I’m gonna get a lot of flak for this, but I think Frozen was one of the most overrated Disney films of all time.
There, I said it. No doubt the fans will be calling for blood lol.
It wasn’t bad, but I just didn’t understand the whole hype surrounding it and how people were going on about how ‘original’ and fantastic it was. I asked a friend (who watched it five times! who watches a movie five times at the theatre?) why she liked it so much and her answer was that it was ‘different’ from the usual Disney films about being rescued by Prince Charmings – it was about ‘sisterly love’.
Er… nope. If you want to talk about ‘original’ Disney movies that have moved away from the mold, there was Atlantis, which remains, in my book, the best Disney animation ever. There was also the Emperor’s New Groove. But audiences back then weren’t prepared for something that wasn’t about Princesses and their Happily Ever Afters, since both those films didn’t do so well.
Giving credit where credit is due, Frozen did introduce a ‘new’ generation of moviegoers to more diversified story lines. Zootopia was a big success, and now we have Moana, which is set to repeat the steady pattern Disney has set for its future animations.
I wasn’t expecting much going to watch this film, but I left surprised and pleased, because this is easily one of the best animations that Disney has churned out in some time.
The story begins with a background legend – that of Te Fiti, an island goddess who created life and raised islands. Her heart powered these abilities, but it was stolen by the shape-shifting demigod Maui, who wanted to give it to humanity as a gift. When the stone was removed, darkness descended and Maui was attacked by a lava demon, Te Ka, causing the heart to be lost in the ocean along with his magical fishhook.
A thousand years later, we meet Moana, the daughter of a chieftain on the small Polynesian island of Motunui. She grows up in this beautiful, paradise-like place. Her village is a peaceful one, where everyone helps each other and all is provided for thanks to the island’s abundant resources. But Moana yearns for the sea and wants to see what lays beyond ‘the reef’, the horizontal line of ocean she often gazes wistfully at even as she readies herself to take over leadership of her community.
Moana seems resigned to her fate, until one day when the fish become scarce, vegetation starts to die and the coconuts begin to spoil. Moana suggests to go beyond the reef to get more fish, but her father angrily rejects her, saying it is the law of the elders. Moana’s mother reveals that the chief is afraid of the ocean as he lost his best friend to it when the pair attempted to sail beyond the reef.
Moana’s grandmother, Gramma Tala finds Moana dejected on the beach and reveals a hidden cave to her behind the island’s waterfall. There, she discovers a rig of canoes, which her ancestors had used when they were seafaring voyagers. Tala also gives Moana the heart of Te Fiti, which she has kept safe for her granddaughter ever since she was chosen by the ocean, and shows her that the darkness unleashed by Maui’s theft is now consuming the island.
Tala falls ill suddenly and with her dying breath, tells Moana to save her people. She departs in a sailboat to look for Maui so that he can restore the heart of Te Fiti. After braving a storm, she finally reaches an island where she finds the demigod, but he is reluctant to do what is asked of him, and constantly tries to trick her and steal the boat. Along the way, the pair encounter numerous obstacles, and eventually Maui agrees to help set the heart back in its place. What follows is an epic adventure – reclaiming Maui’s hook from a giant coconut crab in the realm of Monsters, Maui teaching Moana how to sail and navigate by stars, Moana encouraging the demigod to reacquaint himself with the powers of his magical hook. The two forge a close bond and face Te Ka, but during the fight, Maui is overpowered and damages his fish hook weapon, while the boat is thrown far out to sea. Fearing it would be broken forever, Maui abandons Moana and tells her that the ocean chose the wrong person to save her people…
Of course, this being a Disney movie, audiences should know what outcome to expect but I don’t want to spoil it further. XD
Disney has really put a lot of thought into creating the movie based on Polynesian culture, and this shows in the rich colours and textures, as well as the uplifting songs (sung in the Tokelauan language). The sweeping vistas of turquose waters and rolling green hills evokes a feeling of freedom and vivacity, which is synonymous with island life.
Moana’s character, torn between duty to her people and her yearning of her heart, is one that I feel many young people can relate to. Unlike many Disney ‘princesses’, she doesn’t have a love interest (even Anna in Frozen stuck to that, even though she did choose a commoner rather than someone of noble blood), in line with her image as a strong-willed, independent woman. Her interactions with Maui are hilarious, but it’s quite clear from the get go that this is a story about the titular character. One can’t help but marvel at the values of courage to follow your dreams that Moana embodies.
Here’s an interesting Buzzfeed article about the development of Moana: the original focused on Maui, and Moana was merely a secondary character out to rescue a love interest. But during research trips, the directors started focusing on the theme of Navigation instead. I’m glad they did, because it truly set Moana apart.
9/10. One of the better Disney films, and I’m including this to my favourites! :)