Two kids movies in as many weeks.
Either it’s summer school holidays or I’m going through the causeway of a reverse-ageing second childhood.
MOANA is the latest fully computer-animated offering from Disney Studios. With a voice cast that includes Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, lush, eye-popping visuals – think elements like oceans and forests, normally relegated to background images, forcing you to notice them on a level like never before – created by a corps of more than 90 digital animators, plus a rousing ‘to cheer for’ girl power message, this movie is currently leaving all others of its type in its wake. Late last year the film broke the record set by FROZEN back in 2014 for the best opening day in the U.S for a children’ feature film.
This movie held me to around the 3/4 mark. The creators of MOANA should view that as a major achievement since I am most definitely someone, as previously admitted, who views these type of children’s films – I have a six-year-old daughter so I get to see a few – as uniformly shrill, frenetic and overloaded with needy type energy.
The story is set on a small Polynesian Island whose native inhabitants, for generations, have been warned never to venture beyond the reef. When the tribal chief’s own daughter, Moana, is chosen by the ocean spirit to reunite a stolen mystical stone with its rightful owner who lives many seas beyond their island home, she must defy the wishes of her father and set sail on a quest that will save the fate of her people.
One way movies connect with us is when they touch on situations we ourselves are familiar with or perhaps have even experienced on some level. Five years ago I spent two years living and working on an island (population 250) in the middle of the Torres Strait (half way between the most northern tip of Australia and the country of Papua New Guinea). The television series RAN (Remote Area Nurse) was filmed there in 2005.
Some points of note about this movie:
- MOANA is the first motion picture to have a version fully dubbed in the Tahitian language.
- This marks only the third time Disney has released a special dubbing dedicated to the culture which inspired the film: the first was THE LION KING (1994), for which a Zulu-dubbed version was made; and the second was MULAN (1998), which was the first Disney film to have a Mandarin Chinese dubbing made in China.
- The scene in which Maui (voiced by ‘The Rock’) and Moana encounter the troll-like, coconut-shaped pirates was intended as a homage to MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. (Note: that’s definitely one movie no one should ever pay homage to, and that’s from a person who rates MAD MAX II as the best movie ever made in this country).
- At the end of 2016 Hawaiian Airlines decorated the exteriors of it’s Airbus A330 -200 fleet with Moana-themed images.
- The movie is accompanied by a five minute short film also made by Disney called INNER WORKINGS. It’s one of the most creative joys I’ve ever sat through at a cinema.
Regular readers of this blog may also appreciate my interest in news that a costume made to tie in with the film was pulled by Disney from its online store following complaints about it being culturally insensitive and appearing to promote brownface. Given my own recent missteps in this area, its understandable I might take some small comfort in the fact that a company as large and well-known as Disney can also stumble within a culturally nuanced sphere such as this.
One final point about this movie connects to my recent post about body ink. Suffice to say when real life tattoos reach the technology stage of attaining sentience, like the ones that adorn the character of Maui in this film (the only old-school, hand drawn animation frames in MOANA), then I might start to look and (a version of) admire.
Ps. At the end of the movie when the theatre lights had come back on and everyone was exiting the cinema, in a moment of impulse motivated by some deeply felt inner urge (I’m claiming it was hunger) I decided I should reach out and touch the spirit of my teenage self by scooping up a handful of popcorn from one of the literally dozens of still half full, up-sized cardboard containers left behind on the, by this time, mostly vacated cinema seats.
Fellow husbands of the world… I beseech you to hear and heed the following advice. Don’t ever, ever do this! The scolding you’re sure to get will have you reaching for the aloe vera for the next few days. Maybe week.