Moana was written and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, stalwarts in the world of Disney. They are also credited as writers and directors on The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and more. As a result, this film is undeniably Disney.
In a proper casting move, Dwayne Johnson, plays Maui, a demi-god of the Pacific Islanders. Auli’i Cravalho voices the title character, Moana, the savior of her island. She was born in Hawaii. As with most Disney films a female must die! Fortunately, Moana gets to keep both of her parents and her grandmother is the one who passes on becoming a manta ray that helps guide Moana on her journey. It is odd how well Disney was able to cast this film and has struggled since then, especially with Asian casts.
I saw this film when it first came out and there was a lot I had since forgotten despite having a stuffed Pua over my bed every night. The ocean is a voiceless character who brings in a wonderful bit of comic relief. The Kakamora are a sea-faring tribe of sentient coconuts that create a pretty solid battle scene and keep a smile on your face.
One man sets this film apart from other Disney films, Lin-Manual Miranda. In partnership with Opetaia Foa'I, a native Samoan, they create a wonderful soundtrack in English, Samoan, Tokelauan, and Tuvalu. The songs are not as simple as Frozen, so you may not hear your children singing them over and over again, but they are enjoyable as is everything from Miranda.
Moana is a good hero’s journey film with a representative cast of the film’s location. The soundtrack was composed by one of the greatest musicians of our time. The visuals are as dazzling as you would expect, especially when you are taken deep into the sea and the light goes out. It is worth a rewatch if you have not seen it in a while as you will find plenty of small details you forgot that should put a smile on your face.