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Ron Clements and John Musker
Dwayne Johnson, Auli'i Cravalho, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement
Writing Credits:
Jared Bush

In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.

Box Office:
$150 million.
Opening Weekend:
$56,631,401 on 3,875 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Descriptive Audio 2.0
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $49.99
Release Date: 3/7/2017

• Both 2D and 3D versions of Moana
• Audio Commentary with Directors Ron Clement and John Musker
Inner Workings Short
• Maui Mini-Movie
• “Voice of the Islands” Featurette
• “Things You Didn’t Know About…” Featurette
• “Island Fashion” Featurette
• “The Elements Of…” Featurette
• “They Know the Way” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes and Deleted Song
• “Fishing for Easter Eggs”
• Music Video
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Moana [Blu-Ray 3D] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 15, 2017)

For Disney’s newest animated adventure, we head to tropical climes, as 2016’s Moana takes place in the Pacific islands. A prologue introduces us to the demi-god Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), a figure who steals a powerful stone that acts as the heart of mystical goddess Te Fiti.

During an attack by lava demon Te Ka, Maui loses the stone along with his magical fishing hook. As a result, Maui goes missing.

Many centuries later, we visit the fictional island of Motunui, a land headed by Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison). His daughter Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) shows signs of wanderlust and desires to explore the sea, but due to the clan’s tradition, Chief Tui refuses to let her explore.

Chief Tui insists that no one needs anything that can’t find on Motunui, but eventually, the island fails to produce the necessary sustenance for the locals. Encouraged by her grandmother Tala Waialiki (Rachel House), Moana pursues the restoration of the heart of Te Fili, a task that requires the participation of Maui.

Hmmm… spunky young woman bristles against the restrictions of her limited life experiences and seeks outlets beyond her provincial domain. Where have I seen that in the Disney realm?

To call the plot of Moana derivative would be an understatement, as it comes with a story that seems well worn in the Disney annals. Honestly, I can’t think of much on display here that we’ve not seen already.

This means Moana often plays like a conglomeration of elements lifted from other Disney efforts. One can identify relationships to The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, Pocahontas and Aladdin without much effort.

That’s probably just tip of the iceberg, as I’m sure if I gave it some more thought, I’d find additional connections with other movies. These go beyond “homage” and leave the end result with a lack of real originality.

Along with Zootopia and Finding Dory, Moana was one of three Disney animation releases for 2016, and it clearly seems like the most traditional of the bunch. Not that Zootopia or Dory did much to really innovate, but they still came with a greater sense of creativity and freshness.

Though I mentioned 1980s/1990s Disney films above, Moana does depart from that era in one way: it lacks a love interest. Usually a movie of this sort would involve a boy with whom Moana seeks to partner, but to its credit, the narrative never even hints in that direction.

Moana exists as a character whose tale doesn’t revolve around gender, and I like that, as it allows her to seem strong and independent without an emphasis on her femininity. She’s not some generic neutered role, but the movie doesn’t play up the fact she’s female, and I think that allows Moana to act as a good role model.

Too bad she lacks a lot of genuine personality. Moana acts as a competent lead whose journey we follow, but she doesn’t ever stand out as particularly interesting in her own right.

Granted, that’s not unusual for Disney, as the studio often featured leads who failed to deliver much charisma – hey, at least Moana is more dynamic and interesting than passive characters like Snow White or Cinderella! Still, I’d like to see a little more from Moana beyond her basic levels of spunk and heart.

As usual for Disney, the supporting characters become the most compelling, though it may act as a sign of Moana’s semi-lackluster nature that the most memorable part goes to Heihei (Alan Tudyk), the world’s dumbest chicken. With his inane clucks and general cluelessness, Heihei provides consistent amusement.

Though essentially a more arrogant riff on Aladdin’s genie, Maui manages to work fairly well, largely due to Johnson’s good performance. Like Moana, Maui follows a pretty predictable journey, but Johnson adds life to the one-dimensional part.

