Monday, November 21, 2016
Disney's Moana Is A Masterpiece (Non-Spoiler Review)
Over the last several years the Walt Disney Animation Studios has been on a roll. Call it the Third Golden Age of Animation for the company but Disney Animation is clearly re-inventing itself. With each film adding to its already rich legacy, Moana may be the one that shows the true confidence in the animation department.
While on the surface, Moana appears to be the simple princess who goes against what her parents want in order to save the day story, But as the story unfolds, there are deeply developed lead characters and powerful emotions.
Just like all the other Disney heroines, Moana is destined to do great things but she wants to choose a different path as the ocean calls to her. And without any spoilers, her father has very good reasons for her not venturing out to sea. But of course through situations and her grandmother's encouragement, we are off on our adventure.
The film opens with Maui and we see that he is the one that has set the ball in motion and may not be the hero that everyone thinks he is. He might not even be the person who you can trust when the chips are down. This adds an enormous amount of tension to the movie as the two begin the quest to make things right. But Moana can hold her own against Maui and she also has the ocean on her side.
The ocean is the force that calls to Moana. In an early scene we see her encounter with an ocean that behaves in a very unexpected way towards her. A scene that shows Moana and her destiny. Two powerful songs, the father play-it-safe "Where We Are," and Moana's I Want Song, "How Far I'll Go," at the beginning of the film will leave little doubt that Moana and the ocean are connected.
The songs and music from Opetaia Foa'i, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda are some of the best ever created for a Disney animated movie. The songs were not about creating a hit single but instead fit the narrative and propel the story forward all the while establishing the setting and character. This makes the songs more akin to Beauty and The Beast instead of Frozen. I bought the soundtrack immediately after seeing the movie and you will too.
The animation is absolutely stunning. Bright and bold colors bring the Polynesian culture to life. The characters including Moana are more realistically proportioned. Breaking Moana free of the body image of past princesses allows Moana to take an almost 2D form when it comes to expressions. Yet at the same time the camera angles can sweep in and around characters and environments much like a live-action film. And the ocean, while we have seen in in such animated films like Finding Dory, the water itself has never looked better or had more personality.
Moana is a celebration of life, friendship and family. Moana takes control of her own destiny and creates one of the most remarkable Disney princesses yet.