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[ART BOOK REVIEW] ‘The Art of Moana’

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Disney’s latest animated feature Moana took us on a journey through the South Pacific with mythical creatures, a demi-god and a badass new Disney heroine. The Art of Moana showcases all the different designs, scrapped ideas, and art that made Moana possible.

The book is divided into several chapters. It opens with a chapter focusing on the culture and tradition Moana was inspired by and gives a look into that culture. This section also covers all the research that went into being culturally authentic and sensitive. After that, the next several chapters each take the reader through the movie chronologically and give a look at everything that had to be created and designed for the movie, from the characters to the world to costumes and every other little detail in between. The final three mini chapters each focus on a specific part of the making of the film, like the environment models, color script, and the cultural collaboration.

The book gives a really in depth look into the making of Moana, not only focusing on a lot of different aspects of the making of the movie, but also giving a look at early designs and unapproved work that didn’t make it into the final film. You really get to see the development of these characters and the overall movie by just flipping through the book and there’s a great variety of designs that look nothing like what ended up in the final film (which is something you don’t always get in these books). The book also puts a big focus on costume, tattoo, and prop design, which is stuff that is usually only touched upon slightly – not as in depth as it is in The Art of Moana – and is definitely something I appreciated. Some storyboards were included as well, which was a fun addition to the book.

Another fun addition to the book is Mini Maui, Maui’s mini tattoo version of himself that comes alive in the movie. The character was 2D animated in the movie and in one of the chapters you are able to find Mini Maui on the top right of each page. When you flip through the pages quickly you are able to see him come to life just as he does in the movie. It’s not something that adds to the quality of the book, but it’s definitely a fun addition that they needn’t have included (but I’m very glad they did).

The Art of Moana is a near perfect art book. Going through this book really gave me the feeling I had the opportunity to experience the making of this movie, which is not always the case with all of these art books. The book features a wide variety of beautiful art and I loved seeing all the early designs and stuff that didn’t make it into the movie. That’s why I enjoy reading these books so much and that’s why I was so glad this book really put a lot of emphasis on the process and not so much the final product, which we all already got to see on the big screen. Whatever you thought of Moana, as a Disney or animation fan you’ll definitely get a kick out of this book and discovering all about how Moana was made as it’s one of the better art books out there.

Purchase: The Art of Moana

Amazon: US | UK
Book Depository: Worldwide

A special thanks to Chronicle Books, who provided a review copy of The Art of Moana.

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Max

Max is an animation addict from The Netherlands. His favorite animated movies are Beauty and the Beast and Ratatouille, and he is a big fan of everything Disney, Pixar or DreamWorks related. He loves reading and collecting art books and one day he hopes to work for a major animation studio. Follow his art blog: