- “The ocean is calling.”
Moana is a 2016 computer-animated musical-adventure-comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. Released on November 23, 2016, it is the 56th film in the Disney animated feature canon. Originally described as a "mythic adventure set around 2,000 years ago and across a series of islands in the South Pacific", the film follows the journey of a spirited teenager named Moana as she embarks on a quest across the Pacific Ocean to save her people.
The short film Inner Workings accompanied the film theatrically. The film has been a critical and commercial success. The world and characters of Moana have since been integrated in other films, video games, and Disney’s theme parks around the world. In 2020, a sequel series following Moana’s adventures after the film was announced to premiere on Disney+ in 2023.
Te Fiti, an island goddess, created all life and became an island after falling into deep slumber. Te Fiti's heart, a small pounamu stone, was sought after by the monstrous forces of the sea, until it was stolen by the demigod Maui. Leaving the island without the heart caused it to collapse and a lava monster named Te Kā to appear and confront Maui, which caused his fish hook and the heart to disappear into the ocean. Because of the heart being stolen, the islands Te Fiti created are cursed to lose the life she gave them.
A millennium later, Moana as a toddler discovers the heart as she is collecting shells near the ocean. After her chieftain father Tui orders her to return to the village, she never sees it until she has grown up. Moana, now a teenager, has the responsibility of becoming the next chief of the island as her father insists, but due to her close friendship with her grandmother, Gramma Tala, she keeps her dream of leaving the island alive. She soon discovers that all the fish have disappeared from the shores of the village, and the coconuts have spoiled. Moana insists on going beyond the reef to catch more, but her father dismisses her request, angered by her wishes. Her mother Sina confesses that her father acts like this because of the loss of his closest friend when they went sailing to unforgiving waters one night in his youth.
Gramma Tala finds Moana on the beach after she tries to sail past the reef only to become shipwrecked back home and shows Moana a secret cave hidden behind a waterfall. Inside are the sailboats that her ancestors stowed away. By banging the drum, she discovers they were voyagers. Tala then gives Moana the heart of Te Fiti after showing her the curse of draining life away from trees and the island itself, saying that it is the only way to save her people. She goes to her father and tells him what Tala told her, but he doesn't listen and sees it as another excuse for her to leave the island.
Later, Tala is seen ill and is found dying on her deathbed. With her dying breath, she tells Moana to go save her people and gives her the necklace used to carry the heart. Moana departs using one of the sailboats found in the cave and departs with Heihei, a dumb rooster who has accidentally stowed away on the sailboat. She seeks to find Maui by following a constellation that looks like his fish hook, but a wave flips her sailboat and knocks her unconscious. She wakes up the next morning on a small island inhabited by Maui, who traps Moana in a cave after distracting her with a tune. He steals her sailboat while threatening to eat Heihei. After escaping the cave, the ocean sends Moana back on the sailboat to convince Maui. She shows him the heart and asks him to help her return it, but Maui backs away fearing that the heart is a trap for the person carrying it and that other creatures would kill to steal it for themselves.
Immediately after Heihei eats the heart during an encounter with little pygmy pirates known as Kakamora, the Kakamora steal Heihei forcing Moana to retrieve it, after Maui learns of her inability to sail when they try to escape. After Moana retrieves Heihei from the Kakamora, Maui is able to get their massive sailboats to collide into each other and the three make it out unharmed. Maui agrees to help bring the heart back to Te Fiti. In order to do so, he needs his hook which is hidden in the Realm of Monsters, held by a giant villainous coconut crab named Tamatoa. In his lair, Maui barely retrieves his magical fish hook while Moana distracts Tamatoa by having him sing about himself. Afterward, Maui and Moana escape his lair and Tamatoa is left stranded on his back in a last-ditch effort to grab them both. Back on the sailboat, Maui becomes depressed that he is unable to shapeshift into anything that he wants with the fish hook but ultimately decides to teach Moana how to sail instead, after the ocean numbs his derrière with a blow dart.
She learns that Maui has stolen the heart for a village that he has looked after once he was given his powers from the gods. Through some encouragement from Moana, Maui is given the strength to shape shift with ease, even managing to turn into a hawk. The two become friends as she learns more on how to be a wayfinder. They arrive at Te Fiti where Te Kā appears and tries to destroy them. Maui tries to fight back but instead tells Moana to turn back. She ignores his protest, which brings Te Kā to partially destroy Maui's hook, severely damaging it and sending them far back across the ocean. Out of anger, Maui leaves Moana stranded, fearing that going back to fight Te Kā will permanently destroy his hook. He flies away after telling her that the ocean chose the wrong person to save her people which is something she has been trying to find out why.
After sadly telling the ocean to bring the heart to someone else, Gramma Tala appears as a spiritual manta ray and encourages her to discover who she is based on what she has learned, what she has lived through, who she has met, and where she comes from. Moana proudly realizes who she has meant to be within herself and what defines her and swims down to retrieve the heart. Using her wayfinding skills, she returns to Te Kā and gets past Te Kā to return the heart. Maui returns as well, having a change of heart to distract Te Kā. Reaching the top of the mountain, Moana realizes that the island is gone and that Te Kā is actually Te Fiti without her heart. She asks the ocean to clear a path so that she can have Te Kā approach her. She connects with Te Fiti and opens her eyes to show her what she has become. Te Fiti calms down and lets Moana restore her heart which brings everything, including herself, back to normal.
