Hallelujah --- a Disney film with a princess, but no prince to "save" her. "Moana" is heartwarming, sweet, funny and most of all --- inspirational. Little girls everywhere can watch with glee as Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) takes on the responsibility of saving her people, and sets off alone to accomplish this gargantuan task.
The film begins with Moana Waialiki (voiced by Louise Bush) as a toddler playing near the edge of the surf, collecting seashells, when she discovers the "heart" --- a small pounamu stone --- of Te Fiti, an island goddess. It was stolen by the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) a millennium ago, then lost to the ocean when Maui tangled with the lava monster Te Ka.
Because of Maui's foolish act, Te Fiti cursed all of the islands she created. Moana (Cravalho), now a teenager, is drawn to the sea. She longs to cross over the reef to explore what is beyond.
She is encouraged by her grandmother, Gramma Tala (voiced by Rachel House) and ordered not to entertain these desires by her father, Chief Tui (voiced by Temuera Morrison). When their fish supply is greatly diminished and their island shows signs of dying, Moana can no longer listen to her father. Instead, she follows her heart and sails off with only her pet rooster, Heihei (voiced by Alan Tudyk) as a companion, until she finds Maui and convinces him to aid her in her quest.
There is much to love about "Moana" --- the wonderful music, lush animation and, most of all, the stirring story by Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kandell and Jordan Kandell, with the final screenplay by Jared Bush. I love that this plucky princess is so determined to learn to sail and set off to save her island.
Cravalho was a 14-year-old high school freshman when she was cast by the filmmakers who auditioned hundreds of candidates across the Pacific. The character of Moana was already designed, but Cravalho resembled her, and the animators merely incorporated some of her mannerisms into Moana's on-screen presence.
Cravalho's voice is amazing and she holds her own with Johnson. He is such a likeable actor, and one can surely imagine him being the total scamp that is Maui.
The most darling and funniest scene, at the beginning of "Moana", has Gramma Tala espousing local folklore to a group of toddlers, Moana included. The story she's relaying is quite frightening and some of the reactions of the little members of this gathering are hilarious. But Moana is all ears --- not the least bit afraid --- and she is so, so precious.
Given the results of this recent election, Disney's timing could not be better. It's important for our children to see and acknowledge that females are capable of achieving great things. "Moana" is a beautiful way to get that point across!
Opinion: See It Now!