Great danger is looming: Moana and the eternal needs for heroes and demi-gods

(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)


Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows why.

From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes Moana, a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once-mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Quite apart from confirming that the resurgence of Disney animated features is still very much surging along, Moana is also unique in that the actors voicing the various characters in the lush re-telling of a story drawn from South Pacific lore are from the culture being depicted.

As The Washington Post noted in a recent article on the upcoming film, published via The Sydney Morning Herald, the casting of young Hawaiian Auli’i Cravalho as Princess Moana and Dwayne Johnson, who mother is of Samoan descent, as Maui, is part of a welcome trend of culturally-sensitive narrative depictions, something Hollywood has failed to excel at in the past as the #OscarsSoWhite campaign demonstrated all too clearly earlier this year.

“When the Disney film Moana lands this November, it will feel fresh to many moviegoers for an unusual reason: It is a mainstream Hollywood animated film that casts featured voice actors of colour who represent the culture being depicted.

“[In addition to Cravalho and Johnson] the voice cast also features several New Zealand-sprung actors who are part Maori: Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), Temuera Morrison and Rachel House — as well as Nicole Scherzinger, who has Hawaiian and Filipino roots.”

It’s a welcome, much-overdue move and one that will grant these utterly engaging depictions of epic tales from cultures around the world the extra degree of authenticity necessary to ensure they are being faithfully told, leading audiences in the process to appreciate anew the richness and diversity of humanity, and to understand that narratives come in more than one shade.

Moana releases 23 November in USA and 26 December in Australia.


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