This week, Disney Animation Studios announced some details about their latest CG-animation project, a full-length feature films that will be titled Moana. I’m very excited for this film, in part because I lived in Hawaii as a young girl and spent some time on Guam—my parents lived on Guam while I was in college. I was exposed to Polynesian culture and learned about such legends as Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, and her rival, the goddess Poli’ahu of the snow.
GeekMom Jules and I did some dishing on Twitter not long after the first concept art was released in December 2013, and we discussed our hopes that the heroine Moana (pronounced “moe-ah-na”) will pay tribute to South Pacific roots with respect and elegance. We saw some of this in the Lilo and Stitch films (such as learning about ‘ohana), but that series was more comedic, lacking the “princess” element that Disney’s more successful films have possessed. I see Moana leaning more towards the “Princesses” even though, so far, the press releases haven’t turned her into a daughter or spouse of royalty in any way… which is okay by me.
According to the press release, Moana will take part in the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, where the heroine, Moana, will embark on the journey of her life in search of a fabled island. On the way, she will meet up with her hero, Māui, a Hawaiian mythological demigod who Disney plans to bring to life as Moana’s traveling companion.
I predict that Moana will be another skillful juxtaposition of classic Disney storytelling and beautiful animation art while paying respect to some of the great Polynesian legends and folklore. I saw a similar credence paid in The Princess and the Frog, in which the firefly Ray is pining for his love, Evangeline, who—in the movie—lives as a star in the heavens. This character pays respect to a Cajun legend of the same name, immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie. I read this poem not long after moving to Louisiana in the mid-1990s, and it gave quite a bit of insight to the Cajuns of Louisiana, whose people had come from Nova Scotia in the mid-1700s after the Great Expulsion.
Moana is planned for release in late 2016.