“Who are you meant to be?”
Moana, Disney’s charming animated film about a girl who befriends a demigod and saves her island, is now available on Blu-Ray. As one who saw it in the theatre twice (the second time was the singalong edition), I’ve been counting the days til this release.
This movie plays havoc with my emotions — I’ve yet to make it through dry-eyed — but it always leaves me joyous. A happy combination of factors make this such a memorable work: the sincere voice performance of Auli’i Cravalho as the lead, the story based around a girl who feels a calling to be on the water, the silly rooster and adorable pig sidekicks, the boisterous Maui as voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the fine detail to the wardrobe and hair art… and most of all, the music.
A number of filmgoers were moved by a certain Los Angeles-based romance, but for me, the best musical last year was Moana. The team of Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, In the Heights), Pacific Islander Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina (Tarzan) composed music and lyrics with depth and humor. From the Oscar-nominated “How Far I’ll Go,” speaking to Moana’s yearning for something more than her life on the island, to “We Know Who We Are,” a theme of her voyager ancestors, the songs are integral to the passion and movement of this tale.
With “I Am Moana,” the heroine starts out seeking comfort after a failure, but as the number goes on, she lists all the reasons she herself is strong enough to face danger for her people. The chords build as a chorus rises behind her; it’s an overwhelming anthem of empowerment. And, lest we forget, there’s also the Bowie-influenced “Shiny” sung by a member of the Flight of the Conchords… and the lively “You’re Welcome” sung by The Rock as an egocentric Maui.
Among the many special features available on the BluRay release is a behind-the-scenes documentary about the travel, research and historic detail that went into creating Moana. The centuries of navigation in the Pacific Islands, the importance of music and dance, the cultural relevance of tattoos and even coconuts all made their way into the Disney movie. A prominent theme in this short, Voice of the Islands, is the Islanders’ desires to see themselves truly and authentically represented in film.
Besides a silly bonus Maui/Moana animated short, the other special features include the animated short that opened for the film in theaters, Inner Workings, as well as a look into the music composition process for Moana, and videos about the creation of some of the visual effects and the costuming for the villagers. It all makes for a terrific package that is hard to pass up.