To say that Disney Animation has turned the corner from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s blunders that they produced would be quite the understatement. In a year that they release a “B” movie in ‘Zootopia’ that may be the most topically accurate film of the last decade, they also release the most visually stunning animated film of all time with ‘Moana’
Telling a story of the south Pacific and Polynesia specifically, ‘Moana’ touches many cords, from great songs, altogether amazing music, simply stunning animation from both CGI and hand drawn camps, to tell an epic story of accepting mistakes and not showing a blind willingness to take things at face value.
The one thing that ‘Moana’ does do really, really well is act exactly like you would expect a Disney Animated film to act. Disney Princess (and there is even a joke in the film about this) with an animal sidekick is told what she can or cannot do, then with the advice of older female mentor character, heads off into the unknown to resolve the film’s overarching issues.
That it does so in such spectacular fashion is a testament to the writers, animators and all involved in the film. While you know exactly what you are going to be getting during the film, the way that it is presented, how it is grounded in community, how it is designed as a commentary on today’s environmental issues, are all sights to behold.
While I’m not sure if I have just been more open to ideas in the past twelve months or so, I will admit that a handful of films have just resonated with me, and ‘Moana’ is one of those films. Whether reminding us of the fact that humans are explorers, or the fact that music goes right down to the soul and that there is nothing quite like music that fits perfectly with a story, or that mythology and amazing stories are similar from across the entire globe, ‘Moana’ touches all the right cords.
I want to stay away from the voice acting because it is awesome work from all involved, but hard to not say anything about Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson singing his own song in a Disney movie as demigod Maui, or Jemaine Clement channeling David Bowie for his song as Tamatoa either. But rising above all of that is the work of young Auli’i Cravalho as the title character Moana, and not only her voice work but her work doing all of Moana’s songs as well, at least one of which will be up for an Oscar.
2016 has been a banner year, not just for Disney Animation but for Disney as a whole, and it was bookended nicely by their animated films, and ‘Moana’ is the most visually stunning of them all.
As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers for now.