In Theatres: 
Nov 23, 2016
Running Time: 
103 minutes
Moana, the latest addition to the Disney Empire of Princesses has been in development for nearly half a decade and it shows. The story is well done, CGI animation and 3D are used with great affect, the music is thoughtful and polished. Moana is a well cultivated film and joyously inclusive with its use of actors and musicians with Polynesian heritage. 
Where it seems that every new animated release displays extraordinary visuals that make the imagined look more real than actual life, Moana exceeds its predecessors in leaps and bounds. Not having had a protagonist of color since 2009 (The Princess Frog, which was 2D & kept Tiana as a frog for the majority of the film *cough*imnotbitter*cough*) it is so refreshing to experience one of the first scenes featuring a bunch of giggling, brown babies with depth to their skin color and attention paid to tone, eye color, and hair texture.  These characters have wide noses, full lips, and strong stature making their look distinct as opposed to a copy of well known white characters dipped in melanin. 
You will easily find your attention captured by the rustling of palm trees, fringes on Moana’s attire, the bubbling waves in the tide or even the way the characters breathe differently in various moments of emotion. However, the true star of the animator’s work is the night sky. The stars glitter, pulse and glow in their own time, giving depth to an unfathomably dark night. The reflection of the stars in the water is more than a simple mirror image. The water expands the visual of the starry night making and the 3D makes it feel all encompassing. The use of 3D in Moana is quite sophisticated, giving environments depth, rather than sparse use for jump scares or explosions.  If you have the chance to see this film in 3D, take it. 
Moana (portrayed by 14 yr old Auli'i Cravalho) is quite possibly the best Disney Princess yet. She’s full of spirit, like many before, and while her journey does involve the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), it does not revolve around him nor any kind romantic interest.  Being the daughter of the chief and set to inherit the role, MOana is raised as a leader. She accepts her duty, but cannot quell the desire to sail past the reef that surrounds the island. She is motivated to save her people from destruction and to discover who she is by discovering who her ancestors were.  Familial love is the star here, with a particularly beautiful and moving relationship between Moana and her grandmother Tala (Rachel House). 
The music in Moana is masterful. However, with the Emmy, Tony, Grammy, Pulitzer Prize winning Lin-Manuel Miranda co-writing seven original songs for the soundtrack, it is no surprise. Thanks to Opetaia Foa'i, a song writer from the contemporary Pacific musical group Te Vaka, (a group of eleven musicians and dancers from Tokelau, Tuvalu, Samoa, Cook Islands, and New Zealand) the music has wonderful modern feel while staying true to its roots.  Just like the use of 3D, the music itself adds and has layered depths.
Moana has been highly anticipated by Disney fans and moviegoers that have been seeking wider representation.  It was made for anyone open to hearing more than the a single story. The creators of this film took their time to craft a product that could please all age groups and connect to various human experiences. The meticulous attention to detail shows in every respect and cumulates into fantastic payoff.
Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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