My Thoughts: MOANA (2016)

Of all the 2016 animated films that I’ve seen, this one is definitely my favorite!

“Well, no need to stay for the rest of the review!”

Let me give you some background. Disney was planning to release 2 animated films in 2016 as part of their official Canon: Zootopia and Moana. Ever since I first heard about it, I was way more excited for Zootopia than I was for Moana, although everyone else I knew had the opposite feeling! Zootopia was a sort of anthropomorphic animal mystery/crime/buddy cop movie that I was super excited for whilst we didn’t know much about Moana other than it would be another Disney Princess film, this time a Polynesian one.

But after watching both films, I ended up loving Moana more than I did Zootopia and again, this was opposite from what everyone else was telling me! Most people ended up falling in love with Zootopia and its morals while I ended up falling in love with Moana! It’s actually the only film in this Disney Revival era that I truly “love”!

Moana is the 56th film in the animated Disney Canon and directed by the familiar Disney duo, John Musker and Ron Celements. The film centers around a Polynesian girl named Moana, voiced by newcomer, Auli’i Cravalho. Moana is the teenaged daughter of the chief on the island of Motunui. She has always had a desire to leave the island and sail the ocear ever since she was a baby, but that’s the one rule that her father, voiced by Temuera Morrison, has: Nobody leaves the island as the ocean is a dangerous place!

“The island is your home now, so you can go anywhere you like….except across the ocean.”
“What’s across the oce…?”

Moana is upset about this, but she obeys her father and learns all she can about being a leader in her community. And she does a pretty good job of that! But when all the fish seem to be drying up, the only way this problem can be fixed is for someone to go find the legendary demigod, Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, who’s trapped on an island somewhere and have him return the “heart of Te Fiti” (a rock that he stole from an island 1000 years ago). This is where Moana realizes that this journey is meant for her and her sea voyage commences despite her father’s wishes!

Aren’t we all just sailing towards our own hooks in the sky? I gotta stop reading fortune cookies!

I don’t wanna give away any more of the plot than that! The film in its essence is a “road trip” or “sea voyage” movie. Moana and Maui have to travel the sea together to fight various baddies and learn to get along with and respect each other throughout. I’m usually not a fan of journey movies which was one of the main reasons why I disliked The Croods, but this movie does it pretty well! There are enough distractions on the journey to keep us entertained and just enough to not lose focus of the main plot.

The main characters are likable and not perfect at all which is even better! Moana isn’t someone who’s trying to abandon her duties to follow her dreams, rather she follows her dreams when it has to do with her duties. Also, she’s not someone who’s perfect at everything she does. It takes her almost the entire film to master the art of sailing. Maui is someone with a bit of an ego, but nowhere near Gaston’s level. At first, he does things for the attention, but later does them for Moana or because they need to be done. They both are happy, they both get sad, they both get mad, etc. They’re just really likable characters!

You gotta admit, throwing girls off boats into the water is quite funny, indeed 😛 !

I’ll just mention one word to talk about the animation: WATER!

The music is done by Lin-Manuel Miranda along with Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina. And it is amazing and fits with the overall culture of the people! I haven’t loved a soundtrack of a Disney film this much in a long time! I mean, Frozen‘s songs were great, but this movie takes the cake. Most people seem to love the necessary “I Want” song of Moana called How Far I’ll Go. And honestly, I don’t love this song as much as everyone else. There are at least 3 more songs I love better: We Know the Way (which is my favorite), You’re Welcome (a catchy number sung by Dwayne Johnson), and Shiny (a big-lipped alligator moment, but the catchiest song in the film, nonetheless). Check out my friend, YouTuber Zora Catone’s version of Shiny:

Does the movie have problems? Yes, it does, but only after multiple viewings do you find them and you have to get really picky to notice them. What are some of the problems? Well, there are some plot points that seem redundant or unnecessary. There are character choices that don’t seem to make that much sense. But overall this movie is really good and like I said, you have to be really picky to find major flaws with it! Does it make my Top 13 Favorite Disney Canon Films list? I havta think about that some more, but it’s definitely a good movie that you should check out ASAP if you haven’t already!