Te Fiti, now fully restored and the curse lifted, believes that Maui is left to apologize for his actions, which he does. Maui, in return, is granted a new hook and flies off to meet with his villagers. Before leaving, Maui bids Moana farewell with a hug, thanking her for all she's done.
Moana then returns to her island, where everything is back to normal, and the villagers return to wayfinding, releasing the boats from the hidden cave. As the new chief, Moana places her stone (a seashell she collected when she was little) on the tallest mountain where many chiefs placed stones to claim their leadership and set sail with the rest of the villagers searching for new islands as Maui accompanies them in his hawk form.
- Auli'i Cravalho as Moana
- Louise Bush as young Moana
- Dwayne Johnson as Maui
- Rachel House as Gramma Tala
- Temuera Morrison as Tui
- Christopher Jackson as the singing voice of Tui.
- Jemaine Clement as Tamatoa
- Nicole Scherzinger as Sina
- Alan Tudyk as Heihei
- Alan Tudyk also voices Villager #3
- Oscar Kightley as Fisherman
- Troy Polamalu as Villager #1
- Puanani Cravalho as Villager #2
Pua, Moana's pig companion, is voiced by several pigs.
Additional voices include Kristina Anapau, Kayla Blake, Matt Corboy, Hudson D'Andrea, Sisa Grey, Amy Hill, Karen Huie, Daniel Kaz, Michael Sun Lee, Sundra Oakley, Davis H. Pak, Lucian Perez, Branscombe Richmond, Lynwood Robinson, Maddix Robinson, Violet Grace Schaffer, Phillipa Soo, Ken Takemoto, Fred Tatasciore, Matthew Wood, and ViviAnn Yee.
After directing The Princess and the Frog, Musker and Clements started working on an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Mort, but rights problems prevented them from continuing with that project. To avoid similar problems, they pitched three new ideas, and in 2011 started developing the film based on an original idea.
Moana is Musker and Clement's first fully computer-animated film. Moana Waialiki is Disney's first Polynesian princess. Although initially rumored to be made in hand-drawn/computer-animated technique introduced with Disney's short film Paperman, Musker said that it is "far too early to apply the Paperman hybrid technique to a feature. The Meander digital in-betweening interface still has a host of production issues (including color) that need to be perfected." According to Musker, the idea of an animated film set in the South Pacific was both intriguing to him, and John Lasseter. After pitching the idea, a team was sent to the South Pacific for a two-week research trip. In during which, they met with chiefs, navigators, experts, and natives to garner understanding of the culture. The following research trip involved the animation and music teams. To ensure cultural accuracy, the studio created what was dubbed the "Oceanic Story Trust". The group consisted of anthropologists, cultural practitioners, historians, linguists, and choreographers from islands including Samoa, Tahiti, Mo'orea, and Fiji. The trust served as consultants for the filmmakers and played a major role in developing every aspect of the movie.
During their research, the filmmakers learned that voyages across the South Pacific ceased for a thousand years. About 2,000 years in the past, they started once more, but the reason for the lull period had never been definitively confirmed, given the oral state of the culture. Moana is meant to act as Disney's interpretation of an explanation.
In November 2014, Dwayne Johnson (also known as The Rock) was announced to voice the demigod Maui and join Moana on her action-packed voyage.
As revealed at the 2015 Disney D23 expo, the film is to be scored by Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa'i, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. According to John Musker, the music will be a fusion of the three collaborators, with the Pacific roots of Opetaia, the sense of narrative from Miranda, and Macina's sense of "world music".
Dialogue recording for the film was completed on July 16, 2016.
Moana received critical acclaim. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a "Certified Fresh" rating of 96%, based on 234 reviews and an average rating of 7.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With a title character as three-dimensional as its lush animation and a story that adds fresh depth to Disney's time-tested formula, Moana is truly a family-friendly adventure for the ages." On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 81 out of 100 based on 41 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim." On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Writing for Roger Ebert's website, Christy Lemire gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, writing, "Moana would have been enormously entertaining regardless of when it came out, but its arrival at this particular moment in history gives it an added sense of significance—as well as inspiration." Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal proclaimed that "Moana is beautiful in more ways than I can tell, thanks to the brilliance of more animators than I could count."
Animator Eric Goldberg received praise from critics and audiences for his hand-drawn animation of Maui's tattoos, which they claimed "stole the show" from the actual CGI-animated motion picture.
Trailers and Clips
Behind the Scenes
- Moana and its eponymous character, were re-titled as Vaiana in Poland, Portugal, Belgium, Croatia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and the Netherlands due to a trademark conflict.
- In Italy the film was named Oceania, and the character's name is Vaiana. Media outlets speculated that the name change was to avoid confusion with Italian pornographic actress Moana Pozzi, and Disney Italy's head of theatrical marketing, Davide Romani, acknowledged they were "thinking about the issue" at a meeting of Italian exhibitors in 2015.
