Moana Blu-ray Review: While a Nice Addition to the Disney Catalog, It’s Severely Lacking In Storyline

A long time ago, there was only the ocean until the mother island Te Fiti arose. The island was the beginning of all life and its heart was said to be able to give the gift of creating life to anyone who possessed it. Many tried but all failed. That was until the day a Demigod trickster with shape-shifting ability named Maui (Dwayne Johnson) snuck upon the island and stole the heart. But he was not the only one who came to steal the heart that day. The fire demon Te Kaa caught up with Maui as he fled the island, striking him down from the sky. Maui, the heart, and his magical fishing-hook weapon plunged into the seas and were all lost. With the heart lost forever, a sickness spread forth from the island causing death and decay as it stretched across the ocean and covering the islands it came into contact with.

But all of that occurred over a thousand years ago, and the story became no more than a legend passed down in the oral history by the elders. Gramma Tala (Rachel House) is one of the elders who remembers the old stories and passes them down to the children. While most of the children and the villagers are afraid of these tales so much so that they will not leave beyond the reef that encircles the island, her granddaughter Moana (Auli’I Cravalho) finds herself drawn to the ocean and the overwhelming urge to seek out adventure elsewhere. Being the Chief’s daughter, she is forbidden to leave the island and instead must learn the ways of leadership.

The call of the sea continues to beckon to Moana as she grows older until one day blight comes to the island. The plants begin to die and bear rotten fruit as the fish begin to disappear. As things slowly grow worse, Tala comes to her granddaughter explaining that Moana has been chosen to find Maui and return the heart of Te Fiti. The ocean has chosen her and has brought her the heart. She must now travel past the reef and follow the stars to where she will find Maui to aid her on her quest.

The basic storyline wasn’t that different from many other films you’ve seen. It was a very basic quest story that has been played out many times before. But as they say there are no new stories, just new interpretations, and this film is the perfect example of that. What makes the story different is that it is done through the perspective of the Polynesian culture. The use of the religious icons and making the ocean a character was unique as well as was giving Maui’s tattoos life and being able to interact with them. The artistry itself was quite beautiful and Moana was drawn so well that at times you forgot she was animated.

The film was presented in 1080p high definition widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and a 7.1 DTS-HD and 2.0 Descriptive Audio track. The colors were bold and vibrant with an exceptional sharpness making it looks as good as if you were watching it in the theater. The soundtrack used the surround sound well and helped with the immersion effect feeling as if the action and water were all around you.

The film contains a number of special features:

  • “Short Film: Inner Workings”: a new animated short about a man and his internal organs and how they control his life. It felt a little strange at first but it ended up being kind of fun.
  • “Maui Mini-Movie: Gone Fishing”: Maui wakes up hungry and tries to catch a fish while the ocean tries to keep him from doing so. Kind of reminiscent of the animated shorts featuring Scrat in the Ice Age films.
  • “Voice of the Islands” is an in-depth look into the lifestyles of the people of the South Pacific and how the directors spent time in the islands to get to know the culture and not only modeled the storyline after the people but also sought advice from them to make sure that the film was as authentic to their culture as possible.
  • “Things You Didn’t Know About”: quick questions thrown at directors, cast, and composer such as: What would you become if you could shape change like Maui? What is your favorite Disney song? How many hours do you sleep? and many others.
  • “Deleted Song: Face of the Warrior” is a song that was originally planned to go into the film right before they are to enter the world of monsters.
  • “Island Fashion” is a look into the creation of the wardrobe choices for the characters.
  • “They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana” and what inspired the songs and musical style.
  • Also included are a music video “How Far I’ll Go” by Alessia Cara, Deleted Scenes, and an Audio Commentary.

Moana is an enjoyable film that has beautiful scenery and is a nice story with a happy ending. Unfortunately, the storyline is so basic that it doesn’t stand out quite like a Disney film should and the musical numbers are not very memorable. Even using the culture angle to tell the story, it just doesn’t feel special enough to be in the top tier of animated films.

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Todd Karella

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