a full review of the movie and why you need to take your kids to see it.
As I think about my favorite Disney princesses, Rapunzel from Tangled and Anna from Frozen definitely stand out from crowd. They're more "contemporary" than princesses like Cinderalla, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, since they're clever, funny and strong willed. I think that's why Moana also struck a chord with me. She is not your typical Princess with an animal sidekick that needs to be saved or falls in love with a handsome prince - and I LOVE it.
To give you a little background of the story, three thousand years ago, the greatest navigators or wayfinders in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. Then, for a thousand years, their voyages just stopped and no one really knows why. They eventually picked back up and the islands of Tahiti, Hawaii and New Zealand were discovered. That 1,000 year gap in time sparked the imaginations of filmmakers and they created the story of Moana, who is at the center of the rebirth of wayfinding.
Moana (voice of Auli’i Cravalho) is a bold and adventurous teenager who sets out on a journey to save her island. Unlike other princess protagonists of the past, there is no love interest for Moana. Her love is for her home and her people, and she'll do anything to save them. Sure, she's pretty and charming, but there is so much more to this young lady. I'm talking about major girl power here. She's highly capable. She's learns serious sailing and navigation skills and she's not afraid to use them. This becomes apparent during her action-packed journey alongside demigod Maui (voiced of Dwayne Johnson).
Moana, and the others on the island, had always stayed within the safe confines of the reef, even though she always her felt called to explore the ocean. Despite being only 16 years old and against her father's wishes, she sets out on the open ocean to save her island and finds out a lot about herself on the way. The story is inspiring and uplifting and I think it's important for young girls (and boys) to see a strong female lead character that isn't focused on finding true love.
The other big star in the film is Maui, a demigod that's half god, half mortal. Wielding a magical fishhook, he shape-shifts into all sorts of creatures and can do seemingly impossible things like pull up islands from the sea. Dwayne Johnson seemed like a natural fit for the part due to his charismatic persona and island heritage and he was everything I hoped he would be. He even sings and raps the song "Thank You," which I think you'll agree is insanely catchy and fun.
Directors Ron Clements and John Musker (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “The Princess & the Frog”) do not disappoint with the storyline or the animation in Moana. When I saw Disney's Zootopia earlier this year, I was blown away by the animation. The effects in Moana, like the way her hair blows in the ocean breeze or the way fire and smoke dances, are unbelievable. In fact, more than 6 months was spent developing a system that artists could use the create Moana's authentic looking hair.
Another fantastic part of Moana is the soundtrack. The music is just incredible. It feels authentic and I think the melodies created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, and Samoan songwriter Opetaia Foa'i are going to rival the popularity of Frozen.
One thing I do want to mention, in case you're taking your younger children or toddlers to see Moana, is that there is a "lava monster" that I think might be a little scary for certain ages. I'm planning on taking my 4.5 year old on opening weekend and I plan on showing him the clip below ahead of time (which features the lava monster at the 24 second mark) to gauge his reaction.
I think Inner Working might be one of my favorite Disney shorts ever. I don't know how they manage to capture so many heartfelt emotions in such a short period of time, but they do and it's fascinating. We had the opportunity to listen to Leo Matsuda discuss his inspiration for Inner Workings and it all started with the encyclopedias that many of us children of the 80's knew and loved. That theme of learning about how our organs works is incorporated throughout the short and it's just so clever. He then went on to tell us that since he's an Asian Brazilian he feels that like story really showcases his personality; merging his Type A qualities and his freedom seeking side. I think you'll really fall in love with this story. I know I did.
Do yourself (and your kids) a favor and
run to see Moana on November 23rd!
Check out the Moana trailer here:
Disclosure: Affiliate links included. Special thanks to Disney for inviting me to the press junk and world premiere of Moana so I could complete this review. All opinions are my own.