I find more and more as I grow older that legacy means a lot to me. When we are gone, what do we leave behind? How are we remembered by the people we love the most? How are we remembered by the generations that never had a personal relationship with us? Disney’s Moana, while it is about a strong woman coming into herself as a person, it is also about her heritage.
After being chosen for a great task by the sea she finds out that what she thinks about her people is wrong. Being told to never leave her home she finds out from her grandmother that her people used to be a seafaring people. How could this legacy just be buried? And what is it about Moana that would bring this legacy back out in the open?
Moana, directed by Ron Clements and John Musker — the same directing team that gave us Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Aladdin — has the same style and tone as the animated features from my childhood. This style mixes amazing animation, story, and music that not only defines the movie but the generation at the time. The music itself, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’I, fits the story perfectly and supports the idea of legacy embedded in the story itself.
Moana is a beautifully animated film. It mixes 2D and 3D animation in a way that is believable and understandable. The main film itself is the new standard of 3D computer animation, and 2D is used when Maui’s tattoos are brought to life through conversation. The colors they use for the sea and the main villain are beautiful. The blues, greens, and reds pop and give the film an amazing pallet that, along with the music, sets a perfect tone.
While this film has a core of family legacy, and legacy of a whole people, it also has one of its own. The directors of Moana have their own legacy of putting out some of the best Disney animated feature films in the last 35 years. Dating back to 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective (remember that old classic?), and including The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, Moana adds to their legacy as being one of the best-animated director teams that Disney has worked with. And Moana continues Disney’s legacy of animated musicals that stretches all the way back to 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Moana’s family’s legacy is a large side story within this film, from her Grandmother’s legacy as “village crazy lady” who passes on the stories of the island to her father’s as Chief and protector of her people. Even with the legacy that Moana, herself, has to live up to, she forges her own path and ends up living up to not only the legacy of her father and her grandmother but of her people as a whole, too.
Moana might be an animated film that is bright and fantastical, but this does not mean it’s just for kids. A story that has monsters and demigods, it also deals with what legacy is and what it means to know who you are and come into what you are meant to be. Moana does eventually figure out what it means to be strong and independent, but it is not an easy journey for her. Dealing with the monsters and the demigods not only allows her to figure those things out but to forge her own legacy.
I enjoy this film probably more than I should. My daughter and I are constantly singing “You’re Welcome” and “Shiny” both songs come from Moana and it has a feel to it that takes me back to the animated films that I loved in my childhood. It’s these reasons that I not only recommend this film for a younger audience or the whole family but the wide spectrum of moviegoers that remembers what it’s like to sit down and watch a fun and engaging animated movie.