*I will always be a huge fan of Disney so when this was only talked about I was excited.
*The cast is great and I like the idea that most actually fit within where the characters live.
*Chris Williams also directed Big Hero 6.
*As for writing he did Mulan, The Emperor's New Groove films, and Brother Bear.
*John Musker also wrote and directed The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Princess and the Frog, and Treasure Planet.
*Don Hall also worked as a director for Big Hero 6 and even the 2011 Winnie the Pooh.
*He worked as a writer for The Emperor's New Groove and Brother Bear as well.
*Ron Clements worked on all the films John Musker did as writer/directer also.
*Jared Bush also wrote this year's Zootopia so he has a pretty big chance of getting an Oscar.
*Pamela Ribon hasn't written much, but she is writing for the upcoming Wreck-It Ralph 2 and the upcoming Smurf movie sequel.
*This is the first film to be credited to Aaron and Jordan Kandell.
*So let's see finally how good this new Disney film is.
*I like that they sort of break the fourth wall with dialogue.
*Auli'i Cravalho proves that you don't have to start in live action to prove you have what it takes.
*I loved the soundtrack here! It's very catchy and has a nice rhythm to it.
*The animation is absolutely stunning.
*It has some truly beautiful moments.
*The jokes are great.
*I have to admit this is definitely a new favorite from Disney who seem to always hit the mark.
*I can't think of any really.
This new Disney film is very heartwarming. The music is beautiful, the animation is stunning, and the writing is superb. I won't be surprised to see Auli'i Cravalho pop up quite a bit after this. It's definitely a must see for all ages. I'm ashamed I didn't see it any sooner. It's going to be a toss up between this and Zootopia for the winner this year.
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Disney’s Neo-Renaissance just keeps rolling one with their second outing of 2016, Moana. While still a very strong effort, it takes much longer to warm-up when compared to the immediately off-and-running gags and heart of Zootopia. Moana’s introductory scenes feel like retreads of practically any of the dozens of princess properties put out by the studio over the decades, and then it finally takes a clearer, better shape once she’s out in the sea and adventuring. That’s when Moana, both the character and film, exhibit tons of personality and verve.
The sluggish beginning finds us getting a background mythology info-dump then a montage of our heroine’s innate desires being suppressed. These sequences are gorgeously animated, one can rarely if ever fault Disney on this front, but they feel like a film working on pure formula. How many rebellious princess suppressed by well-meaning if overbearing parents has Disney thrown our way by this point? Then something funny happens once Moana hits the water, the film shakes off the confines of the formula and decides to go full-tilt bonkers with the Polynesian culture, including demigods, strange monsters, and more down-to-earth aspects like tattoos and seafaring.
This is the power of and primary reason that we return to animation. It can quite simply do things that live action films cannot. A demigod with a gigantic fishhook battling a humongous coconut crab during a musical? Yeah, you try to get that done in a traditional summer blockbuster and see what happens. This moments of culturally specific monsters and beautiful earth goddesses are another reason that we return to animation, it gives life to the mythology of the world. Disney’s cultural diversity pushes, going back to the 90s Renaissance era, have produced some of the best films in the studio’s output, look no further than the Shakespeare-meets-Africa tragedy of The Lion King or lovable United Colors of Benetton science geeks in Big Hero 6. Moana happily joins these ranks.
While the animation is top-notch, the specificity of Moana’s body movements and Maui’s semi-sentient tattoos are simply wonderful, Moana’s face does suffer from Disney’s typical heroine face. You know what I’m talking about, like how Tangled and Frozen have female characters that look nearly like clones of each other. Well, Moana just has a slightly wider nose, but she’s got the same basic face shape. Look Disney, if you can make all of the other characters look like individual characters and you can provide Moana with her own agency and personality, why couldn’t something more original be done with her face?
I pick on this because of how breathtaking and unique so many of the other creations of the film are. Like the strange little coconut pirate monsters that provide a humorous interlude, a mystical stingray covered in tribal tattoos, or the epic showdown between Maui, Moana, and Te Kā, a living lava monster guarding an island. These moments soar to dazzlingly heights of technical skill and personality-heavy animation. Maui seriously steals the movie outright with his endearing condescension and fourth-wall breaking humor. I personally loved Maui calling Moana a princess because she wears a dress and has an animal sidekick, essentially providing a moment for Disney to riff on its own tropes with gently acerbic self-reflection.
Then there’s the strong score, much of it courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda, which bests the dominating one from Frozen. At first, I found Moana’s “I want” song, “How Far I’ll Go,” a tradition of Disney characters, a bit underwhelming, but I’ve found myself humming the massive chorus since then, so there’s that. Even better though are the character songs, like Maui’s “You’re Welcome,” which feels tailored made for Dwayne Johnson’s natural charisma and charm, and Tamatoa’s “Shiny,” which finds Jemaine Clement doing a solid David Bowie impression while riffing on the wonders of his golden trinket covered shell.
What Moana lacks in narrative originality, you can guess every nuance of the relationship between her and Maui from frame one and her animal sidekick is a new low for dumb animal friends, it makes up for in visual depth and beauty. There’s a specificity to character, personality, place, and culture that is most welcome and quite refreshing. Here is a warm, inviting movie, and more of this from Disney and less live-action retreads of their animated classics is what I would like to see.
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