Dubbed the "ultimate anti-princess movie" by Time Magazine, the kids and I have been waiting for what feels like forever for Disney's Moana to hit theaters. Well, our wait is finally over because Moana is finally here! Now usually have a rule about not having family movie nights (outside of the house) on school nights. However when we got invited to attend an early screening right here in Charlotte, I knew that I couldn't pass this opportunity up.
Why all of the hype and excitement?
Diversity matters. No this is NOT up for debate. While Moana is Polynesian, she's still a brown girl/girl of color. As a multiracial woman and mom of color raising children of color, I will ALWAYS be here for supporting inspiring movies and stories about main characters of color. This movie is not only a win for Polynesians but brown people everywhere! The first thing Moo pointed out about Moana when she saw the first colored illustrations of Moana, was that Moana had light skin like her and curly/wavy hair.
Our children need to see the diversity of our world represented in movies, television shows, books and other forms of media. Because again, diversity matters. Also, this type of diversity opens up the door for us to talk about, research and experience different cultures. And I'm firmer believer that more we open ourselves and our families up to those who are different from us, the better we can fight ignorance when it comes race and ethnicity.
Not a damsel in distress + life lessons
While Moana is considered a "Disney Princess" Moana herself sets the record straight. She and Maui, a demigod, are sailing across the open sea when he makes the mistake of referring to her as princess in a way that hints that she's a damsel in distress. "I'm not a princess," she fires back. While there's nothing wrong with being a princess, I felt like this scene was so powerful young girls. Watching it I wanted scream "You go girl. Let him know!"
She's daughter of Chief Tui and future chieftess of Motonui. She's strong, brave, smart, head strong and determined. She is NOT a damsel in distress. She does NOT need Prince Charming to sail up on his shiny white boat to save her. In fact, it's just the opposite. Moana actually the one who tries to do the saving as she heads out beyond the reef to search for Maui to help save her people and their island.
And as much as I love a great romance, I was so glad that there were no romantic elements in this movie as far as the main characters were considered. For a while I was concerned that they were going to have her ending up in love with the demigod. This is NOT a spoiler as Disney and the stars of the movie have already revealed and made it clear that Moana is not the typical princess movie and there will be no smooching going on.
Secondly, I appreciated that Moana was so much more than a story of a 16-year old trying to save her people. It was about teaching us how to go beyond the reef. Casting aside our fear and safety nets to go outside of our comfort zones. This was story about the importance of passing down the history our ancestors to our children and encouraging them to do the same with their children.
Maui taught us that even the strongest warrior can be crippled fear/doubt. However, it's up to us to defeat that fear or that doubt so that we can rise up to our full potential. Also, Maui taught us that it's important to remain humble and not sacrifice our integrity trying to be people pleasers.
Culturally stimulating and rich
I'm going to be honest and admit that Moana was everything that I had hoped Princess Tiana would be. Don't get me wrong, The Princess and the Frog will always be in my Top 3 when it comes to Disney Princess movies. But . . . I really wished Disney had made Tiana a true African princess, left Prince Naveen where he was at and delved more into the richness and uniqueness of African cultures.
Like mentioned earlier diversity matters, but so representation. While we're not Polynesian, we did feel immersed in the Polynesian culture. From the music, to the dancing and mythology, everything felt so rich and authentic. We truly loved getting an inside look at what their culture looks like. It's so much more than hula dancers and floral necklaces.
Just learning that Maui the island was named after Maui the demigod was educational for me. Since watching the movie, I've actually been googling Polynesian culture and mythology to learn more. At the end of the day seeing Moana gives me hope that Disney will go to the drawing board in future give us another African princess movie that will really delve into the richness of African cultures.
Dewayne Johnson aka The Rock is like a Disney pro by now. Prior to this movie, he's worked with Disney twice - The Game Plan and Race to Witch Mountain. Couple that with that fact that he's Polynesian and was born and raised in Hawaii, he was the perfect choice and fit for Maui. And when I say you guys are going to be pleasantly surprised by his singing chops, I mean it. Like he's been holding out on us.
We knew he had acting chops, but who knew he had such jazzy and smooth baritone?! I would love to see him do another animated film with singing or even take a stab at Broadway.
Did you guys know that Auli'i Cravalho, also Polynesian, was 14 years old when she started recording the vocals for her role as Moana?! She turned 16 today! Happy Birthday Auli'i! She truly nailed Moana. I've heard so many seasoned adult actors talk about how much harder it is to narrate an animated movie than it is to do a live action movie.
Why? Well, because in a live action movie, there's a set, other actors, costumes, makeup and the whole shabang to help them get into their role. When you're narrating or voicing over animation it's often times just the actor in a box watching the characters on the screen. There are no props, wardrobe or set to help your mind slip into character easily. I truly admire Auli'i for being able to master this at the age of 14. I mean she delivers her lines like a pro and her singing voice is amazing.
Overall Moana was and is an amazing movie. We laughed, we (mainly I) cried. The kids were mesmerized from the start to the finish. We all left feeling inspired, motivated, empowered and most of all proud. Disney knocked it out of the park with this. Moana hits theaters on November 23rd and we encourage you purchase tickets for your family to see it.