Overview: A chieftain’s daughter ventures beyond her island’s safe waters, relying on her inner spirit and bloodline of wayfinding to save her people. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; 2016; Rated PG; 113 minutes.

The Much Anticipated Brown Princess: Seven years have past since someone occupied the throne that Tiana. Rapunzel, Merida, Anna, and Elsa occupied as Disney princesses. Although each of these past princesses delivered heartwarming stories of personal growth, love, and family, they left more to be desired for girls, women, and people of color. Finally, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) isn’t confined to the limited genetic influence of the traditional Disney princess reproductive line. Moana exhibits a level of maturity incomparable to a majority of previous princesses by accepting her lineage as the next leader of her people and showcasing her resourcefulness with real issues, resulting in Disney’s closest portrayal to a real-life princess. Cravalho’s proximity to Moana’s age adds another dimension of realism. Bringing to life both the speaking and singing parts, Cravalho infuses an unteachable spirit as she simultaneously embarks on her own journey with Moana. Undoubtedly, Cravalho set the higher standard for up and coming actors in animation. Moana doesn’t provide the optimal solution for lackluster representation in the princess lineup. With Moana, Disney continues build on its storytelling spectrum by diversifying.

Find the Way: Often, critics target seemingly weak historical and cultural accuracy with the same fervor of criticism geared at challenging the science involved in science fiction movies. Moana borrows from numerous Polynesian legends, leaving the true origins unidentifiable and subject to fan theories. By not limiting itself to one specific people, Moana avoids spoonfeeding a lesson on Tongans or Samoans or any other peoples of Oceania, while clearly distancing itself from Hawaiian mythology. True to Disney-fashion with a young, woman protagonist and an animal side-kick, musical numbers scatter the film. The song, We Know They Way, featured in the trailer, contains the following lyrics:

Tatou o tagata folau e vala’auina
E le atua o le sami tele e o mai
Ia ava’e le lu’itau e lelei
Tapenapena

The juxtaposition of English lyrics and imagery grant another means of understanding. However, the unfamiliarity sparks intrigue. The result: cultivated curiosity. Moana contributes to expanding and offering crucial representation and opportunities to minorities. By creating and sharing stories with people of color at its center, Disney indirectly curates a proactive voice against xenophobia.

Overall: Moana balances the people of Motunui’s unfathomable future with overwhelming heart, extending beyond the farthest depths of the Realms of Monsters. The songs became instant ballads for self-encouragement and self-discovery. From the opening title sequence to Alessia Cara’s pop rendition of “How Far I’ll Go” in the closing credits, Moana shines brilliantly as a captivating pearl, further complimenting Disney’s treasure of stories.

Grade: A

Featured Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures