Ah the familiar castle and that feeling of family anticipation that can only generated by a Disney film. As a family we headed off into the beautiful waves with Moana and spent an enjoyable afternoon with this latest animation which felt simultaneously old and new.
Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) is a chieftains daughter (not a princess) with a desire to explore. While her over cautious father tries to keep her safe, her grandmother encourages her to tap into her desire for adventure. When her island begins to perish, Moana is drawn into a quest to find and enlist the help of demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) to restore the island and save her people.
There is a lot about Moana that is classic Disney, great animation, entertaining characters, toe tapping ear worms as songs. At the same time, however, there is a freshness to it.
Moana is feisty, strong willed and determined, indeed not since Merida in Pixar's Brave has such a strong willed young woman been so well drawn (in every way). Like Merida, romantic relationships are not in the mind of our heroine and in a refreshing twist a love interest never appears. Moana even has a wonderful moment of self awareness with a line delivered by Maui about Moana being a princess due to her animal sidekick. Some old tropes have clearly been intentionally side stepped. The film does also provide a lot of familiarity, alike so many Disney films this has a journey narrative, an element of self discovery and overly protective parents to name a few.
It must be said though that it all meshes together well to entertain, amuse and excite in equal measure.
Dwayne Johnson was the standout for me as Maui, akin to the genie in Aladdin with a good range of laughs, arguably the stand out song (seriously is there nothing the man can't do!) of the film and will probably be the most fondly remembered character in years to come. His reluctance to partner up with Moana on this quest, as they bicker like family, amidst the chaos is great stuff and really tickled the entire cinema audience.
In terms of Disney classics I found a lot of parallels with the Lion King throughout the film. There is the journey of discovery narrative as Moana wrestles with her regal obligations, a 'Mufasa moment' helping our heroine to renew her determination and desire, and perhaps more loosely due to some of the creatures Moana encounters as she navigates nature on her quest.
It should also be noted that there are moments of real peril in Moana and so a PG (Parental Guidance) certificate has been granted by the BBFC here in the UK. The PG certificate is due to what is referred to as 'mild peril' and its important to take into consideration if your kids are sensitive to these moments. There are definitely a few scary moments however they are fleeting and in no way severe.
It's always great to have a Disney film to enjoy with the family and, given the amount of times I've heard my daughters hum some of the songs in the days following our cinema trip, it won't be long until we are settling down to watch Moana again.