Moana (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
March 11, 2017 by Dennis Amith
“Moana” resonated with me, entertained me but also made me respect the work of Ron Clements and John Musker so much more. Especially for Disney for taking on an animation that involves Polynesian culture, hiring those who are of Polynesian descent but also listening to Pacific Islanders for feedback in regards to the how their culture is depicted. “Moana” is highly recommended!
Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.
YEAR OF FILM: 2016
DURATION: 107 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080P High Definition 2:39:1, 1080p High Definition, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
RATED: PG (For Peril, Some Scary Images and Brief Thematic Elements)
RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2017
Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker
Co-Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Screenplay by Jared Bush
Story by Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell
Producer: Osnat Shurer
Executive Producer: John Lasseter
Associate Producer: Nicole P. Hearon
Music by Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa’i, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Edited by Jeff Draheim
Casting by Jamie Sparer Roberts, Rachel Sutton
Production Design by Ian Gooding
Featuring the Voices of:
Auli’l Cravalho as Moana
Dwayne Johnson as Maui
Rachel House as Gramma Tala
Temuera Morrison as Chief Tui
Jemaine Clement as Tamatoa
Nicole Scherzinger as Sina
Alan Tudyk as Heihei
Louise Bush as Toddler Moana
Chris Jackson as Chief Tui
From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes MOANA, an epic adventure about a spirited teen who sets sail on a daring mission to save her people. Along the way, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once mighty demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and together they cross the ocean on a fun-filled, action-packed voyage. Bring home the movie full of heart, humor and oceans of bonus extras!
In November 2016, the 56th Walt Disney animated feature film “Moana” was released in theaters.
Earning $587.3 million at the box office, the film reunites directors Ron Clements and John Musker (both were co-directors for “Aladdin”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Treasure Planet” and “The Princess and the Frog”). The film also features co-direction by Don Hall and Chris Williams (both directed “Big Hero 6”) and features a screenplay by Jared Bush (“Zootopia”).
The film features the voices of Auli’i Cravalho (“Gone Fishing”), Dwayne Johnson (“Baywatch”, “San Andreas”, “Furious 7”), Rachel House (“Whale Rider”, “Eagle vs. Shark”), Temuera Morrison (“Star Wars” – Episodes II and III), Jemaine Clement (“Rio” films), singer Nicole Scherzinger and Alan Tudyk (“Rogue One”, “I, Robot”, “Frozen”, “Serenity”).
The Disney animated film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in March 2017.
The film begins with an introduction to demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), who was planning to give a small pounamu stone (which happens to be the mystical heart of the island goddess Te Fiti) to humanity as a gift.
Instead, Maui runs off with the stone and he is chased and attacked by the lava demon Te Ka. Maui ends up not just losing his magical fish hook in the ocean but also loses the pounamu stone.
A thousand years later, a young girl named Moana, the daughter and heir of the chief of the Polynesian island Motunui, is chosen by the ocean to receive the pounamu stone/Te Fiti’s heart. Something he does not feel is necessary as he feels the island provides the villagers everything they need.
But as Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) gets older, the villagers are scared as fish is becoming scarce and the vegetation of Motunui is dying. Moana wants to travel beyond the reef as she feels she can catch fish for the village but her father is against it. She learns from her mother that her father’s friend died out in sea and fears of Moana going out to the ocean.
Despite her father forbidding Moana to sail past the reef, her grandmother Tala (voiced by Rachel House) tells her that there is a secret cave behind the waterfall and also telling her that the villagers ancestors were once voyagers and traveled and discovered new islands across the world. But the ancestors stopped voyaging because the demigod MAui stole the heart of Te Fiti and this led to monsters appearing in the ocean. And now Te Ka’s darkness is spreading from island to island, slowly killing the islands.
Tala gives Moana the heart of Te Fiti. But not long after, Tala becomes ill and before she dies, she tells Moana to set sail. So, against her fathers wishes, Moana travels beyond the reef in search of the demigod, Maui.
What will she find beyond the reef?
So, far the Walt Disney Blu-ray disc animated (as well as theatrical) releases are among the best in picture and audio quality.
“Moana” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio) and Disney has released a lot of animated films that look wonderful in HD, but “Moana” is visually impressive from water effects (which look nearly realistic), lush green and vibrant vegetation, close-up details of Moana and Maui, especially their hair and also Maui’s tattoos and more.
“Moana” will no doubt pleasure the most demanding videophiles (well, unless they are demanding a 4K or 8K release). Overall picture quality is fantastic!
“Moana” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with an English 2.0 Descriptive audio track and a Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The film features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.
