A Look at What Makes Disney’s “Moana” Special
In a nutshell: Diversity, authentic representation and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
By Samantha Gross, Concordia University Irvine
Disney has long been the reigning royalty of animated films, utilizing impeccable animation technology, impressive marketing techniques and, though it has come a long way, a hint of racism.
Before “Mulan,” “Pocohantis” and Tiana (“The Princess and the Frog”) came along, the princess line was looking a little too blonde. But society, and Disney by association, has come quite a ways in creating diversity in the media, and as such the princesses have slowly become more diverse.
The second Disney movie in history to feature a Pacific Island character and the first to become a princess, “Moana” will appeal to the growing demand for diversity in films.
Moana is set to become the first Polynesian princess, and from what we’ve seen from concept art and heard from basic summaries, the movie will potentially be tackling some of the mythology and folktales from the Pacific Island regions, something Disney fans have never seen before. This exploration of a culture previously unexplored by Disney—and basically everyone—will hopefully lead to some wonderful things, including further diversity and happy children of color with the chance to see someone like them on the big screen.
And with the gorgeous animation promised by the concept art and flawless animation, I am ready to embrace the swirling ocean and tropical islands I will be dreaming about for days after this movie is released.
“Moana” will be ushering in a place unseen since “Lilo and Stitch,” exploring the beauty of the Pacific Islands through the eyes of a young Polynesian girl and demi-god, played by actors who are actually Pacific Islanders, Hawaiian and Samoan specifically. Auli’i Cravalho, who will be voicing Moana in the upcoming film, was born on the island of Oahu. Dwayne Johnson (My Dwayne, my Rock, my Johnson), who voices Maui, is of direct Samoan descent and very proud of his heritage. Several of his tattoos have cultural significance, even if right now they’re mostly for entertaining his baby daughter.
That’s right, friends. You’re reading this already well known truth with your very eyes. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who I and so many others love so very dearly, is in this movie. So it won’t be just Disney fans in line to buy tickets as soon as “Moana” hits the screen in November.
Can you smell what The Rock is cooking? Because I can. Wrestling fans get out your Rock gear. “Ballers” binge-watchers get ready for the big screen. Our favorite social media owning, tiny dog loving, foul mouthed and tattooed Rock is taking another spin with Disney (Don’t worry, Dwayne, we won’t talk about “Race To Witch Mountain,” but “The Game Plan” deserves at least an honorable mention).
The Rock, with all his enthusiasm for life and competitive sense of humor, is lending us not only his speaking voice, but his singing voice. If you doubt for one second that I’m not going to purchase the “Moana” CD just to have the voice of Dwayne Johnson serenade me in the car from November to fucking 2017 you’re wrong. Because I will. And my roommate will hate me for it.
The other soon-to-be household name that you all should write down now, because this girl is going places and I will not have any of you misspelling or mispronouncing her name, is Auli’i Cravalho, a fourteen-year old who always dreamed of being a Disney princess.
Her audition process reads like a Cinderella story, since she was the final actress the Disney agents heard on the final day of auditions.
She’s bubbly and living out her dream and I want only good things to happen to her. She is a cinnamon roll and I would fight a small village for her.
Additionally, and this reason has me almost counting down the days before this movie hits the big screen, “Hamilton” fans will recognize the words, voice and talent of creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who co-wrote music for the movie.
I lied. I am counting down the days.
At first, I thought he just wrote the music. But then I almost shit my pants when I watched the movie trailer and actually recognized his voice. The former “Hamilton” star (his departure is something that breaks my heart, but I know he’ll move on to even better things. Be strong, Sam, be strong) sings in this movie, and I would know his voice anywhere. In my defense, it is a very distinct voice, but I am also just a little (read: a lot) obsessed with “Hamilton.”
The song featured in the trailer is called “We Know The Way,” and even from the tiny teaser amount we got, it sounds incredible. Beautiful harmonies? Check. Sick lyrics? Check. Excited people all around the world, ready for another Disney movie song to be obsessed with? Triple fucking check. I can practically hear the mall I work at priming for another Disney hit to repeat as often as “Try Everything” and “Let It Go” and I’m ready.
Now, Lin-Manuel Miranda just won a shit ton of Tony awards for his work on “Hamilton,” so the music for this movie is going to be amazing. Also involved in the music is Mark Mancina, the man who wrote music for the “Lion King” and “Tarzan,” and Opetaia Foa’i, who is a member of a New Zealand-Pacific Island band and undoubtedly a master of the music style required for this movie. Double wowza. I’m pretty fucking excited about just that, so all of these things combined might just send me off the deep end in the months until the movie releases.
We are being blessed with what is sure to be a killer score, fantastic voice actors accurately representing their characters, and the chance to see previously unexplored folklore with the first Polynesian princess. Be still my heart.
So I hope everyone is as excited and ready as I am for “Moana.” There is a lot to be excited about, trust me.