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Moana (2016 film)

Moana
Moana Teaser Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by Osnat Shurer
Screenplay by Jared Bush
Story by
Starring
Music by
Edited by Jeff Draheim
Production
companies
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date
  • November 14, 2016 (2016-11-14) (AFI Fest)
  • November 23, 2016 (2016-11-23) (United States)
Running time
107 minutes
Country
  • United States
Language English
Budget $150 million[1][2][3]
Box office $642.8 million[4]

Moana (/mˈɑːnə/) is a 2016 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy-adventure film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 56th Disney animated feature film. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, the film introduces Auli'i Cravalho as Moana and features the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Alan Tudyk. The film features music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina.

The film tells the story of Moana, the strong-willed daughter of a chief of a Polynesian tribe, who is chosen by the ocean itself to reunite a mystical relic with a goddess. When a blight strikes her island, Moana sets sail in search of Maui, a legendary demigod, in the hope of saving her people.

Moana was released theatrically in the United States on November 23, 2016 to critical acclaim, with critics particularly praising the film for its animation, music, and voice cast. The film went on to gross over $642 million worldwide. Along with Zootopia, it marked the first time since 2002 that Walt Disney Animation Studios released two feature films in the same year. It received two Academy Award nominations at the 89th Academy Awards: one for Best Animated Feature and another for Best Original Song ("How Far I'll Go").[5]

Plot

The inhabitants of the small Polynesian island of Motunui, regard the island goddess Te Fiti as the one who brought life to the ocean. A small pounamu stone that serves as her mystical heart is stolen by Maui, the shape-shifting demigod of the wind and sea, who hopes to possess the power of creation itself. As Maui makes his escape, he is attacked by Te Kā, a lava demon of Earth and fire, causing his power-granting magical fishhook and the heart of Te Fiti to be lost in the ocean.

A millennium later, Moana, daughter and heir of the chief of Motunui's inhabitants, is chosen by the ocean to receive the heart, but drops it when her father, Tui, comes to get her. He insists the island provides everything the villagers need. Years later, a blight strikes the island as fish become scarce and the island's vegetation begins dying. Moana proposes going beyond the reef to find more fish. Tui, who lost his best friend when the two of them once attempted to venture past the reef as young men, rejects her idea, reminding her that sailing past the reef is forbidden. Moana continues her daily routines as chief-in-training with her pet pig Pua.

Moana and Pua decide they are going to try and sail beyond the reef. They become shipwrecked and both almost drown. When Moana's grandmother Tala finds them she shows Moana a secret cave behind a waterfall where she finds boats inside and discovers her ancestors were voyagers, sailing and discovering new islands across the world. Tala explains that they stopped voyaging because Maui stole the heart of Te Fiti, causing monsters to appear in the ocean. Tala then says Te Kā's darkness has been spreading from island to island, slowly killing them. Tala explains that the blight can be cured only if Maui returns the heart to Te Fiti. Tala gives the heart of Te Fiti to Moana, which she had recovered after Moana dropped it.

Tala falls ill, and with her dying breaths, tells Moana to set sail, find Maui, and make him return the heart to Te Fiti. Moana and her pet rooster, Heihei, depart in a camakau to find Maui. A manta ray, Tala's reincarnation, follows. After a typhoon wave flips her sailboat and knocks her unconscious, she awakens the next morning on an island inhabited by Maui, who traps her in a cave and takes her sailboat to search for his fishhook. After escaping and catching up to Maui, Moana tries to convince him to return the heart, but Maui refuses, fearing its power will attract dark creatures.

Diminutive pirates wearing coconut armor called Kakamora surround the boat and steal the heart, but Moana and Maui retrieve it. Maui agrees to help return the heart, but only after he reclaims his hook, which is hidden in Lalotai, the Realm of Monsters. At Lalotai, they meet Tamatoa, a giant coconut crab who collects rare sea treasures. Moana and Maui plan to retrieve Maui's fish hook, which Tamatoa had collected from the seabed after he lost it, by using Moana as live bait while Maui sneaks up and retrieves his fish hook; however, upon retrieving the hook, Maui is no longer able to shape-shift well after not using the hook for so long, and is ultimately caught. Tamatoa joyfully overpowers and defeats Maui, claiming that he will never beat him. Moana then uses a disguised barnacle to trick Tamatoa by pretending it is the heart of Te Fiti, and the two escape Tamatoa with Maui's hook. Maui teaches Moana how to properly sail and navigate. They arrive at Te Fiti, where Te Kā attacks. Maui is overpowered and Te Kā badly cracks his hook and repels their boat far out to sea. Finally having enough of Moana's meddling and fearful that returning to fight Te Kā will destroy his hook, an angry Maui abandons her.