Moana certainly looks lovely, as the computer animation creates a lush, vivid world, and it does enough to keep us interested in it for 107 minutes. I just don’t think the movie ever threatens to become anything special. It creates a watchable adventure that falls to the middle of the Disney pack.

Footnote: stick around through the finish of the end credits for a little tag with Tamatoa.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Moana appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. As expected, this became an excellent presentation.

Sharpness worked well, as the movie boasted consistently detailed elements. No softness emerged in this tight, accurate presentation. I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. The flick also lacked any print flaws.

Given the tropical orientation, the film boasted a broad palette. and The movie showed these colors in a vivid manner and gave us lively tones. Blacks seemed dark and deep, while shadows appeared smooth and clear. Everything about the transfer pleased.

The movie’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack seemed less impressive, but it still worked well for the most part. The most prominent scenes involved segments on the ocean, so these opened up the spectrum nicely. Battles also broadened horizons in an exciting way and offered a strong impression of action, with calamity in all the various channels.

Other natural environments presented a good sense of place. Parts of the track seemed less then exciting, but a lot of it became vivid and compelling.

Audio quality seemed good, though the track lacked strong low-end. Even with scenes that should’ve boasted impressive bass, the mix sounded a little anemic.

While not devoid of low-end material, the track didn’t present the dynamic punch I expected – honestly, I started to wonder if my subwoofer was on the fritz. It wasn’t, but the movie’s soundtrack simply failed to present much oomph.

Speech was distinctive and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music was perky, while effects appeared accurate, even without a lot of low-end material. The relative lack of bass became a minor disappointment, but the track was still reasonably good.

This package includes both 2D and 3D versions of Moana. The comments above related to the 2D image – how did the 3D edition compare?

In terms of picture quality, both seemed similar. Brightness took a minor hit for the 3D image – mainly during nighttime scenes – but this wasn’t a real issue. A couple shots also looked a smidgen soft, but most of the movie provided nice delineation, and colors worked as well for both.

3D imaging was pretty good but not great. Though 3D movie boasted a nice sense of depth, it failed to create many standout moments.

I thought shots with flying/falling elements provided the best sequences, and a few other bits added some zing. However, much of the film seemed somewhat restrained in terms of 3D. While the 3D offered a good way to watch the movie, it didn’t seem to add a ton to the experience.

When we move to extras, we launch with an audio commentary from director John Musker and Ron Clements. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the project's development, story/characters/themes, cast and performances, score and songs, research, visual design and animation, and related domains.

Veterans of the format all the way back to the 1990s, Musker and Clements know their way around an audio commentary, and their ease with the structure shows. The directors give us a nice array of details and humor as they cover their film. This becomes an engaging and informative chat.

A short that ran before theatrical screenings of Moana, Inner Workings runs six minutes, 26 seconds. A man’s internal organs wage war as he debates various paths of action to take, with an emphasis on the battle between heart and brain. While semi-clever, this feels derivative and not tremendously entertaining.

A quick 48-second introduction appears prior to Workings. Director Leo Matsuda and producer Sean Lurie tell us a little about the cartoon in this brief lead-in.

Called Gone Fishing, a “Maui Mini-Movie” lasts two minutes, 29 seconds. In it, the demi-god pursues seafood. This short seems cute but not better than that.

Next comes a featurette called Voice of the Islands. It fills 31 minutes, 13 seconds with info from Clements, Musker, producer Osnat Shurer, anthropologist/filmmaker Dionne Fonoti, songwriter Opetaia Foa’i, traditional voyaging canoe captain Fealofani Bruun, master navigator Nainoa Thompson, head of animation Amy Lawson Smeed, Tahitian cultural practitioner Hinano Murphy, casting director Fiona Collins, choreographer Tiana Nonosina Liufau, Haka choreographer Layne Hannemann, master tattooist Su’a Peter Sulu’ape, natural historian Francis Murphy, and actors Dwayne Johnson and Aul’l Cravalho.

