In my excitement, we arrived at the theater 10 minutes before it opened, so we had time for a photo op!

I’ve been excited for Disney’s Moana for about 2 years. I’m not exaggerating. I’m a big fan of Disney movies and Polynesian culture and the combination sounded amazing! I’ve been reading about the legends of Maui since I was a kid and it made a lot of sense to me when I heard he’d be a character in the movie. If you’ve ever heard Israel Kamakawiwo`ole’s song Maui, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

As a traveler, I’m wondering what new changes will appear at Disney’s Aulani Resort on Oahu. Will the movie inspire more family travel to Hawaii and other Polynesian islands? What new additions might be in store for Disneyland and Walt Disney World?

As a hula dancer, I’ve been curious what the music will be like and how Polynesian dancing would be portrayed. I’ve danced “He Mele No Lilo” from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch for the past 15 years and have been wondering if there would be an iconic dance scene in Moana. Will the movie inspire more kids to learn Polynesian dancing?

As a Mom, I’ve been eager to show my toddler a movie that features Polynesian culture and a sense of adventure. When I first heard about the movie a couple of years ago, my toddler was just a baby and I was hoping he’d be old enough to come with me. After seeing how much he enjoyed Finding Dory, I knew he’d be into Moana! I got him a couple of Moana books from Target the week prior (so he’d know the story) and one of those magnetic coloring boards from Costco featuring Moana.

So, this Thanksgiving I took my family (husband, toddler, baby, and mother) to experience the long-awaited Moana!

Baby's first movie

I brought my 7-week-old and he was silent the entire movie (including all the previews and end credits.)

What My Almost-3-Year-Old Thought:

  • “That was a great movie!”
  • “My favorite part was when Maui went on the boat.”
  • “I liked it when Moana walked.”
  • “I liked the popcorn.”

What I thought of Moana:

  • The animation was mesmerizing! From the hair on Maui’s head to the grains of sand on the beach, it was all so detailed. The scenery looked so realistic and made me want to explore other Polynesian islands.
  • The music was so powerful! While there wasn’t an iconic “Let it Go”-type song, there were a few catchy tunes (mainly “You’re Welcome” and “We Know the Way.”) Mostly, the music felt uplifting and moving. I loved that that music was both in English and in Polynesian languages. I’ve had several of the songs stuck in my head since seeing the movie and I’m totally okay with that.
  • It felt familiar. My Mom lives on Kauai and just took my son back there a week before we saw the movie. As soon as the movie started, my son shouted “That’s Hawaii!” I quickly shushed him, but was really stoked that he immediately was able to relate to the movie location, even if it wasn’t exactly Hawaii. As my Mom watched, she kept nudging me to point out scenery that looked like it could be Kauai and making notes of where to take my toddler on their next trip.
  • I loved the dancing! My favorite part of the movie was when Moana learns to dance from her Grandmother. It looked like Samoan dancing mixed with a touch of hula. I appreciated how the animators/storytellers had the Grandmother use graceful motions just as she spoke with Moana. And it was fun to see Moana teaching young children to dance!
  • There were nods to Polynesian culture. I thought the costuming of Moana and the villagers looked like Samoan costumes I’d seen before. The jewelry also looked mostly Polynesian. Some of the voices had New Zealand accents, which caught me off guard at first (especially as Moana’s dad sounds like he’s from New Zealand even though no one else in the village does, including his mother.) I felt like I was walking around Oahu’s Polynesian Cultural Center when the villagers were climbing up coconut trees. I loved the inclusion of kapa cloth throughout the movie and the end credits.

It lived up to my high expectations in just about every category. I was hoping that there would be inclusion of Polynesian terms in the dialogue (on par with Lilo & Stitch (we all remember “ohana means family.”) I thought that was a missed opportunity. But, I did like that there was inclusion of language in the music, even though it wasn’t really translated. I thought the jokes were funny for both kids and adults. The messaging of the movie was good and I didn’t feel like it was a girls movie or a boys movie.

I’m already planning to download the soundtrack to listen to in the car and I know we’ll be getting the BluRay as soon as it comes out.

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2 Comments

  1. Sounds like a great movie. We have always enjoyed Disney movies also but haven’t gotten to see it yet. My wife’s granddaughter will be staying with us for several weeks this summer and we will have to put this on our to do list when she is here. It will be interesting because her mother is from Tonga.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Ooh! It’s always interesting to see what people from Polynesia think about it. My family loved it and listen to the soundtrack non-stop!

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