Provided by Disney
Moana “Knows The Way”
A triumph for Disney! Moana was a refreshingly progressive coming of age story about a young Polynesian girl hailing from the island of Motunui. Next in line for the chief but fascinated with open sea adventure, Moana Waialiki feels pulled between her responsibilities and her true self. Through her wise and somewhat crazy grandmother, Tala, she learns about a legend of a demi-god called Maui who stole the heart of the mother island, Te Fiti, upending nature. With her island and family in danger, Moana risks it all to travel across the sea to find Maui, restore the heart to its rightful place and save the world.
Moana was a groundbreaking film, critically acclaimed for its cultural authenticity. John Musker and Ron Clements, the writer-directors of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, put together a board of consultants they called the Oceanic Trust. The Trust was made up of anthropologists, cultural practitioners, historians, linguists, and choreographers from islands including Samoa, Tahiti, Mo’orea and Figi. With their influence, the film and it’s characters went through many drafts to ensure their accuracy and sensitivity to Polynesian culture. One such dramatic change was the hair of Maui. Originally bald, the Trust advised a full mane because “The mana is in the hair, the power of the demi-god,” says Hinano Murphy, Tahitian cultural practitioner.
In addition to strides in cultural sensitivity, Moana has also been revolutionary on the front of progressive female representation. Moana’s realistic build has been praised by many as a revolutionary and necessary advancement for the body positivity movement. “ We wanted this action adventure heroine. We did want her to feel like she had legs that could really swim and scale a tree and jump off a cliff. She could really believably carry all that stuff, and it wouldn’t look like she’d be overpowered by her own environment, but that she could physically take charge and command a boat across the ocean. That she wouldn’t be knocked over in those mighty oceanic breezes,” says Musker.
Moana is the first Disney princess without a love interest. She is instead propelled by a deep connection to her family and a protective instinct for her people. This is a big step for Disney who is notorious for perpetuating harmful female stereotypes. It’s very important to make sure positive messages are relayed to the young impressionable audiences that fall in love with these movies. Moana’s strong character, kick butt attitude, and connection to her culture are an inspiration for the generation of girls who will grow up with this princess. “Disney princesses often represent cultural anxieties and attitudes of their time,” says Tom Brooks, BBC Journalist. Hopefully, this movie will set a trend of respect, diversity and female empowerment in our current political climate that threatens diversity . One thing is for sure; Moana is an empowered princess fit for modern little girls.