Moana—A Spirited Tale

Disney's Moana
Disney’s Moana

Disney’s latest movie, Moana, is an adventure film. It follows the titular young woman as she sails off to recruit the demigod Maui to help her save her people by restoring the heart of Te Fiti .

1—Great Effects

Moana is a beautiful film, with water that looks like water—no easy feat to animate. The hair looks great too. There’s also a lava demon, ship battles, a ghost manta ray, a glowing monster-world, and always beautiful scenery.

Then there’s Maui’s living tattoos. They’re so much fun and a lot of the humor in the film comes from watching him interact with his smaller tattoo-self.

2—In the Details

This is a world that feels real. The details in dress and tattoos and customs, in the flora, and most especially in the boats, all their rigging and everything. I don’t know what any of it’s called but there’s a lot of it and it all seems to serve a purpose.

Then there’s the details in the story. Like the use of a dream to establish the stakes without having to actually destroy an island full of people. And one of my favorite parts is Grandma Tala telling the story of the heart of Te Fiti at the beginning of the story. Or the subtle movements that give the non-speaking, non-face-having ocean spirit personality.

3—The Battles

The battles are awesome. There’s pirate coconuts (yes really, they’re vicious and adorable) with a giant spiky vessel. There’s a giant blinged-out crab monster. And there’s two fights with Te Ka, the giant lava demon. All the fights feel big, but the fights with Te Ka especially feel epic. Best of all, Moana is proactive in all these fights, not just a damsel waiting to be rescued.


I loved this movie. The songs were great, “You’re Welcome” in particular is an earwig. But mostly I loved how brave Moana was. I can understand feeling torn between responsibility to family and what calls to you. And I like that at the end Moana makes a deliberate choice instead of just being chosen.

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