The charming “Moana” is about an island girl who goes on a magical mission. (Courtesy Disney Animation Studios)

The charming “Moana” is about an island girl who goes on a magical mission. (Courtesy Disney Animation Studios)

Moana an appealing new kind of Disney princess

It looks like Disney will have another success, perhaps even one of “Frozen” dimensions, with “Moana,” an animated movie that does just about everything satisfyingly right.

Opening today, “Moana” is another “princess” movie.

The title character is the daughter of the chief on a secluded, self-sustained Polynesian island. Moana’s people have lived there for generations without venturing past the reef, which is forbidden.

Moana (voiced by honest-to-goodness Hawaiian-born teen Auli’i Cravalho) is set to take over as chief, but she can’t shake a feeling of wanderlust.

Suddenly, resources begin to dry up. Coconuts are rotting, and fish have disappeared.

Moana then learns she has a destiny. She must find the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), an initially self-centered, but exuberant fellow, adorned with moving tattoos, and convince him to return a stolen gemstone to an ancient goddess.

They’re joined by Moana’s intelligence-challenged chicken Heihei (squawks provided by Alan Tudyk). Along the way, they face obstacles like a giant, treasure-encrusted crab (voiced by Jemaine Clement).

Wonderful songs are co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda of the Broadway sensation “Hamilton.” Johnson sings a catchy number called “You’re Welcome” and Clement sings a villainous tune called “Shiny.”

But the showstoppers are Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” and the chorus-sung “We Know the Way.”

Expect children to be listening to all these songs repeatedly in coming months.

Co-directors and Disney princess veterans Ron Clements and John Musker (“The Little Mermaid” and “The Princess and the Frog”) deserve much of the credit for the film’s easy-breezy achievements in their first fully computer-generated movie (although they experimented with computer-generated backdrops in their underrated “Treasure Planet”.

The work here is beautiful, with an especially impressive, photorealistic use of water; the sea has its own personality.

Still, the confident spirit is what keeps things moving; “Moana” feels like the result of lessons learned from past Disney films, particularly with its forward thinking regarding culture and gender.

Moana is a strong, delightfully appealing female character, and one whose purpose is not to find a prince.

Interestingly, “Moana” doesn’t even have a culturally stereotypical villain; the antagonist is a force somewhat akin to climate change (though here it can be fought with magic rather than science).

“Moana” sails straight and true, effortlessly, and with a great deal of joy and delight. It’s perhaps not as clever or funny as this year’s earlier Disney offering, “Zootopia,” but it’s wonderful in its own island way.

REVIEW
Moana
Three and a half stars
Starring Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison (voices)
Written by Jared Bush, Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell
Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker
Rated PG
Running time 1 hour, 53 minutesAuli’i CravalhoDwayne JohnsonJohn MuskerMoanaMovies and TVRon Clements

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

(Robert Greene/Tribune News Service)
As tensions grow over vaccinations and politics, California lawmakers face threats from public

Anti-vaccine speakers hint at gun violence during routine budget hearing at state Capitol

Dr. Martin Luther King in Sam Pollard’s ‘MLK/FBI’. (Courtesy of IFC Films/TNS)
The superb documentary ‘MLK/FBI’ clearly connects the past to our troubling present

Justin Chang Los Angeles Times Among the many archival materials excerpted in… Continue reading

Toni Isabella, a counselor at Ohlhoff Recovery Programs, finds helpful assistance from service dog Barker Posey.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Toni Isabella: Helping people indoors and out recover from addiction’s dark side

Counselor supports holistic, progressive approach to healing

Most Read