Amid laughter and tears, Moana paints a beautiful portrait of the South Pacific culture.

 

Moana promises fun, laughter and adventure and it delivers on every count. But the greatest part of this animated film lies in how it brings to life the early Polynesian culture and its glorious seafaring traditions.

Moana (left) and Maui (right) go on an adventure to restore a stone that Maui took from an island many years ago.

Moana (left) and Maui (right) go on an adventure to restore a stone that Maui took from an island many years ago. Photo courtesy of: Walt Disney Studios

Set on a sunny Pacific island, the film centers on Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho), the tribal chief’s curious and courageous daughter’s quest to save her people from failing crops and dwindling fish stocks. To do that, she has to convince Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), a boisterous demigod with Herculean strength and shape-shifting power to sail across the treacherous ocean with her.

Based on Polynesian mythology, this story is the product of much research and labor, said Walt Disney Animation Studios’ visual development artist Griselda Sastrawinata at the Singapore press conference.

“Disney did a great deal of research. We spoke to archeologists, fishermen, island elders, dancers and more,” said the Jakarta-born artist. “We just really wanted to involve ourselves in this so we respected the culture.”

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80% of the movie comprises of water and it took an entire team of technologist to make it look almost identical to the real thing. Photo courtesy of: Walt Disney Studios

Also at the press conference was Auli’i Cravalho, the Hawaii-born teen actress who voiced Moana.

“Being of Polynesian decent myself, I am so proud of this film,” said the fresh-faced beauty. “We may be a minority but this culture is real. Wave finding and navigating by the stars was something my ancestors really did. There are no words to describe how proud I am of this film.”

The movie did impress at every turn, from the gorgeous graphics to the enthralling and uplifting scores.

It’s surreal to see how the sea parted before little Moana as it calls out to its chosen wave finder. It’s easy to relive our childlike wonder as we watch little Moana’s playful interactions with the stolen “heart” of Te Fiti, the life-giving goddess.

The movie is seeped in Polynesian culture and folklore. Photo courtesy of: Walt Disney Studios

The movie is seeped in Polynesian culture and folklore. Photo courtesy of: Walt Disney Studios

Another highlight is the film’s soundtrack, written mainly by Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda, the actor-composer best known for his hit bio-musical Hamilton. Infused with Pacific languages and an ethnic touch, the music is heartfelt, stirring and uplifting. We’ll just wait and see if “I am Moana” will become another smash hit like Frozen’s “Let it Go”.

“It’s going to be a movie that will make you laugh, cry and really think,” said Osnat Shurer, the producer of Moana. If this sounds promising to you, join the voyage.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Release date: 24 November 2016

Runtime: 113 minutes

Language: English

Censorship rating: PG

Genre: Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy

Director: Ron Clements

Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Nicole Scherzinger and Rachel House