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.
The 1080p transfer, is of course, Disney perfection. Colors are vibrant with lush green jungles and crystal clear water. Every details from hair, to clothes, to other materials look natural and simply shine. Images are perhaps the finest example of animation and should be used as a reference piece for your home.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack is just as perfect as the video quality. Dialogue is sharp and clear, effects are properly positioned and the music is powerful. The surrounds envelope you in the movie and never let go.
There is a surprisingly vast amount of bonus material including two short films, some technical behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes, a commentary track, and more. A DVD copy of the film and a Disney digital copy voucher are included.
- Theatrical Short Film: Inner Workings (1080p, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1): A great animated short that takes a poignant look at the daily routine of life.
- Maui Mini-Movie: Gone Fishing (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 2:29): Created just for the home release, Maui finds that catching a meal isn't as easy as it seems,
- Voice of the Islands (1080p, 31:13): A fantastic bonus piece showcasing the filmmakers visit to the Pacific Islands and how that influenced their take on the film. You will learn about the people, their culture, the geography, history, family life and more.
- Things You Didn't Know About... (1080p): An all too short two-part feature.
- Ron, John, Auli'i & Dwayne (2:02): The directors and main vocal talent share some fun facts about themselves.
- Mark, Opetaia, & Lin-Manuel (1:57): The film's musicians answer some questions about themselves.
- Island Fashion (1080p, 5:13): Neysa Bové discusses clothing the characters.
- The Elements Of... (1080p): A four-part feature.
- Mini-Maui (3:34): Taking a look at how one of the smallest stars of the film was created.
- Water (4:38): Showcasing the work on creating more realistic digital water for the movie.
- Lava (2:56): Showcasing the difficulties in creating of one the more unique characters in the film.
- Hair (3:05): Showcasing the complexity involved in creating the hair for the characters.
- They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana (1080p, 12:37): A way too short look at the creation of the amazing music in the film,
- Deleted Song: "Warrior Face" with Introduction by Songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda (1080p, 3:41): Take a look at this deleted song in rough animation.
- Fishing for Easter Eggs (1080p, 2:52): Auli'i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson give us some insight on some of the easter eggs the animators left in this film.
- Deleted Scenes (1080p, 25:56 total runtime): Grandmother's Warning/Legend of Maui; Canoe Race; Father, Daughter, Boat; Education of Moana; Discussing Moana's Future; Race the Wind/Ties That Bind; and Under the Sea. Take a look at several deleted scenes with optional introductions by the directors of the film.
- "How Far I'll Go" Performed by Alessia Cara (1080p, 3:04): The pop single version of the song and music video.
- "How Far I'll Go" Around the World (1080p, 2:44): Showcasing the song flawlessly moving from one language into another.
- Audio Commentary: The Directors John Musker and Ron Clements discuss their film from origin, to research, to music, characters, animation and more. I love audio commentaries and this is a very entertaining as well as informative one.
Moana is truly a masterpiece. A film that keeps children as well as adults entertained throughout. The blu-ray is one of Disney's finest with perfect audio and video and a surprisingly large amount of bonus material. This blu-ray needs to be added to your collection now!