Moana is a return to the classic Disney formula, the clichés and characters ripped from a number of other animated films. However, the pure beauty and skill of the production rises the old story into new heights.
Following from the success of Zootropolis, Moana follows a more traditional narrative we know and love; the princess who wishes for something more and is whisked on a supernatural adventure. We know this story so well yet Moana seems fresh and thrilling as if the plot was innovative. Perhaps this is due to the Polynesian setting or the morally ambiguous Maui, played perfectly by Dwayne Johnson, but most likely it is it the simple magic of Disney – the wonder for both children and adults has reached its peak with the perfection of the classic formula. For once, the clichés make the film more enjoyable. The quality of the animation helps too: it’s clear they have reached the pinnacle of blending realistic textures with stylised designs, creating an aesthetic beauty that few other companies can match – Disney have mastered water to the point it looks better animated than in real life! Even the music has been perfected here, the annoying catchiness of Frozen’s tunes replaced by memorable but effective songs that fit the culture and setting of our adventure. A childlike warmth was awakened in me and many other adult members of the audience as the film brought the emotional highs of the Disney renaissance without the modern subversion of the classic tropes. While Moana sometimes threatens this with pop culture references, the film thankfully keeps to mostly traditional values and morals; a step above many children’s animated films released today.
Moana is good, old fashioned Disney magic; the traditional narrative and morals updated with stellar animation and an awareness that’s effective but never overpowering enough to threaten the integrity of the Disney formula.