A List of Things I Liked About “Moana”

This is simply a list of things I enjoyed about the movie Moana.

  • The soundtrack, obviously.
  • Moana is raised in a culture where her birthright is to lead, regardless of her gender. In fact, her gender never enters into it. This is in contrast to previous Disney films like Aladdin, where the female heir Jasmine must choose a prince to marry; and Mulan, where Mulan dresses as a boy to fulfill her father’s military obligation, since she would not be allowed to as a girl. Moana is expected to lead the people of her village; she also just happens to be a girl. I liked this because, while my mother grew up in the Jasmine mindset (have to marry to change my circumstance) and I grew up in the Mulan mindset (actively battling gender stereotypes), I want my nine-year-old niece to have the Moana mindset.
  • Moana doesn’t struggle because of her gender, but she does have struggles one can relate to. She questions why she would be ‘chosen’ and at one point in the movie she has to stop and address her self-doubt. Impostor syndrome writ large on the big screen.
  • Moana’s grandmother is a key figure in her upbringing, and also an important person to her community. She refers to herself as “the village crazy lady,” but she obviously has an important role involving childcare and oral tradition. I really liked how she taught Moana to be think about thinking and feeling, instead of supplying her with ready-made solutions to her problems. Gramma Tala is one of my favorite Disney characters ever, hands down.
  • I have a not-so-secret, not-so-little crush on Dwayne Johnson. He is a gleeful adult man with many muscles and good looks, and animators somehow translated those things into an animated movie character. He even sang his own song!
  • Speaking of Maui (the character played by Dwayne Johnson), what an interesting character. He used his superhuman powers for such human reasons. There was no true villain of the piece; the conflict was created when a well-intended action by Maui went completely awry, and he had to be persuaded and helped to fix it. And yet, he’s a likable guy, he just gets things wrong sometimes. Way wrong sometimes. But his biggest mistakes don’t define him — he’s more than those things.
  • Back to Moana, who at one point sings, “I’m everything I’ve learned and more.” She’s really fantastically acted by Auli’i Cravalho, who I don’t know as well as I know Dwayne Johnson. But I’ll be keeping an eye out for her in other projects.
  • Moana’s parents. They’re present (not dead, as they often are in fairy tales and Disney movies). And while they don’t see eye to eye with Moana on key things, that conflict does not drive the story.
  • There are things about the story line that could affect an audience’s suspension of disbelief. Instead of singing and dancing around them, the characters discuss these issues. And even if they don’t come to a verbalized conclusion, it was enough for me to see it acknowledged.
  • It was like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker The Movie. Gorgeous to behold.
  • Alan Tudyk plays a chicken.

Hey hey, Heihei.

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