THE latest animated film from Disney is Moana, a tale from ancient Polynesia that escapes the typical Disney Princess tropes.

The story follows the titular Moana, daughter of the chief of an island utopia who is inexplicably called to the ocean, much to her father’s dismay.

As it turns out, Moana’s destiny lies beyond the reef surrounding her island homeland.

The film continues the tradition of terrific Disney animation featuring princesses, magic and adventure. With Moana, there is no Prince Charming, however, focusing instead on the strong-willed, powerful character of Moana, who is sure to become a roll model much like Brave’s Merida.

Four elements came together very nicely with Moana: the amazing visuals, the terrific cast, the music and Dwayne Johnson’s endless supply of charisma.

The film pushes the boundaries of animation technology, utilizing the gorgeous blues and greens of the pacific ocean as characters themselves. The cast, featuring Auli’i Cravalho as Moana, was just great.

Sometimes animated films simply rely on big-name celebrities; here, the voice actors showcased some great talent, breathing life to the animated characters.

Some of the film’s songs are courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is currently experiencing insane amounts of success with his smash hit Broadway musical Hamilton.

And of course there’s The Rock.

It seems as though each project Dwayne Johnson is a part of is instantly elevated due to his involvement. Here, we get to hear his singing abilities. His trademark charisma also suits his character Maui perfectly.

Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Moana was one of the best animated features I’ve seen. I enjoyed Zootopia and Pixar’s Inside Out much more.

Moana was just a solid animated children’s movie. It featured some catchy tunes, and a great message, but it didn’t completely blow me away.

I personally feel that this year’s Kubo and the Two Strings was the stand-out animated film of the year.

That all being said, Disney continually knocks it out of the park with their animated films.

Remember, Moana, like Zootopia, Frozen, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Bolt and Big Hero Six, do not feature the involvement of Pixar in any way.

It is clear though that these fully-Disney productions are of a near-identical quality to the Pixar fare that have so consistently dominated the animation world.

I still give the edge to the Pixar films when it comes to absolute creativity, storytelling and technological advancements, however Disney itself always has a certain magical quality to their films, and Moana is no exception.

Ryan Mackett is an artist and film enthusiast who resides in Thunder Bay. Email questions or comments to him at

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