I’ve been waiting for an animated film like Moana for what feels like ages. Mulan (1998) has always had a special place in my heart for her tenacity to blaze a trail that other Disney ‘princess’ would follow years later. Tangled (2010) presented us with a spirted Rapunzel. Then came the phenomenon of Frozen (2013) with the big songs and the wicked outfits girls loved (boys too but not always openly so). Then there was a brief step away from princesses with Big Hero 6 (2014) but it didn’t have the same resonance, for boys who were not into gaming and robots. It felt like boys had to choose between the devious villain, techno geek or socially awkward. My son is neither of those. I was also eager for my daughter to see strong females, who didn’t always have access to a castle and riches as a backup. The film Moana met all my dreams and more. I think at the core of Disney’s Moana is family values (i.e. is the village/community) and self-awareness.
My knowledge of South Pacific Island history is sketchy at best. I’ve always wanted to learn more. Tahiti is firmly on my bucket list of places to visit. According to Doug Herman for the Smithsonian online, there is a period in the history of the Pacific Islands known as the “Long Pause” where there appears to be a gap in voyaging time line of some 2000 years. He states that the Islands closest to Australia and New Guinea were colonized in 3, 500, then Central and Easter Polynesia was settled 1,500 to 500 years later1. Enter Disney’s Mona. Disney has crafted a tale that seems to fill in that massive gap. I have read that the native South Pacific people have an issue with elements of the animated film. Especially with the characterisation of the demigod Maui.
In traditionally Maui is depicted as fit, agile teenager. Personally, I think see of Disney’s Maui as fat and certainly didn’t think he was a buffoon. As an ‘outsider’, I think there is much to be happy with for those of us who are interested to learn will research and find the truths. I will certainly be hunting for books and films for my family. More importantly there is a new ‘princess’ ‘chieftain’ in the Disney family who will empower boys and girls alike.
Moana (meaning ocean, sea, large lake) is chosen by the ocean to save her people. She must break ranks to do so but she does it with the blessing of an elder, her grandmother Tala. Tala becomes her spirit guide of sorts. Armed with the heart of goddess Te Fiti (which is a green gem stone), Moana must locate Maui in order that he return the heart to the goddess. In doing so the balance of nature will be restored. Bigger themes in the film are:
- Family Values and Respect
- The Environment
Moana is a MUST see film for all in the family. It will make viewers experience a range of emotions, with an unforgettable soundtrack that reiterates the themes. I totally agree with Arieta Tegeilolo Talanoa Tora Rika in her piece for BBC Asia “You need not be a Pacific person to enjoy and respect Moana, Maui and Pacific culture’ She also stated “I appreciate the opportunity it is giving me and many other Pacific people to share our thoughts, our opinions, and our stories.”2 As for me I’m thrilled that Valentina was able to identify with Moana. When toddler Moana appeared on the screen Valentina was in aww. She said ‘that’s me! That’s me!” I relisted the vision of a girl with big curly hair, running around bear footed, climbing cliffs and still possessing the grace of a coconut tree swaying in the breeze. Angelo love the story, music, and the magic. He was happy to become Maui. Finally, here’s a male character who was big, strong, funny and full of heart, even if he could be a bit conceited. Moana and Maui have obstacles to overcome but the strength of knowing who they are (what they are made of) ensures that they will find their way.