Genre: Animation | Disney
Directed by: Ron Clements and John Musker
Starring: Auli’i Carvalho and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
Written by: Taika Waititi
To those who know me well, you will already know that my all-time favourite New Zealand filmmaker is Taika Waititi. He is the talented, Oscar-nominated director and screenwriter who brought us such films as Two Cars, One Night (2004), Boy (2010), What We Do in the Shadows (2014), and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016). But, most admirably, he is the writer behind the soon-to-be-released film Moana, which will see the much-anticipated introduction of the newest Disney princess.
Disney have just released the stunning first teaser trailer for the upcoming animated feature, which stars the first Polynesian, sea-voyaging princess. In the celebrated studio’s computer-animated film, we will meet the spirited 16-year-old Moana; this young girl departs on a daring mission to fulfil her ancestors’ unfinished quest of discovering a new land to save her people. She is accompanied on her voyage by her pet pig Pua and Maui the demigod (voiced by the ever-recognisable Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson). Their journey takes them across the ocean in an action-packed voyage of self-discovery.
Audience-goers will be given a taste of Moana’s rich history with the Pacific Ocean and how it links to the cultural heritage of the Polynesian people. As Polynesians are credited with being the first great navigators of the world, they feel immense pride in the ocean and it is THIS pride that will be celebrated in the film.
Maui is also a legendary figure in many Polynesian cultures and, in this film, he demonstrates his strength and prowess in being able to use his “mighty, magical fishhook” to slow down the Sun and pull islands up from the ocean floor.
Although the details surrounding the upcoming release of this film are limited, discussion has been sparked worldwide; in particular, pertaining to the portrayal of the god Maui. In Polynesian mythology, Maui is a heroic figure who created the Pacific Islands by fishing them out of the sea. It is believed by some people that his physical portrayal in this film does not reflect his heroic endeavours within the Polynesian creation myths. It is thought that his portrayal perpetuates the typical stereotyping of Polynesian men as being overweight; however, as obesity is a new phenomenon that came about as a result of first world food being fed to indigenous communities, this is not a typically Polynesian notion.
Despite this ongoing discussion, many people (myself included) believe that Disney have portrayed Maui in a way that reflects his power and strength, and that his physique is not unusual among Polynesian men.
At the end of the day, what should really be celebrated is the historic introduction of a Polynesian princess to the Disney line-up. Moana is a Disney princess for the new generation. She is the first Polynesian royal to become a Disney princess, and represents a huge step forward in film-making but introducing another woman of colour to a titular role in a Disney film. This independent and brave character will be set to inspire a whole new generation of young girls.
As always, Taika Waititi, your creation has moved me. Moana will be sailing into cinemas later this year, and I cannot wait to see it. I hope you will all be there too.
That’s all for this week’s #FilmChatFriday