I had a feeling about this movie. We’ve known for over 2 years that Disney was working on a new, animated, feature-length film with a Polynesian theme. This was good news, as Disney has been a strong player in the Tiki ohana (see Keeping The Tiki Torch Lit).
The last 2 years have been filled with anticipation as the Disney marketing machine built up to the eventual release of Moana this Thanksgiving weekend. There were news releases when they picked the cast. There were previews, which we Tiki geeks faithfully promoted on our Facebook pages. There was the merchandise, which in typical Disney fashion, was available months before the movie came out. There was even a special pre-release event at our local Disney store, which I happily attended with a bunch of small children, not embarrassed at all to join in the fun. I soaked it all up!
So, of course I went to see Moana as soon as it was released, on Wednesday November 23rd. Thanksgiving eve. My wife, son and I donned our 3D glasses as we found our seats in the surprisingly uncrowded theatre. I had to post the event as a check-in on my Facebook page, because, well, this was a big deal. To me.
Now, for full disclosure, we don’t go out to the movies much. I usually prefer to wait for a movie to come out on DVD or Blu-Ray and watch it from the comfort of home. But this was different. I needed to experience Moana on a big movie screen, in 3D, with full theatre sound. I was not disappointed. I love this movie. A lot.
Moana was transformational for me. I’ll leave the reviewing for others (here’s a good one if you’re interested: #PopCulturePundit), but let me just say this was one amazing movie! I found myself getting choked up as the movie ended, with full-blown tears streaming down my cheeks. It’s a little embarrassing to have my 11-year old son see my crying, but I couldn’t help myself, it was very emotional. There was a happy ending, of course, but the message this movie sends you is much more than that.
Moana is a strong female character I would be proud for my daughters to emulate. She’s headstrong for sure, but respects her elders and loves nature. Moana’ attraction to the sea is central to the movie, and her rediscovery of her Polynesian ancestors’ wayfinding skills is key to resolving the plot of the movie.
After I watched this movie for the first time, I rediscovered a modern-day, real-life voyage I had only casually followed previously: the Mālama Honua worldwide voyage of Hōkūle’a. I was originally attracted to the story of this group of explorers because of my love of all things Polynesian, and I followed them on Facebook without really understanding what they were all about. After seeing Moana, I felt inspired to understand Mālama Honua in more depth, and my eyes were really opened. Their mission is to sail the world and find examples of people helping each other and the environment, with the common thread being the ocean that connects us all. What a beautiful idea, come to life! I had to support and share this message with my Facebook family. I hope you will check it out too.
So, apparently art does imitate life. Moana, as it turns out, is based on some actual Polynesian legends, and is pretty faithful to the stories of Polynesian people. Disney has crafted a masterpiece with this movie, and if it could raise the environmental consciousness of at least one person, than it has told a wonderful story indeed. I’ve already gone to see it again, this time with my mother-in-law. It was her turn to see me cry. Oh, well, I’m not ashamed to show my joy and love for Moana. Go see this movie.