Distraught, Moana begs the ocean to take the heart and choose another person to return it to Te Fiti. The spirit of Tala comes to her and encourages Moana to find her true calling within herself. Inspired, Moana retrieves the heart and returns to Te Fiti alone. Maui, having had a change of heart, returns and distracts the lava demon, but his hook is destroyed in the battle. Realizing that Te Kā is a corrupted Te Fiti without her heart, Moana asks the ocean to clear a path for Te Kā to approach her. Moana then sings a song to help Te Kā remember who she truly is, and she allows Moana to restore her heart. Te Fiti returns and gives a new boat to Moana and a new magical fishhook to Maui before returning to her island form.

Moana bids farewell to Maui and returns to her recovering island with Heihei. Later, the villagers, Pua, Heihei, and Moana (who becomes their new chief) begin voyaging and set sail in search of new islands, as Maui and Tala accompany them in their giant hawk and manta ray forms, respectively.

In a post-credits scene, Tamatoa, who has been stranded on his back during Moana and Maui's escape, tells the audience they would help him if he was a Jamaican crab named Sebastian.

Cast

Auli'i Cravalho at the film's premiere in Samoa in December 2016
Dwayne Johnson (pictured here in 2013) played the co-starring role of Maui in Moana

Production

Development

John Musker
Ron Clements
Directors John Musker and Ron Clements presented footage from the film at the 2016 Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

After directing The Princess and the Frog (2009), Clements and Musker started working on an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Mort,[6] but problems with acquiring the necessary film rights prevented them from continuing with that project. To avoid a recurrence of that issue, they pitched three original ideas.[7] The genesis of one of those ideas (the one that was ultimately green-lighted) occurred in 2011, when Musker began reading up on Polynesian mythology, and learned of the heroic exploits of the demigod Māui. Intrigued with the rich culture of Polynesia, he felt it would be a suitable subject for an animated film. Shortly thereafter, Musker and Clements wrote a treatment and pitched it to John Lasseter, who recommended that both of them should go on research trips.[8][9] Accordingly, in 2012, Clements and Musker went on research trips to Fiji, Samoa, and Tahiti to meet the people of the South Pacific Ocean and learn about their culture.[10] At first, they had planned to make the film entirely about Maui, but their initial research trips inspired Clements to pitch a new idea focused on the young daughter of a chief.[11] They were fascinated to learn during their research that the people of Polynesia abruptly stopped making long-distance voyages about three thousand years ago, then resumed voyaging again a thousand years later, and no one really knows why. They set the film at the end of that era, about two thousand years ago, on a fictional island in the central Pacific Ocean, which drew inspiration from elements of the real-life island nations of Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga.[12]

Over the five years it took to develop and produce the film, Clements and Musker recruited experts from across the South Pacific to form an Oceanic Story Trust, who consulted on the film's cultural accuracy and sensitivity as the story evolved through nine versions.[13] The Trust responded negatively, for example, to a depiction of Maui as bald, and to a proposed scene in which Moana threw a tantrum by throwing coconuts. In response, Maui was reworked with long hair and the coconut scene was scrapped.[11]

Te Kā was referred to in early drafts of the film as Te Pō,[14] a reference to the Māori goddess Hine-nui-te-pō, who was originally the life-giving goddess Hine-tītama, but became the goddess of death upon discovering that her husband the god Tāne was also her father.[15] Māui set out to defeat her in order to bring immortality to humans, but failed and was himself killed.[16]

At the announcement of the film at a D23 Expo in 2015, Moana's last name was given as "Waialiki", but that name was not retained in the final film.[17]

