Have you ever watched a new movie and knew within minutes of the opening that it was destined to be your new favorite? A movie you were destined to rewatch so many times you’d start quoting while sleeping? Or unconsciously singing the music all day to everyone’s frustration? This was my feeling while viewing Disney’s Moana. I was impressed by everything; the artistry, the story, the music. I don’t know that there is a bad thing I’d be willing to say about it.
The first thing that struck me was just how beautifully the animation was executed. Sharp and vivid. The beauty almost made me cry. The meticulous execution of all the backgrounds helps the setting function as a character. The same attention to detail was present no matter the setting: Island, Cave, Ocean, Realm of Demons. They all had their own characters and distinctions, and yet were all beautiful places for the action to take place.
This story truly sucks you in. Yes, it’s another “I have to save my people” type story, but it is a first-class example of what an adventure story should be. Moana, the island Chieftain’s daughter, must find the Demi-god Maui and journey together to fix the terrible curse he caused. I love the way they fit together all the usual elements: destined for more, journey to save the people, failure and self-doubt, and final victory. The characters show real thought and intention. Disney’s writers also never took themselves too seriously, even inserting some well-done self-deprecating humor. Little Maui (a hand-drawn animation integrated with the main computer animation) was my favorite source of this humor and also served as a modern version of Jiminy Cricket.
Finally, you can’t ignore the music. Some other Disney movies may have more singable songs, but few of them have their music integrated into the storytelling as well as Moana. The score and songs just felt organic. The music was perfectly fitted to any given scene. It also really helped show the culture of Moana’s people. Plus there is the added bonus of everyone’s current favorite Broadway composer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, contributing songs. He wrote both Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” and Maui’s “You’re Welcome,” and they are perfect.
I cannot stress enough how much I truly loved this movie. I can’t wait for the DVD release—I need it in my home now. In the words of my 3 year old: “I just want to watch it every day, all the time.” I guess when spring comes, I WILL be driving my family crazy playing the movie on continuous repeat. At least I know I’ll have company.