There really aren't any children's/animation/Disney movies I haven't seen. Being a child of the 90's, I of course LOVE all things Disney. So when Disney comes out with a new movie (especially one about a new Disney Princess), I HAVE to go see it!
I have to say, I was once again thrilled to see a new generation of princess and a new ethnicity embraced into the group. This movie was not only classic Disney in it's silly puns, hidden adult humor, and beautiful animations, but it was also emotionally driven. Here's a quick synopsis:
In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui reaches Moana's island, she answers the Ocean's call and sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she's always sought: her own identity.
So I came across an article about the film, and it turns out that Disney spent SIX YEARS researching Polynesian culture to make sure they represented it all correctly (article here).
Disney Animation chief John Lasseter made it clear that the project would not go any further until Disney animators actually went to Polynesia, marking the beginning of a process that makes Moana one of Disney’s most culturally authentic endeavors yet. The 2011 trip to Polynesia, the first of many, led to the birth of what they would later name the Oceanic Trust. Consisting of a group of anthropologists, cultural practitioners, historians, linguists, and choreographers from islands including Samoa, Tahiti, Mo’orea, and Fiji, this group was integral in shaping some of the finest details of Moana, from character design to song lyrics.
When Disney made its first trip to the Pacific Islands with 2002’s Lilo and Stitch, the company’s increased commitment to cultural respect had led to island research trips and a cast of Hawaiian voice actors who were encouraged to rewrite their lines to include more accurate pidgin and Hawaiian slang. But with Moana—which deals in ancient and sometimes mythological aspects of the wider Polynesian culture—the input was much more granular and scholarly.
Fine attention to detail and constant feedback from the Oceanic Trust helped shape the film on every level. Notes from the Trust on the kind of curtains in Moana’s home, the pits used to cook food, and inaccurate lyrics about coconut husks all resulted in minuscule tweaks that would mean nothing to audiences unfamiliar with the culture, but made all the difference to the Trust. The main Moana cast also have roots in the Pacific Islands, so they were able to subtly help shape the performances to fit with what they knew of Pacific culture.
They also made a point to have Moana look like a more realistic adaptation of a Polynesian princess. Moana does not look, or act, like any Disney heroine who came before her. "We wanted this action adventure heroine. We really did want her to feel like she had legs that could really swim and scale a tree and jump off a cliff. She could really believably carry all that stuff, and it wouldn't look like she would be knocked over in those mighty oceanic breezes but that she could physically take charge and command a boat across the ocean."
I'm glad Disney spent the time to actually research a culture before trying to represent them in film. And the story was absolutely adorable, fun, and of course - totally Disney. Seen any great Disney movies lately? Tell me all about it in the comments below!