Sunday in Depth #8: Will Moana Sink or Float?


On the November 23rd the new Disney film, Moana, will reach theatres across the world. So far the film can only boast with a handful of things as a whole lot of information is still not available. It has a voice cast featuring Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk, Hamilton’s Philippa Soo, and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho. The film is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, and is also written by Jared Bush, Pamela Ribon, and Taika Waititi. And most exciting: the film has a score written by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. But will the film sink or float?

Well first we can take a look at the trailer that has already been released. The trailer opens with The Rock yelling a monologue, hen delivering a not so funny joke and then breaking into dance. We then get Cravalho’s character and a pig looking at him skeptically. We then get a little taste of some very well animated water scenes, some cool action sequences (including one where The Rock’s character turns into a bird) and a taste of the score with Miranda singing.

In the trailer we get a sense of two of the voice actors, some of the animation, as well as a snippet of the music. Dwayne Johnson seems mildly humorous, but the ‘funny’ jokes don’t really hit well and his grunting and chanting isn’t especially funny either. This 30-second sequence is obviously not representative of his performance in the film, but it doesn’t look great for the actual film. We also get a few words out of Auli’i Cravalho’s performance which is charming and actually mildly comical.

The animation in the trailer is absolutely beautiful and vivid. The film also does what very few animated films do: make realistic water sequences. The film also looks colorful and fun, which is all anyone would want from the next animated Disney film. And the short sample of the music is nothing spectacular, but at least we get to hear Lin-Manuel Miranda sing a little. So all in all the trailer does not spark too much interest or excitement, but then again it is unfair to judge a movie by its first trailer.

But the movie actually has some stuff going against it. First of all it has already been subject of controversy with its portrayal of Maui as an obese individual. Which in my opinion is absolutely outrageous as the whole argument seems like fat-shaming to me. But some people (especially some people of Polynesian descent) have still taken offense and may not go watch the film because of that. The film also lacks a major voice acting team. The previous Disney film, Zootopia, had an all-star voice cast and so did Frozen which are two of Disney’s most successful films of all time. This film only has two actors who have ever acted in a major film before.

But the film also has some stuff going for it. The most prominent of which is that of Lin-Manuel Miranda who has written the score for the film. Miranda has had previous success with his stage musical Hamilton (for which he won 2 Tony Awards and was nominated for a third). Miranda will get a lot of people to come watch the film, if just to hear his music. Dwayne Johnson is also a major asset to the film, as he is the big name that will be associated with the film, and henceforth get people to come and watch. And the last and probably most notable asset the film features is its production company. Yes. We live in a world today where an animated Disney film is almost insured to succeed. So I predict it will, and I’m very excited to see it.


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