Most people had assumed that "Moana" would be the best-animated movie of 2016. The idea of a Disney Animation Studios film being set in the Polynesians seemed different for the studio, but also exciting. Being on a long distance airplane ride, I decided to give the film a watch. While it was certainly not the absolute best of 2016 ("Finding Dory" or "Zootopia" would have that distinction), "Moana" is still a great movie. Its great story, some fun characters, the most gorgeous animation, and some catchy songs make it another great movie from Disney Animation Studios, the studio that showed audiences that they can make great movies once again.
The film begins with the tale being told of how the heart of God, Te Fiti, being stolen by the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) as a gift for humanity. However, he is attacked by the lava demon Te Kā and disappears with the heart and Maui's powerful fishhook lost to the ocean. We then meet Moana (Auli'i Cravalho), the daughter of the chief of the island Motunui. The island is slowly dying due to Te Kā's evil being spread with the heart of Te Fiti gone. However, the ocean gives Moana the heart and she is chosen to go find Maui and restore the heart of Te Fiti and save the world. Accompanied by her pet rooster Heihei (played by Disney's apparent "good luck charm" Alan Tudyk), she comes across Maui, some coconuts pirates, a crab (Jemaine Clement) obsessed with everything shiny, and the lava demon in one exciting journey.
The one thing that "Moana" has over "Zootopia" is animation. The animation in this film is some of the best animations that I have seen from Disney in years. When it needs to be colorful, it's colorful. When it needs to be dark, it's dark. I also really like the 2D animation of Maui's tattoos animated by animation legend Eric Goldberg (who also animated the Genie in "Aladdin"). I would describe the 2D animation if artwork from Hawaii was crossed with Keith Haring's art. The story is also really is well done. It's adventurous and exciting and keeps you on the edge of your seat as a good movie should. I also really like the performances, particularly Cravalho's. She is a phenomenal actress and singer and for a debut film, that's quite an accomplishment. She performs Moana like how a sixteen-year-old girl should (unlike Rihanna's awful performance in "Home"). Dwane Johnson is also fun and funny as Maui, and I also thought his singing was pretty good. Speaking of singing, I should probably talk about the songs. Written by Lin Manuel Miranda, who took the world by storm with "Hamilton", the songs are some of Disney's best in history, even better than "Frozen". They're catchy and memorable and they also tie into the story as a good musical should. I think my personal favorite is the Oscar-nominated "How Far I'll Go" which also demonstrated Cravalho's beautiful voice. I think my only big problem with the movie was the fact that they were working in the fact that they wouldn't do specific cliches you see in Disney movies too many times. Now, I like it when a movie makes fun of a cliche, but "Moana" probably did this like over ten times or something. But, I still thought some of them were pretty funny nonetheless.
"Moana" is once again another great animated movie from Disney. It has everything that a great Disney animated musical should with some great animation, great songs, great stories, and great characters. It may not be as good as "Zootopia", but it's still really really good. It's a straight-up wonderful movie. I really enjoyed it. All I can say to Disney is "thank you".