Moana follows the story of the titular character, Moana (newcomer Auli'i Cravalho). She’s a young teenager living on a peaceful, rather beautiful island with her family, where she will one day be put in charge of it. The problem is, Moana’s life ambitions don’t revolve around being stuck on the island for the rest of her life. She wishes to adventure across the sea, exploring everything there is to explore, and would you believe that adventure soon comes calling? Chosen and aided by the sea, Moana must venture across the ocean in search of the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), where he must be persuaded into helping Moana return a stolen heart and end the curse that’s been put upon her land.
Before we even delve into the story and the music, amongst other things, I just want to take a moment to appreciate the film’s animation. It’s truly something special. The animation is beyond beautiful, the film utilizing and combining together several different styles to make for a visually pleasing experience. For the most part, it’s 3D animation, and the 3D animation is some of Disney’s finest. But on top of that, there’s the occasional musical sequence that brings in new elements, such as 2D animation, and it makes for a visually stimulating, highly engrossing movie experience. The transition and combination of the multiple styles flows seamlessly, creating some of the best moments in the entire film.
It’s all well and dandy to have great character design, but if the characters themselves are great then that’s what really matters. Well-written characters trumps well designed characters any day, and thankfully, with Moana, it’s got both. The characters here, predominantly Moana and Maui as they’re the only two characters we’re stuck with for most of the film’s runtime, are both fantastic. When people think of Disney, the first characters that come to mind are Belle or Ariel or Mulan or even Elsa. Soon, however, some of the first characters coming to mind will be Moana and Maui, as they’re two of the most developed, interesting, loveable and three dimensional characters Disney have ever made. I walked out of this film and my first thought was “I seriously have to get their pop vinyls.”
Ever since coming out of this film, I haven’t been able to stop singing along to the songs. There are so many songs in this film that will undoubtedly become classics in the near future. None of them will probably end up being quite as big as, say, Let It Go, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they pick up some serious awards when award season comes around. The soundtrack ranges from emotional to uplifting to straight up hilarious, and all of them are rather catchy. Not only that, but the score itself is also extremely impressive, even if completely (but expectedly) overshadowed by the actual musical numbers. Still, it’s these musical numbers that were some of my favourite scenes in the movie. I still have them stuck in my head.