Review by Dwayne Lennox
Walt Disney Studio Films Home Entertainment
Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digita
Disney animation has undergone somewhat of a rebirth since the late Noughties, now rivalling their younger but smarter sibling, Pixar, in both visual and narrative storytelling: Wreck-It-Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and the recent Oscar winner Zootopia (Best Animated Feature) all on par with or besting their stablemates.
And yet, much like it has since the days of founder Walt Disney, the focus has remained on female-driven narratives. But other than Tiana, the heroine in 2009's delightful The Princess and the Frog (2009), those women -- in Tangled (2010), and Frozen (2013) -- have been white. No more.
Joining Tiana, and her 1990s sisters, Pocahontas and Mulan, is Moana: a Polynesian princess with a thirst for adventure and, equally refreshing, no interest in romance. Moana wants to see the world beyond the reef of her island paradise, but her father, the Chieftain, forbids anyone, male or female, to venture that far.
Encouraged by her incorrigible grandmother (Rachel House), and an impending environmental disaster, Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) defies her father (Temuera Morrison) and sets sail across the Pacific in search of the demigod, Maui (Dwayne Johnson), whose help is required to return the heart (an emerald stone) to the goddess Te Fiti, and in doing so, restore balance to the world (the reasons for this recounted vividly by grandmother in a folktale which opens the film).
From the creative team behind Disney's Aladdin (which this reviewer shamefully admits to having never seen), Moana is a colourful adventure full of heart, spirit, and humour. And its 'girl power' and pro-environment messages are delivered sans sledgehammer.
And then there's the music. Much has been made about the songs having been penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the brains behind the Broadway behemoth Hamilton. While there is no Let It Go showstopper in this female empowerment story, How Far I'll Go, which was nominated for Best Original Song at this year's Oscars (with Cravalho performing live at the ceremony - see below) is a pretty catchy tune, as is Maui's You're Welcome.
Also nominated for Best Animated Feature, Moana proves Disney animation have it set its new course in the right direction.
Read more film reviews by Dwayne Lennox on his blog at: thelennoxfiles.blogspot.com.au
Moana tells the story of Moana, the strong-willed daughter of the chief of a Polynesian tribe, who is chosen by the ocean itself to reunite a mystical relic with a goddess. When a blight strikes her island, Moana sets sail in search of Maui, a legendary demigod, in the hope of saving her people.