“Islands” looks at research, with an emphasis on visits to Pacific locations and how this information became incorporated into the film. Some of this becomes compelling, but a lot of “Islands” simply feels self-congratulatory. The show feels like it exists mainly to tell us how hard those involved worked to make the movie authentic.

Under Things You Didn’t Know About, we get two segments: “Ron, John, Auli’i and Dwayne” (2:02) and “Mark, Opetaia and Lin-Manuel” (1:58). In the first, we hear from Clements, Musker, Cravalho, and Johnson, while the second presents thoughts from Foa’i and composers Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

In these short clips, the participants answer various goofy questions about what they ate for breakfast, their favorite Disney songs and the like. “Know” seems trivial but short enough not to wear out its welcome.

Next comes the five-minute, 13-second Island Fashion. It delivers comments from costume designer Neysa Bove as she discusses – surprise! – the clothes used in the film. Bove brings us a quick but insightful look at the topic.

The Elements Of… breaks into four pieces: “Mini-Maui” (3:34), “Water” (4:39), “Lava” (2:56) and “Hair” (3:05). These present notes from Smeed, lead of characters and technical animation Carlos Cabral, visual effects supervisor Kyle Odermatt, hand-drawn animation supervisor Eric Goldberg, associate technical supervisors Sean Z. Palmer and Brett Achorn, co-head of effects animation Marlon West, effects leads Erin V. Ramos and Marc Henry Bryant, senior software engineer Alexey Dmitrievich Stomakhin, effects lead David Hutchins, animation supervisor Jennifer Hager, senior software engineers Brian Whited and Maryanne Simmons, simulation technology team’s Aleka McAdams and Toby Jones, and technical animation supervisor Mark Empey.

With these four clips, we get notes about various animation areas, with an emphasis on technological challenges. The featurettes offer informative thoughts about these issues.

After this, we find They Know The Way. It runs 12 minutes, 37 seconds and presents info from Mancina, Miranda, Foa’i, Shurer, and Pasifika Voices choir director Igelese Ete.

As expected, “Way” covers aspects of the music used in the film. Also as expected, it tends to be fluffy and full of praise, but it still delivers a reasonable number of insights.

Cut material appears next. We get a Deleted Song called “Warrior Face” (3:41) as well as seven Deleted Scenes (25:56). Note that the running times include a “Song” intro from Miranda and “Scenes” intros from Musker and Clements.

The song shows a piece where Maui and Moana practice their intimidating “warrior faces”. It’s not a very interesting sequence or song, so I’m glad it got the boot.

As for the scenes, they mostly focus on young Moana, so the majority of the sequences would’ve appeared in the film’s first act. A few offer intriguing details – such as what happened to Moana’s grandfather – and they can be mildly interesting, but most feel like unnecessary exposition.

Trivia tidbits pop up in the two-minute, 52-second Fishing for Easter Eggs. Hosted by Auli’i Cravalho, we get glimpses of little secrets hidden in the movie. I like this enjoyable feature.

We find two music videos for “How Far I’ll Go”. The first uses the version from the film by Alessia Cara, as it shows the singer while she wanders a beach and lip-synchs. It’s a decent song but a boring video, and what’s with all the Autotune?

Another option lets us see “’How Far I’ll Go’ Around the World”. This two-minute, 44-second reel lets us hear snippets of the song in a variety of languages. It becomes a fun addition.

The 2D disc opens with an ad for Beauty and the Beast (2017). Sneak Peeks adds promos for Descendants 2, Elena of Avalor and Cars 3. No trailer for Moana appears here.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Moana. It includes the commentary, Inner Workings and the music video.

In the Disney pantheon, Moana seems perfectly, completely okay. With many elements that borrow from other films, it lacks much originality and it turns into a watchable but not especially inventive experience. The Blu-ray offers excellent visuals with acceptable audio and a pretty good set of supplements. While enjoyable, Moana lacks creative spark.

To rate this film visit the prior review of MOANA

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main