P.S. Also check out a podcast I did with Rachel Wagner from 54disneyreviews on her YouTube channel:

16 thoughts on “My Thoughts: MOANA (2016)”

  1. It’s been a while since I heard your thoughts on the film, so I forgot about your explanations. There is a lot to like about the film, but it was just a bit too predictable, and there weren’t enough distractions to me regarding the pacing. What saved the movie for me is the atmosphere, animation, and music. It’s in the middle of my Revival rankings.

      1. The Croods was definitely a lot worse, and Moana wasn’t a decoy protagonist, who has less agency than the classic princesses.

  2. I have thinking about writing about Moana….I have a number of issues with the movie, enough that I start thinking that the Disney Princess Franchise is in trouble.

    1. @swanpride If you had to briefly summarize the main problem, would be with the characters, story, or both?

  3. As you well know I loved Moana so much. Great write up. I agree with you most of the issues are very minor. I got lost in the story and her wonderful character. I love Maui and the music. Just amazing and oh the water! Wow!

  4. Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much! I really liked it too. I *might* rate Zooptopia slightly higher but I think it would be a hard choice! Definitely 2 solid films for Disney in 2016.

  5. Like with my comment on EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE, I have a whole heckuva lot to say about this one (and several other films mentioned on this site.) So, without further ado, here’s my opinion on MOANA.

    By far the greatest thing about MOANA, for me, is the incredible care that the filmmakers took to accurately portray Oceanic people and their culture. (POCAHONTAS, MULAN, and, arguably, BROTHER BEAR present the cultures of Native North America and China more from the average Westerner’s view of them.) Likely, it’s because they made the right decision of having members of the Pacific Islander community involved all throughout the making of the film as cultural consultants. (By the way, I intend to do the same with SUNDIATA, THE SABBATH LION, my potential exploration of Southeast Asia, and my revisit of Native North America.)

    And yes, the music is definitely awesome, and I have this film to thank for introducing me to Te Vaka! After hearing their song “Logo te Pate” in the trailer, I’ve listened to all of their albums, and I’m now a huge fan. (If you haven’t listened to Te Vaka’s albums yet, do so NOW- you won’t regret it!*) In regards to my favorite song, I’d have to say it’s a hard race between “We Know the Way,” “Tulou Tagaloa,” “An Innocent Warrior,” “Where You Are,” and “I am Moana (Song of the Ancestors).”

    While the water animation is easily some of the best around (especially with the decision to make the Pacific Ocean a character in the movie, which was SO cool), the animation of smoke and lava for Te Ka is just as great, if not more so. I should also give note to the absolutely gorgeous color scheme of the film– easily the most vibrant of any computer-animated feature I’ve ever seen, especially since the use of the greens and blues instantly makes you want to dive in, it gives off such an enticing image of a tropical paradise. Not only that, but MOANA also makes the most extensive use of prismatic (that is, saturated) hues of any animated feature since ALADDIN. (I’m taking a color theory class this quarter, so that’s where the terminology comes from…)

    However, there are a few things that I think could have been handled better:

    1. The movie seems a schneck too exposition-heavy for my liking, and doesn’t really give us any moments that leave us in suspense.

    2. The use of late 20th- and early 21st-century colloquialisms in a period piece is rather jarring. I really wish that the writers had made the dialogue more timeless and understandable to people from any period, like they did on POCAHONTAS and THE PRINCE OF EGYPT.

    3. The cast seems a little limited in terms of which Pacific peoples are represented: With the possible exception of co-songwriter Opetaia Foa’i (who is Tokelauan) as the singing voice of Matai Vasa in “We Know the Way,” it’s just a three-part mix of Samoans (Dwayne Johnson as Maui, Chris Jackson as Tui [singing only]), Hawaiians (Auli’i Cravalho as Moana, Nicole Scherzinger as Sina), and Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand (Temuera Morrison as Tui, Rachel House as Tala, Jemaine Clement as Tamatoa). I would have appreciated some more representation from the rest of the Pacific– Tonga, Palau, Fiji, Tahiti, Tuvalu, Kiribati, etc.

    All in all, though, MOANA is a winner! John Musker and Ron Clements still have it!

    *Preferably listen to the albums on the group’s website (, so that you can read the lyrics while the songs play.

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