Writing

Taika Waititi wrote the initial screenplay.[18] The first draft focused on Moana as the sole daughter in a family with "five or six brothers",[19] in which gender played into the story. However, the brothers and gender-based theme were deleted from the story, as the directors thought Moana's journey should be about finding herself.[9] A subsequent draft presented Moana's father as the one who wanted to resume navigation, but it was rewritten to have him oppose navigation so he would not overshadow Moana.[9] Instead, Pamela Ribon came up with the idea of a grandmother character for the film,[20] who would serve as a mentor linking Moana to ancient traditions.[19] Another version focused on Moana rescuing her father, who had been lost at sea.[21] The film's story changed drastically during the development phase (which happens with most Disney films), and that idea ultimately survived only as a subtle element of the father's backstory.[21] Aaron and Jordan Kandell joined the project during a critical period to help deepen the emotional story architecture of the film. They are credited with developing the core relationship between Moana and Maui, the prologue, the Cave of the Wayfinders, the Kakamora, and the collector crab Tamatoa (played by Jemaine Clement).[22] Jared Bush received sole credit as the writer of the final version of the screenplay.

Like most Disney and Pixar animated films, several major story problems were identified in 2015 only after the film had already transitioned from development into production, but computer-generated films tend to have much shorter production schedules and much larger animation teams (in this case, about 90 animators) than traditionally animated films.[21] Since Clements and Musker were already working 12-hour days (and Saturdays) directing such a large team of animators, Don Hall and Chris Williams (who had just finished directing Big Hero 6) came on board as co-directors to help fix the film's story issues.[21] The scene in which Maui and Moana encounter the Kakamora is an intentional homage to Mad Max: Fury Road.[21]

Casting

After the filmmakers sat through auditions of hundreds of candidates from across the Pacific,[10] 14-year-old high school freshman Auli'i Cravalho was cast as the lead character Moana.[23][24] At that point in time, the design of Moana's face and personality was already complete, and Cravalho's obvious physical resemblance to her character was simply a coincidence.[25] During animation production, Disney animators were able to integrate some of Cravalho's mannerisms into Moana's behavior as depicted onscreen.[25]

The majority of the film's cast members are of Polynesian descent: Auli'I Cravalho (Moana) and Nicole Scherzinger (Sina, Moana's mother) were born in Hawaii and are of Native Hawaiian heritage; Dwayne Johnson (Maui), Oscar Kightley (Fisherman), and Troy Polamalu (Villager No. 1) are of Samoan heritage; and New Zealand–born Rachel House (Tala, Moana's grandmother), Temuera Morrison (Tui, Moana's father), and Jemaine Clement (Tamatoa) are of Māori heritage.

Animation

Moana is Clements and Musker's first fully computer-animated film.[10][26] One of the reasons for using computer animation was that the environment, including the ocean, benefited much more from the use of CGI as opposed to traditional animation.[27] The filmmakers have also suggested that three-dimensional computer animation is well-suited to the "beautiful sculpturing" of the faces of the people of the South Pacific.[28] Eric Goldberg worked on the hand-drawn animation used to depict Maui's sentient tattoos.[29][30] During early development, the filmmakers considered the possibility of making the film with hand-drawn traditional animation, but only a few early animation tests were made in that style. In the final cut, only Maui's tattoos are hand-drawn.[31]

Moana was produced in makeshift quarters in a giant warehouse in North Hollywood (together with Zootopia), while Disney Animation's headquarters building in Burbank was being renovated. Musker observed that Moana was similar in that respect to The Little Mermaid, which was produced in a warehouse in Glendale. Production wrapped on October 20, 2016.[32]

Music and soundtrack

The film's soundtrack was released by Walt Disney Records on November 18, 2016. The songs were written by Opetaia Foa'i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, while the score was written by Mancina.[33][34] The lyrics are in English, Samoan and the Tokelauan language.[35] The soundtrack peaked at number two on the Billboard 200.[36]

Release

On October 20, 2014, Walt Disney Pictures announced that it would be releasing the film in late 2016,[37] and hinted that it might be the November 23, 2016 release window previously announced by the studio in March 2014 for a then-untitled film.[38] In November 2014, Disney confirmed that it would be releasing the film on November 23, 2016.[39] The film is accompanied by the short film, Inner Workings.[40] The film's world premiere was held at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles on November 14, 2016.[41]

The title of the film, as well as the name of its titular character, was changed to Vaiana in many European countries due to a trademark conflict.[42] Additionally, the film was screened in Italy as Oceania.[43]

