Disney moves away from its stereotypical princess with Moana, a refreshing tribute to Polynesian culture and Hawaiian myth. Mix in songs co-written by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, stunning CGI, a memorable performance from Dwayne Johnson and the seeds for another animated classic have been sewn. The story may be predictable, but it’s heartfelt and the phenomenal visuals keep any lulls at bay.
Despite a seemingly charmed life, 16- year old Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho), yearns to see the world outside her home on the self-sufficient island community of Motunui. Adored by her family, Moana is being groomed by her father Tui (Temuera Morrison) to succeed him as chief. For years, Moana and her people have followed get father’s edict, that “no one goes beyond the reef.” However, despite repeated warnings, Moana finds herself drawn to the ocean, longing to reclaim her ancestor’s heritage heroic as navigators–which may prove necessary as the Reed’s supply of fish continues to dwindle.
With help from her grandmother (Rachel House), Moana learns that the ocean has chosen her for a special mission that will restore the island’s vitality. She must return the Heart of Te Fiti–a small medallion–to its rightful home. To do this, Moana must seek help from the party who stole it centuries ago, a demigod named Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Having lived in exile for years, Maui’s ego hasn’t diminished at all, but his superpowers are gone and his extensive tattoo’s act as his conscience. As he often does, Johnson’s arrival gives the film a burst of energy, providing a nice contrast to Moana’s more earnest, level-headed personality.
Predictably, Moana and Maui don’t see eye to eye at first, but warm to each other as the journey continues. There’s never an inkling of a romantic relationship here, but instead, one of mutual respect. Their adventures on the open sea doesn’t come without difficulties, as Moana and Maui face a variety of monsters and sea creatures. Most notably, Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement), a treasure hoarding crab and an army of small pirates, all of whom wear cocoanuts as armor. These risky encounters, combined with Broadway ready songs, make for a fun time, children and adults, alike.
Presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, Disney has provided an excellent 1080p transfer. Sharpness is spectacular throughout. Print flaws are an absolute no show. The films broad color palette is bold and vivid. Blacks are dark and deep. Shadows are sharp and clear. In short, this transfer is everything fans of animation should want.
The DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack doesn’t impress quite as much as the transfer, but it still does the job very well. Scenes in the ocean dominate the film; those open up the soundfield nicely. Other environments, such as beach fronts, come across well, but oddly, some of the musical numbers feel slightly boxed in lacking the open, full punch one might expect. Essentially, the track is a bit lacking on the low-end of things. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.
English, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Directors John Musker and Ron Clements: In this running commentary, the two men discuss a wide variety of topics, including the origins of the project, evolution, music, visual style, characters and more about the film.
- Gone Fishing (HD, 2:29) This short has Moana and Maui at odds over what’s for dinner.
- Voice of the Islands (HD, 31:13) Directors John Musker and Ron Clements and producer Osnat Shurer talk about the three-week production excursion to several South Pacific islands doing research for the film.
- Things You Didn’t Know About… (HD, 4:00) Musker and Clements, actors Dwayne Johnson and Auli’i Cravalho, and composers Opetaia Foa’I, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda anawer a brief series of questions.
- Island Fashion (HD, 5:13) Costume designer Neysa Bové discusses her wardrobe choices for various characters and how traditions of the South Pacific played into those choices.
- They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana (HD, 12:37) Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, and Opetaia Foa’I discuss what they each wanted to bring to the song score. Behind-the-scenes shots of the trio collaborating on the music are included.
- Fishing for Easter Eggs (HD, 2:52) Auli’i Cravalho hosts a quick look at the Easter Eggs from previous Disney movies hidden within Moana.
- The Elements of… (HD, 14:14) Four brief featurettes feature members of the animation and engineering departments (including veteran animator Eric Goldberg, Marlon West, Carlos Cabral, and Toby Jones) discussing how various facets of the production were achieved including looks at Mini-Maui, the water effects, the lava monster, and advances in hair representation.
- “Warrior Face” (HD, 3:41) A deleted song sequence is sung by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 25:56) Seven deleted scenes are introduced by directors John Musker and Ron Clements and can be watched individually or together.
- “How Far I’ll Go” Music Video (HD, 3:04) Performed by Alessia Cara.
- “How Far I’ll Go” Around the World (HD, 2:44) The Oscar-nominated song sung in numerous languages.
- DVD/Digital Copy: Disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.