Disney, Reviews, Rotoscopers

[SPOILERS] Roto-Writers Roundtable ‘Moana’

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Disclaimer: There are spoilers ahead. If you have not seen the film and do not want to be spoiled, please do not read yet.

Since hopefully you have gotten used to the writers here at Rotoscopers giving our opinions on the Disney canon films with our Disney Canon Countdown, we thought it would be fun for a bunch of us to offer our thoughts on Disney’s latest offering: Moana.

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From Hannah Wilkes:

I loved Disney’s Moana! It has everything that makes classic Disney musicals great while it still feels new and original. The characters, story, and visuals (I REALLY loved the beautiful scenery and the character animation) all felt perfect.

The only thing I disliked about the movie was the Tamatoa sequence. The song “Shiny” really veers away from the style of the other songs and places a lot of focus on a character that only features briefly in the film. To me, the whole sequence felt like a departure from the story. Visually, it was a cool sequence and it provided an opportunity to take closer look at Maui’s internal struggles, but it kind of felt like they were trying to squeeze a “villain song” and a David Bowie tribute into the movie where it didn’t belong.

Other than that, I loved every part of this movie! Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i wrote and performed amazing songs – I could listen to “I Am Moana” over and over again – and Mark Mancina’s score is amazing as well. The voice casting for this movie couldn’t have been more perfect. Overall, I think Moana is a beautifully creative movie.

From Rachel Wagner:

Sometimes, I think it is easy to dismiss the current Disney output while putting the films of the past on an unreachable pedestal. The films of the Disney Renaissance will always have a special place in my heart because they were what I first fell in love with, particularly The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. However, it is with great satisfaction that I have seen a new generation of Disney princess films in recent years and been able to see young girls have the same excitement and love for these new films that I once had. Moana, along with Tangled and Frozen, are giving that experience to a fresh audience, and Moana may be the best of all 3.

There are so many things I loved about Moana. I loved the characters. Moana and Maui are as great as any of the classic Disney duos. I loved seeing them learn from each other and face challenges. Moana is a Chosen One trope but it is executed so well. She isn’t rebelling like other princesses but is pushed to finally embrace her fate because her people are in need. Things don’t always go her way. The ocean can be quite fickle in helping her, letting her often crash and swim to safety. Maui is cocky and funny but also wounded from his past.

Moana is also so beautifully rendered with water and an island environment that sucked me in. This is a film that should be in CG instead of 2D. It wouldn’t be near as immersive in 2D. The script is also well done and it reminded me of the Odyssey with the heroes facing off against various obstacles on their quest. Tamatoa was my particular favorite with “Shiny” cracking me up!

Some have complained the story isn’t super original. I don’t mind a formula film if it is executed well and this is. The music is the final cherry on top. I am still humming each song and have been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for days. Auli’i Cravalho is a tremendous talent with a beautiful singing voice. I love “How Far I’ll Go.” The Rock isn’t the greatest singer but “You’re Welcome” works within the story.

All in all, I loved Moana. I have a love for Polynesia and Moana did that love proud. Thank you, Disney, for another classic Disney Princess film!

From MJ Edwards:

Being a huge fan of Disney’s princess movies, it’s no surprise that I fell head over heels in love with the movie Moana. I was actually worried I wouldn’t like the title character – I thought she came across as arrogant in the trailers – but I couldn’t be more wrong. She had as much kindness and strength as the previous princesses we all know and love. Maui was as funny and charming as I wanted him to be (more than Hei Hei the Rooster, whose dim-wittedness, for me, got a old fast).

The songs were true Disney. The opening number was reminiscent of the introduction to the tribe in Pocahontas, and Maui’s song similar to Genie’s in Aladdin (I’ve already ordered my soundtrack). I even loved the change in tone with the David Bowie-esque song “Shiny.” The sunny paradise of the islands and the ocean is animated to astounding clarity too. The only downfall of the movie — why couldn’t we have more of Moana’s pet pig Pua?

From Jonathan North:

I went into Moana with moderate expectations. It is a Disney film after all, so I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy myself no matter what. Given Disney’s record the last few years, that’s pretty much a given at this point. I was not, however, expecting to absolutely LOVE the film. Everything about this movie was near perfection. The characters were all so great, the music was amazing, the art design, the voice actors, not to mention that there was even some very cleverly used 2D animation in the film! Everything worked together to make something that was just filled to the brim with pure Disney magic.

I could go on at length about all the characters – I LOVED Moana, Maui was a hoot, Heihei was hilarious, the monsters were awesome – but in the interest of time, I will limit myself to just one, Grandma Tala. I loved everything about her. I have always had a soft spot for elderly characters, especially “little old ladies,” and Grandma Tala is no exception. She is just the perfect embodiment of elderly spunk and loving warmth. The scene where she first appeared as a manta ray? I don’t usually have very strong emotional responses to movies, but that scene was so well done, I literally got CHILLS. SO GOOD!

One of the biggest things that I was so impressed by was the fact that they turned everyone’s expectations about the identity of the villain on their heads. For the past few films we’ve had the climax of the story reveal a seemingly “Good” character as having been the true villain the whole time. And I know there were many people that were totally expecting this to happen again. But with the revelation that the giant lava demon was actually the missing goddess, transformed after the theft of her heart, they just completely reversed the trope! This time a “Bad Guy” was secretly a “Good Guy”! I was just so completely impressed that they managed to completely subvert everyone’s expectations, and keep the surprise a secret! I saw most of the previous “villain reveals” coming a mile away in the past few films, but this was one twist I can honestly say that I never saw coming.

All in all, Moana was an amazing film, and is probably my favorite film of the year, not just my favorite animated film, but favorite film, period. Which is saying something, given how many great movies we had this year! 2016 may have been a real bummer of a year in real life, but at least we had some great movies to help us get through it. Moana was just the icing on the cake.

From Pablo Ruiz:

I really liked Moana! I thought the world was beautiful and the songs were AMAZING. I was a little underwhelmed by Moana’s relationship with Maui, as I didn’t feel it was as strong as I expected it to be. Judy and Nick were much more believable in Zootopia, for example. But the movie is enormous fun and everything after the (again) bit underwhelming climax with the “villain” was PURE GOLD. I cried so much at Maui getting the Moana tattoo and at everything after that. So many tears.

What did you think about Moana?

Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden (who was unwittingly and irreversibly spoiled.)

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About Rachel Wagner

Rachel has loved animation since she was a little girl singing songs from The Little Mermaid at the top of her lungs. She currently works in social media marketing and loves to blog and vlog about Disney, Pixar and all kinds of movies in her free time. Her favorite movie is Up and she considers herself quite the Cinderella aficionado seeing every version she can get her hands on. She also loves animated TV shows like Simpsons, Gravity Falls, Star Wars Rebels and more. Follow her on twitter @smilingldsgirl