On October 25, 2016, at a press conference in Papeete, it was announced that the film will be the first motion picture to be fully dubbed in the Tahitian language.[44] This marks the third time Disney has released a special dubbing dedicated to the culture which inspired the film: the first case was The Lion King (1994), for which the directors travelled to South Africa to cast voice actors for a Zulu-dubbed version;[45] and the second case was Mulan (1998), which was the first Disney film to have a Mandarin Chinese dubbing made in China, separate from and independent of the version released in Taiwan.[46] In June 2017, a Māori-language dubbing of the movie was announced.[47] Rachel House, Jemaine Clement, Temuera Morrison and Oscar Kightley will reprise their respective roles in this version, which will be directed by Rachel House herself.[48][49]

In India, popular music composer Bappi Lahiri (who is known to be India's "gold-man") voiced the character of Tamatoa in the Hindi-dubbed version of the film; mostly because in reality, he too, similar to Tamatoa, has an immense love and fondness for gold.[50][51] In Russia, Tamatoa was voiced by a popular singer Ilya Lagutenko, who performed Tamatoa's song with his distinctive soft "meowing" intonations.[52]

On January 27, 2017, a sing-along version of Moana was released in more than 2,000 theaters in the United States, featuring on-screen lyrics.[53]

Marketing

On October 15, 2016, Hawaiian Airlines unveiled their Moana-themed livery for three of their Airbus A330-200 fleet.[54]

There are currently meet-and-greets with Moana at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa. At Hong Kong Disneyland, there will be a stage show called Moana's Village Festival, which is scheduled to open in 2018.

Home media

Moana was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray (2D and 3D) and DVD in the United States on March 7, 2017, with a digital release on February 21, 2017. The releases include the short film, Inner Workings. The Blu-ray release also introduces a short film featuring Maui and Moana, titled Gone Fishing.[55] The film is also available for streaming on Netflix.

Reception

Box office

Moana grossed $248.8 million in the U.S. and Canada and $394 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $642.8 million.[4] On January 22 and March 16, 2017, respectively, the film reached the $500 million and $600 million marks, becoming the fourth consecutive Walt Disney Animation Studios film to reach both milestones after Frozen (2013), Big Hero 6 (2014), and Zootopia (2016).[56][57] Although Disney has not disclosed the film's production budget, most of its animated films cost around $150 million.[58][59] Deadline Hollywood calculated the net profit of the film to be $121.3 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues for the film, making it the 12th most profitable release of 2016.[2]

North America

In the United States, Moana was released during the Thanksgiving weekend. The film played in 3,875 theaters of which a majority of them (80%) screened it in 3D. It also played in 50 premium large format screens and more than 400 D-Box screens. It was projected to take in around $50 million in three days, with $75–85 million in five days (some estimates going as high as $90 million).[60][61][62] Deadline.com said the numbers were good for the original Disney film and marked a great rebound for the company in the wake of Pixar's The Good Dinosaur the previous year, which had made $55 million over five days off a production budget of $175–200 million.[63]

The film made $2.6 million from Tuesday paid previews which began at 7 pm, the highest ever for a Walt Disney Animation Studios film and for a non-Pixar Disney animated film.[64] On its opening day, it made $15.5 million, a new record for a Walt Disney Animation Studios film opening on Wednesday (breaking Frozen's record) and the biggest opening day ever for a film released on pre-Thanksgiving Day.[65] On Thanksgiving Day, it earned $9.9 million, a decrease of 36% from its previous day. On Black Friday—the highest-grossing day of the Thanksgiving stretch—it made $21.8 million, a 127% increase from the day before.[66] Through Sunday, the film posted a three-day opening weekend worth $56.6 million over its Friday-to-Sunday debut and $82.1 million from Wednesday to Sunday, the third biggest three-day Thanksgiving opening[67] (behind Frozen and Toy Story 2) and the second biggest five-day Thanksgiving opening[68] (behind Frozen), dethroning Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them off the top spot. Among all films that did not necessarily open in this weekend but may have played, Moana ranks sixth among three-day[69] weekends and fifth among five-day weekends.[70]

The film's opening was considered to be another animated success for the studio after Zootopia and Pixar's Finding Dory posted huge openings, respectively, the same year in March and June.[71]

In its second weekend, the film dropped by about 50% for a total of $28.3 million, a smaller drop than Toy Story 2, Frozen, Tangled, and The Good Dinosaur.[72][73] The film managed to top the box office for its third weekend, despite competition from newcomers and holdovers, earning $18.5 million while falling by 34%. It became the sixth film of 2016 to top the box office three times, following Deadpool, Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Finding Dory, and Suicide Squad.[74] The film was overtaken by Disney's own Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in its fourth weekend, despite only a marginal decline.[75]

