Disney’s new film in Moana celebrates diversity through a comical lens. The animation does some tweaking of its own, in ways big and small. Moana and her eventual traveling companion, Maui, are on a relatively standard-issue hero’s journey, with periods of reflection and character-building alternating with exciting obstacles, but the familiarity is diminished by the artistry of those obstacles.
Liquid Soul Agency hosted a special screening of the film on Monday November 21, 2016. In attendance, Cynthia Bailey of The Bailey Agency and Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta. Special screening guests included Kim Fields (Dancing With The Stars), Chaka Zulu (DTP Records), Lisa Nicole Cloud (Bravo TV’s Married To Medicine), Headkrack (Dish Nation/The Rickey Smiley Morning Show), Mushiya Tshikuka (WE TV’s Cutting It In The ATL), Martin Luther King III (Human Right Advocate/Activist), Erica Dixon (VH1’s Love & Hip Hop Atlanta), Kawan Prather (Dungeon Family) and more.
Disney cartoons heroines like Moana are instantly eligible to be inducted into the marketing network of Disney Princesses (at least if their movies are successful), regardless of their actual in-movie lineage. It’s an early sign that Moana, from veteran Little Mermaid directors John Musker and Ron Clements, is self-conscious of its status as the next big Disney Princess movie.
“If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess,” snarks the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson)
The film features a diverse cast of villians, side kicks, and more. From a gang of diminutive pirates who look like Mad Max villains in miniature to the gigantic creatures Moana and Maui encounter in a realm of monsters to the shimmering sea itself (which has a mystical bond with Moana), the movie presents eyeful after eyeful in gloriously popping colors. It also dabbles in some more 2-D-looking animation, which for one running gag, involves the rarely used tattoo reaction shot.
For the most part, though, the movie feels more heartfelt than calculated, no small feat after decades of princesses, journeys, and “I want” songs. Compared to other animation studios, Disney attracts an unusual amount of attention for its representation, optics, subtext, and so on. It makes sense; relatively few films are assured of multi-generation circulation the way a hit Disney movie is. In the end, Moanadeserves its pre-built legacy of royalty.e