- Albania, Ireland, Russia, Turkey, and United Kingdom are the only countries in Europe to have the "Moana" title.
- This is another WDAS feature to have a post credit scene, after the earlier features like Big Hero 6 and Frozen.
- 700 drafts of the movie were written by the time of Jared Bush's first year on the project.
- The film features the first major traditionally-animated character in a computer-animated Disney animated canon film, in the form of Mini Maui (animated by Eric Goldberg and Mark Henn).
- By the time of Auli'i Cravalho's casting, Moana's design had already been finalized.
- Heihei was initially portrayed as a hot-tempered bully, but his character was drastically changed and became "very, very stupid".
- Pua had a larger role in previous drafts as he joined Moana, Maui, and Heihei on the journey. Much of the film's pre-release marketing indicates this, primarily because most promotional material was created and approved before Pua's last-minute removal.
- Some of the locations visited during the research trip to have influenced the film include Fiji, Samoa, and Tahiti.
- Moana is unique in that she does not have a love interest in the film, nor does her story ever focus on romance in any way.
- Moana is the first film in history to be translated into Tahitian.
- This is the first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to include some "cartoony" sound effects since 2011's Winnie the Pooh; the rocket whistle fall can be heard when Moana falls right down to her boat sailed by Maui.
- This is the first time a score composer composes both the songs and music score for a Walt Disney Animation Studios film since 2010's Tangled.
- Lin-Manuel Miranda stated that he was inspired by The Little Mermaid to become a songwriter. The Little Mermaid was also co-directed by John Musker and Ron Clements.
- As seen in deleted scenes, previous versions of the film dedicated a significant amount of time to developing the secondary characters and their dynamics with one another (ex. Tala and Tui, Pua and Heihei, etc.). For time reasons, most of these scenes were cut.
- In earlier versions, Moana had 9 older brothers and no mother. The character Sina, Moana's mother and Tui's wife, would not be added until very late in production.
- The junior novelization adds and changes a few details to the story. First, that it was not Tui's friend that was washed overboard when they crossed the reef, but his younger brother. Second, that Moana is 3 years old when her grandmother is telling her the stories of the tribe's history, and 16 years old for the main events of the film. Lastly, that the ancient chief she saw in the cave after banging the ship drum was named Matai Vasa.
- This is the first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to feature the full 2011 Disney opening logo as a closing logo.
- Only film directed by John Musker and Ron Clements not to feature any of the voice actors they regularly work with.
- The last Walt Disney Animation Studios film to be accompanied by a short film.
- "Moana" is the Hawaiian word for "sea".
- The last Disney animated film to receive a Blu-Ray 3D release in North America due to the waning popularity of 3D TVs.
- This is the second Disney animated film to have the title card appear at the end of the film instead of the beginning, the first being Big Hero 6 and the next being Ralph Breaks the Internet (which Moana herself also appears in).
Cameos and other Disney references
- Flounder from The Little Mermaid makes a cameo swimming with other fish in the song "You're Welcome".
- The way in which Maui gave Moana a tropical fruit is reminiscent to how Aladdin gave Jasmine an apple in Aladdin.
- The face of Baymax from Big Hero 6 is seen drawn on one of the Kakamora pirates.
- Genie's Lamp from Aladdin is one of the things hidden on Tamatoa's shell during his scene.
- The Magic Carpet, a character from Aladdin makes a cameo as the item that's on top of Pua at the beginning of the film.
- Maui accidentily turns into Sven from Frozen while trying to use his fish hook.
- Flash from Zootopia makes a cameo as a sloth monster on the island of Lalotai.
- A barely-tattooed villager (which Moana helps at one point) may make a loose resemblance to Kenai (as a human) from Brother Bear.
- When Moana packs up her boat, Olaf's carrot nose can be seen if one looks closely. This is another character reference to Frozen.
- After Gramma Tala's opening story, Marshmallow, another character from Frozen, makes a cameo on a tapestry behind Tui.
- Near the end of the film, when the camera zooms in on Tui and Sina, the Sundrop Flower from Tangled makes a cameo as the first flower that blooms.
- Wreck-It Ralph makes a cameo during the end credits of the film.
- Sebastian, also from The Little Mermaid, was mentioned in the after-credits scene when Tamatoa complains that if he were him, people would help him more, possibly indicating that he dislikes Sebastian.
- Directors John Musker and Ron Clements were depicted as caricatures in Polynesian tapestry just as baby Moana and Chief Tui come back to the village.
- "Moana (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on November 23, 2016.
- "Moana". Metacritic. Retrieved on November 23, 2016.
- Morgenstern, Joe (November 23, 2016). "‘Moana’ Review: The Waves Part". Retrieved on November 23, 2016.
- Martinelli, Marissa (November 18, 2016). "Disney Had to Change Moana's Title in Italy to Avoid Being Confused With a Porn Star" (in en-US), Slate.
- Vivarelli, Nick (November 18, 2016). "Disney Changes 'Moana' Title in Italy, Where It Has Porn Star Connotations" (in en-US), Variety.