It fell to number six in its fifth weekend, due to competition from four new releases—Sing, Passengers, Why Him?, and Assassin's Creed—despite a small drop again; it grossed $2.9 million on Christmas Day.[76] On the holiday week of December 23–29, the film finished at number four with a gross of $26 million, which was 14% up from the previous week, despite losing over 300 theaters.[77] It finished at number four in its sixth weekend, going up 42% and 97%, respectively, during the three-day[78] and four-day weekends;[79] it grossed $3.6 million on New Year's Day.

It fell outside the top ten in its eighth weekend (which included Martin Luther King Jr. Day), dropping 33% and 4% respectively, during the three-day[80] and four-day weekends.[81]

Outside North America

Internationally, the film earned $17.2 million in its first weekend from 12 markets, the bulk of which came from China. In its second weekend, the film expanded to a total of 30 markets, adding an additional $33.7 million.[82]

In China, the film had a November 25 opening day[83] with $1.9 million from 38,000 screenings. However, it enjoyed a big weekend bump on Saturday—even though its screens dipped—and Sunday.[84] In total, it scored an opening weekend of $17.2 million, the second best for a Disney animated title, behind only Zootopia. It was No. 2 behind Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Strong social media numbers showed among the highest the studio has seen there. Similar to how Zootopia started off slow and later became a blockbuster phenomenon.[85] The film slipped 55% in its second weekend, earning $5.8 million, and $21.8 in total in China.[86] It would eventually earn a total of $32.7 million in China.[83]

It had similar successful number-one debuts in France, Russia, Mexico and Spain. The film also saw success in Belgium, the Netherlands and French-speaking Switzerland.[82] In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the film faced competition from Fantastic Beasts—which was playing in its third weekend—and as a result, it posted a low opening of only £2.2 million ($2.8 million).[87]

The biggest earning markets to date have been Japan ($45.9 million), followed by France ($35.5 million), China ($32.8 million), the UK ($25.3 million), Brazil ($22.9 million), Australia ($19 million), Germany ($17 million), Italy ($15.9 million), and South Korea ($15.5 million).[88]

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 96% based on 229 reviews, and an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With a title character as three-dimensional as its lush animation and a story that adds fresh depth to Disney's time-tested formula, Moana is truly a family-friendly adventure for the ages."[89] On Metacritic, the film holds a normalized score of 81 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[90] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on a scale ranging from A+ to F.[91]

Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal proclaimed that "Moana is beautiful in more ways than I can tell, thanks to the brilliance of more animators than I could count."[92]

Animator Eric Goldberg received praise from critics and audiences for his hand-drawn animation of Maui's tattoos, which they claimed "stole the show" from the actual CGI-animated motion picture.[93][94][95]

Wai Chee Dimock, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, compared the ocean in Moana to the one in "The Water Baby," a short story by Jack London, saying that both are animated: one, by the tension between digital and analog animation, and the other, by the tension between an encroaching future and a past in retreat still capable of pushing back.[96]

Criticism

Colin Philp, an educator on Polynesian history, noted that the sailing canoe used by the film's protagonists is believed to be a Fijian camakau, and that the film's concept artists based it on one of the canoes they saw when they visited Korova settlement in Laucala. Philp said that using that design without permission of the Korova community, could be viewed as a violation of the intellectual property rights of their elders.[97]

Brigham Young University–Hawaii sociocultural anthropologist Tēvita 'Ō. Ka'ili stated that "despite its important girl-power message, the film had a major flaw. It lacked symmetry by its omission of a heroic goddess. Disney resorted to reducing the mighty god Maui to a one-dimensional, selfish, borderline abusive, buffoon to foreground the strength of the movie's protagonist Moana." He went on to explain that, "the omission of a goddess-heroine is significant because Polynesia is a culture with a vast pantheon of powerful heroic goddesses. Hina, a companion goddess to the god Maui, was nowhere to be found in Disney's imagineering of Moana."[98]

Merchandise produced alongside the film has also been criticized. A Maui "skin suit" costume made to tie in with the film was pulled by Disney from its online store following complaints about it being culturally insensitive[99] and for appearing to promote brownface.[100]

Accolades

References

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