★★★★ – “Exciting visuals, high-spirited characters and a rich soundtrack.”

Moana is written & directed by Ron Clements, Don Hall, Chris Williams and John Musker and stars Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison and Jemaine Clement.

In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain’s daughter’s island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the demigod and set things right. 

Walt Disney Animation Studios are famously known for pictures such as Zootopia, Frozen, Wreck-it Ralph, Snow White, The Lion King and many, many more. But, Moana is different.

Something about this film really intrigued me – more than just the animation, as usual – and that was the title character, Moana. She’s not a princess, and this is stated by the fiery sea voyaging enthusiast, voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, many times during the film. She has a vast amount of abilities and charisma, with a beautiful array of colourful characters to support her in her calling to save the world. I also noticed that, unlike Frozen, the original songs haven’t been so incredibly ‘out there’ during the film’s release. This is something that stopped me from seeing Frozen back in 2013 and to this day I still haven’t watched it. I didn’t like the music I was hearing, but with Moana it’s entirely different. I really enjoyed the songs in this film. They have been carefully placed throughout and wonderfully performed by the cast. I must congratulate Auli’i Cravalho on her successful debut and praise her strong vocal range. There’s a real cherishable warmth present and it only gives more to the delightful story. Dwayne Johnson is a surprising addition to the list of memorable moments from this film. His character, Maui is hugely energetic, adding a fun and witty shade to the bond between himself and Moana. The supporting cast also did a terrific job of bringing their characters to life, highlighting Rachel House as Grandma Tala.

As a big fan of animation and having studied it briefly before, I was excited to see Ancient Polynesia come to life with some of the greatest animators working on the project. With a lot of research and delving into the history of Polynesians, the team have done an extraordinary job of crafting and fine-tuning these characters and environments. The animation is smooth and the visuals vibrant, with some subtle details which most may never notice, but eagle-eyed viewers will love.

The original score by Mark Mancina is somewhat disappointing, but only in its overall pay-off. The approach is great, using some of the traditional instruments with the support of Opetaia Foa’i’s knowledge in the musical background, but these aren’t used nearly as well as they should have been. However, the themes are nicely composed and, as aforementioned, the original songs by Foa’i and Lin-Manuel Miranda are basking in tenderness.

Simply put, Moana is a blast. Everyone involved has brought something great to the table and it shines through blissfully. I’d like to see more of this world explored in the future. Not so much in a direct sequel, but with the cultural history and environments so gloriously presented in this film, it would be hard to let go. That said, I’ve always admired Disney’s creativity and diversity.

Verdict; Moana utilises a fine blend of exciting visuals, high-spirited characters and a rich soundtrack, becoming one of Disney’s finest films yet.

Moana – ★★★★ (8/10)

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