Allow yourself to be utterly transported to the Pacific Islands, depicted here in all their ocean-lapping, coconut-crammed, sun-drenched glory. Despite murmurings of cultural appropriation before its release, it’s clear Disney has done its homework and made a serious effort in regards to both cultural sensitivity and its treatment of women – it’s even made a decent stab at depicting real body shapes.
Led by a mixed race cast of largely Polynesian descent, the story follows a plucky young daughter of a chief – ‘not a princess’, we’re repeatedly told – on a mission to find the shape-shifting demi-god Maui and retrieve the creation stone he stole from Te Fiti, a Mother Earth figure, to save her island of Motunui.
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Lin-Manuel Miranda, the maestro behind Broadway phenomenon Hamilton, has created a soundtrack interwoven with Pacific harmony and drumming that’s a real grower. “How Far I’ll Go” is this year’s coming-of-age “Let it Go”, and Flight of the Conchords’ Jermaine Clements steals the show as a jewell-encrusted crab belting Bowie-esque showstopper “Shiny”.
And the laughs keep coming, from Moana’s sidekick, an indestructible yet brainless chicken, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s beefcake Maui, who delivers a stream of fourth wall-breakers for the grown ups.
In Moana, Disney has perfected what it started with Frozen; it’s managed to retain all that we loved – catchy show songs, innovative animation and family-friendly laughs – with a new empowering message and a narrative that feels like a celebration of another culture’s mythology, rather than a mining of it.