NOTE: Due to the film’s unusual release, this installment of WYSK is coming later than usual. Some estimates have been updated to reflect current figures. If you have seen the film, give your thoughts down below but PLEASE refrain from spoilers!
‘What You Should Know’ is a Rotoscopers series that gives you a detailed and (somewhat) objective rundown of this year’s animated films, right before or on the day they hit theaters. That way, you (the undecided moviegoer) can make a decision about whether or not to see the movie based on the information provided. In this special edition of WYSK, I’ve invited Rachel Wagner to share her thoughts on the film. Scroll down to read!
DIRECTED BY: John Musker and Ron Clements
WRITTEN BY: Jared Bush (Story by Musker and Clements along with Chris Williams, Don Hall, and Pamela Ribon).
STARRING: Auli’i Cravalho (Moana), Dwayne Johnson (Maui), Rachel House (Gramma Tala), Temuera Morrison (Chief Tui Waialiki), Nicole Scherzinger (Sina Waialiki), Jemaine Clement (Tamatoa), and Alan Tudyk (Heihei).
MUSIC BY: Mark Mancina (soundtrack by Lin Manuel-Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i)
STUDIO: Walt Disney Pictures
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Walt Disney Animation Studios
PRODUCTION BUDGET: $150 Million
WHAT’S IT ABOUT? :
Moana is the story of a young woman – the daughter of a chieftain of a Polynesian tribe – who is chosen by the ocean to reunite a mystical relic with a goddess, with assistance from a demigod
played by The Rock.
A BRIEF HISTORY:
The project originated as a back-up idea by Musker and Clements, one of three original concepts they developed in case their planned adaptation of Terry Prattchett’s Discworld novel Mort fell through (it did). It began development in 2011, with the title name Moana virtually unchanged since conception.
IMPORTANT STUFF TO KNOW:
In 2012, Musker and Clements went on research trips (typical for certain animated features) to Fiji, Samoa, and Tahiti to study and learn about the people and culture of the South Pacific. In the five years it took to produce the film, Musker and Clements formed an ‘Oceanic Story Trust,’ consisting of experts recruited from across the South Pacific who consulted on story accuracy and authenticity.
Moana reportedly went through nine different versions of its story, with one version originally focusing on the titular character rescuing her father, who was lost at sea. This idea survives in the final version as a subtle element of the father’s backstory.
Moana is Musker and Clements’ first CG animated feature. One reason for their jump to CG was the ocean and environment, both elements that benefit from the format. The film was planned as a hand-drawn feature, but only a few animation tests exist of this planned version. This element also survived in the form of Maui’s moving tattoos.
Taika Waititi (director of Thor: Ragnarok) wrote the initial screenplay. While multiple writers have since contributed versions of the story (see ‘Written By’ section), Jared Bush received credit for the final screenplay.
Auli’i Cravalho was a high school freshman when she was cast as the main character (out of hundreds of candidates from across the South Pacific). Some of her mannerisms were incorporated into the character (who was already completely designed at the time).
Again, too many to name so I’ll keep it short.
Other than continuing WDAS’ winning streak of films, Moana is representative of what might the first glimpse of the company’s future as a ‘Big 3’ studio capable of telling diverse stories (literally and thematically) and evolving its cinematic footprint in an increasingly crowded field.
Oh yeah, and Hamilton fans are sure to get a kick out of the soundtrack for the film.
Nothing serious to speak of, other than a crowded box-office (see below).
Moana is an unusual case, in that it was given a mid-week Thanksgiving release. This allowed the movie to rake in a pretty serious pre-Thanksgiving weekend intake of near $80 Million, cementing Moana as Disney’s second-best opener (behind Frozen) and outperforming Pixar’s record-setting Toy Story 2.
The only stumbling block is that Moana is wandering into a more crowded than usual holiday box office, with Fantastic Beats, Doctor Strange, and Trolls continuing to be strong performers and all competing for overlapping audiences. Estimates from this weekend will tell if Moana had enough B.O. power to rise above the rest (I think it might).
WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:
Speaking of a winning streak…
Moana has a 98% ‘Certified Fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The 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.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM ROTOWRITER RACHEL WAGNER:
If you put all the things I liked in a pot to try and brew the perfect movie for Rachel, Moana would be the end result. I love Lin Manuel Miranda and have been a big fan of his since In the Heights, not just Hamilton, so I knew the music was going to be a big hit for me. I love Ron Clements and John Musker with The Little Mermaid being my favorite movie as a child. I love the ocean and yearn for it when I am far from it. I love Disney and Disney princess movies. Moana has all of these aspects and does them all proud.
I’ll spare you the hyperbole, but suffice it to say I loved Moana. It made me so happy on pretty much every level. It was funny, sweet, endearing, and extremely clever. I loved Moana as a character and how bold yet kind she was. Auli’i Cravalho did an incredible job both in singing and vocal work. I loved Maui and thought The Rock did an amazing job, even if his singing left a little bit to be desired. I know he has Polynesian ancestry and you could tell – the performance had that kind of personal, joyful connection to it. .The whole movie felt joyful. I loved Gramma Tala, Heihei the chicken, and Tamatoa the evil crab. It all worked for me and I am so happy I will soon have it as part of my Disney library. I hope you all get to see it and have as positive an experience as I did.
Were you looking to WDAS to tell more diverse stories with diverse characters? Then Moana is for you. Are you simply just looking to see a great animated film? Moana is for you. No matter what you’re into, Moana has a little something for everyone.
If this article has you interested in seeing Moana, buy your tickets here on Fandango.
Thank you for reading this installment of What You Should Know!
What do you think? Is Moana worth seeing in theaters?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes