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Film review: Moana – a Polynesian princess takes the lead in Disney’s triumphant animated musical

Amazing animation, excellent direction, a lead character who’s fun as well as being a role model, and a sensitive approach to depicting the lives and beliefs of Pacific Islanders could make this a classic

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 5:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 5:32pm

4/5 stars

Disney’s take on the oceanic myths of the Pacific Islands could go on to become an animated classic. The animation is fantastic, even by Disney’s high standards, while the story is accessible to adults and children without being patronising. Parents who usually think that Disney’s musical numbers are irritating will find this selection of songs bearable, and may even enjoy some of them.

The story sees young island girl Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) leave her idyllic home to undertake an ocean quest: she must return a magic stone to a sleeping nature goddess to avert the natural disasters that are encroaching on her island. To navigate the ocean, she needs the help of the demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who has become marooned after losing his purpose in life. Aided by the ocean itself, the two form an argumentative relationship, and battle sea monsters to achieve their goal.

Reception for Moana, Disney’s animated Polynesian adventure, shows the value of resisting stereotypes

Independent Moana does everything herself, and never asks for help from her male counterpart – she’s a fearless human dynamo, and a terrific role model. The animation scenes are amazing, and highlights include a fleet of devilish coconut pirates, and a glammed-up king crab who struts his stuff to the Bowie-esque Shiny.

To make sure the film was free from stereotypes, producer John Lasseter insisted the creative team spent time in the region to research its history and culture, and that careful approach bears fruit. With this Oscar-nominated feature, directors Ron Clements and John Musker, who reinvigorated Disney’s animation department with the superlative Aladdin back in 1992, have excelled themselves.

Moana opens on January 26

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