I recently bought the Moana soundtrack and it’s become my new favourite CD. Partly because I spent a year in New Zealand and the music makes me homesick. Partly because I called my first venture, selling abstract art, Moana Studios (Moana means ocean). I play it non-stop partly because the songs are so catchy with cleverly-crafted lyrics. But mostly I think the soundtrack is awesome because it reminds me why the movie is so good.
All Disney movies are great, particularly the newer ones, with strong female leads and a lesson to learn. They support values like family and being true to yourself and following your dream. As the Disney ‘Dream Big Princess’ advert suggests, there is a princess for everyone. If that’s true then Moana is mine. (And even though she’s not a princess, Maui says she must be because she has a skirt and a sidekick – very clever!)
Disney movies often show writing at its best, with a compelling story and a carrying theme, and Moana is the perfect example of this. It has all the ingredients: personal growth, humour, the whiff of death, and an upbeat ending. Most of all it has a unifying theme. One of my favourite things in literature (and movies) is when it is all tied together with a theme, but one that you don’t really notice until the end. The new non-animated Cinderella (another favourite) has lots of repeating tags throughout that tie it all together.
I didn’t realise it when I watched it, but Moana’s theme is about answering the question ‘Who am I?’ Not just for Moana, but for other characters like Maui and Te Fiti as well.
What makes Moana such a realistic character, and what I most love about her, is that she is conflicted between disparate things that all mean so much to her. She is torn between her family and what’s inside her heart, doing her duty and doing what brings her alive. Actually I guess all the Disney princesses have that battle, and I certainly think we can all relate to it.
In my favourite song, in answer to the question, “Do you know who you are?” Moana says,
“Who am I? I am a girl who loves my island. I’m the girl who loves the sea, it calls me.”
She then lists all the conflicts that have resolved into making her who she is. When she belts out the last line, “I am Moana!” it gives me goosebumps every time.
Similarly Maui has to come to terms with his past and find happiness inside himself instead of in the approval of others, and Moana helps him do that. Even though he is the demi-god. Talk about girl power!
At the end of the movie (and avoiding spoilers) Moana says to Ta Fiti,
“They have stolen the heart from inside you… but this does not define you. This is not who you are.”
You are not defined by what others have done to you. What a message.
The movie closes with Moana leading her entire island to a proper understanding of who they are inside. By following her own dream, her own calling, she brings happiness to everyone.
Now isn’t that a lesson to takeaway?