From its musical sequences and wonderful action, along with magnificent video, you also get magnificent lossless audio. From the waves crashing, Maui’s transformations to the wonderful crystal clear vocals. I absolutely loved this soundtrack and just to make things clear, videophiles are not the only ones who will love this Blu-ray, audiophiles will absolutely enjoy this lossless soundtrack on Blu-ray as well!
Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.
“Moana” comes with the following special features:
- Theatrical Short Film: Inner Workings – (6:26) Featuring an introduction by Leonardo Matsuda and producer Sean Lurie to “Inner Workings” and the animated short.
- Maui Mini-Movie: Gone Fishing – (2:29) Moana and Maui return in an animated short.
- Voice of the Islands – (31:13) A featurette about finding the location for “Moana” and the inspiration that came from the island and working with the locals from Tahiti who lent their voice to their characterization in the film.
- Things You Didn’t Know About – (3:52) The directors, cast and crew are given rapid-fire questions.
- Island Fashion – (5:13) A costume design featurette.
- The Elements Of… – (14:14) Creating characters featuring Maui and Mini Maui (tattoos that come to life on Maui’s body depicting his heroism).
- They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana – (12:36) The making of the music for “Moana” featuring Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
- Deleted Song: Warrior Face with Introduction by Songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda – (3:33) A glimpse of “Warrior Face”, a deleted song from the film with sketched animation.
- Fishing for Easter Eggs – (2:52) The cast talk about their characters and discuss easter eggs shown in the film.
- Deleted Scenes – (25:54) Seven deleted scenes with optional introductions with co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker.
- “How Far I’ll Go” – Music video performed by Alessia Cara
- “How Far I’ll Go Around the World” – (2:40) A featurette showcasing “How Far I’ll Go” performed by music artists for their respective countries.
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker.
“Moana” comes with a slipcover, a DVD version of the film and a Disney Digital HD code.
As a fan of works by Ron Clements and John Musker, it’s one thing to be in love with “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” but you also have to appreciate their approach to animation. And with the release of the CG animated film, “Monna”, I was very interested in seeing the duo take on this medium but also seeing their style of animation incorporating new animation technologies but also a storyline with humor, action and emotion.
One thing that I was impressed about “Moana” was how the directors and producers wanted to make this film right. From going to Tahiti and respecting local traditions and costumes, including music but also respecting the island and making sure nature plays a big part in the film.
As an Asian American with 33% Pacific Islander in my blood, one thing that has gotten to me is Hollywood not hiring people of ethnicity for major roles. With “Moana”, the directors and producers made sure that Polynesian talent were hired for the role.
You have the debut of Hawaiian actress/singer Auli’l Cravalho as Moana and Dwayne Johnson (Black Nova Scotia and Samoan) as Maui. But you also have Rachel House (Maori, indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand), Temuera Morrison (Maori), Jemaine Clement (Maori) and Nichole Scherzinger (Filipino/Native Hawaiian and Ukrainian).
Hiring talent to play characters who are of Polynesian descent may not seem like a big deal considering it’s a voice acting role, but for those of us who have watched Hollywood pass over people of a ethnicity over a well-known Caucasian talent to play an ethnic role is disheartening. And sure, while “Moana” is an animated film, the casting of these voice talents to play these characters is important and goes a long way.
I was impressed by the voice acting, the singing and the music of the film and the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i were fantastic.
Watching the film, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face because of the attention to detail. From the hair, the clothing, the tattoos but also the respect of the island. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker often have said in interviews how visiting the island and meeting with the people changed their lives and influenced them heavily in the making of this film. And that influence can be seen in “Moana”. I love seeing that!
As far as watching “Moana”, it’s simply amazing to see how far Walt Disney Animation Studios has come and how much technology when it comes to animation has evolved in the last 10 years.
It’s one thing to expect wonderful skin detail and detailed hair but water has always been a tricky thing to animate and so, seeing Walt Disney Animation Studios taking on a story that deals with a Pacific Islander story and capturing the island vibe, lush greenery and beautiful oceans, I couldn’t wait to see how far animation technology has evolved.
I was impressed and of course, watching it on Blu-ray, seeing the details and the vibrant colors in HD was amazing. The crystal clear lossless soundtrack was also impressive and there are a good number of special features included as well.
Overall, “Moana” resonated with me, entertained me but also made me respect the work of Ron Clements and John Musker so much more. Especially for Disney for taking on an animation that involves Polynesian culture, hiring those who are of Polynesian descent but also listening to Pacific Islanders for feedback in regards to the how their culture is depicted.
“Moana” is highly recommended!
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