Saturday, November 26, 2016

'Moana' - A Movie We Need Right Now

Recent family movie releases have been both the break from stress, worry and confusion that families, especially kids, need right now, and they have uplifting messages to boot.

You know we were happily surprised by Trolls. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them not only brings magic and wonder in spades, it head-on addresses fear of the 'other' on many levels and underscores the importance of diversity. And, now Moana has hit theaters there's another reason to go.

From all reports, Moana is affirming the importance of supporting, believing in and training our young people to be truly great leaders (instead of doubting them), that girls can do whatever they truly set their hearts and minds to, that have a love interest isn't part of being a successful person and even more so, that platonic love can be a source of strength. It also sends an important message about how respectfully and correctly representing someone's else's culture (different than your own) can actually be a unifying force, strengthening communities, rather than widening the gap that tends to occur in fear of what is different; that there is much more value in respecting our various heritages equally than might be obvious.

Japanese poster
The echoes of happy, happy People Of Color feeling heard, are resonating across Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter and other social media right now, and, after recent weeks, that is a powerful and positive thing.

 (Diverse and respected review site, Rotten Tomatoes, that tallies both critic and audience responses, has a score of 98% positive for Moana at this writing - that's almost unheard of.)

Here's a handy PSA for all those who aren't Polynesian, just to help stop us all from putting our foot in it, and making everyone's jobs of trying to communicate, and build much needed bridges, harder than it has to be.

From Tumblr poster 96kwon:, a poster of Polynesian heritage who reports that, after concerns about misrepresentation, Disney did right by their culture:
A quick FYI for non pacific islanders for Moana
  • Even though you only know Hawaiians doesn’t mean she’s just Hawaiian, and yes, there are more islanders than just Hawaiians.
  •  Polynesian isn’t a language. Polynesia is a large group of islands that have their own distinct language, rich culture, and customs. There’s Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, Easter Islands, etc…
  •  Moana isn’t one race she’s everything mixed into one because there are too many cultures to just base her off of just one island.
  • Maui, as you might have guessed isn’t based off of just one legend either.
  • Maui’s “War Dance” is called the Haka and they do that dance to scare their enemies before battle.
  • Fun fact: Moana means Ocean
  • Please don’t group all of the Pacific Islanders and their cultures into one.
  • Another Fun fact: Pacific Islanders are some of the best navigators of the Ocean to have ever lived. There has even been evidence of them being the first to travel to America. sorry not sorry Columbus.

Spanish language poster
Spanish language poster
And now onto the legend/lore part. We haven't had the opportunity to view the whole film yet but reviews from a wide variety of sources point to it being a success - both as entertainment and as a proper representation of culture and related history and legends.

It's also reported to be full - chock full - of folklore Easter Eggs. Only problem is, we don't have access to a wide variety of Pacific Island folklore to ferret some of these out, but even if we did, we couldn't do better than to point you in the direction of the amazing Zalka Csenge Virág's storytelling, folklore and legend blog, The Multicolored Diary.  She's broken down all the Maui legend references in that character's key song, You're Welcome. The post is titled All the Maui legends crammed into Moana's "You're Welcome".

To explain what she's done, here's an extract from the intro of the post on The Multicolored Diary:
"..what really intrigued me as a storyteller was all the folklore Easter eggs hidden in plain sight. The best among them was Maui the Trickster's introduction song, titled "You're Welcome", which combined the features of trickster and culture hero perfectly.On top of that, each line of the song was a reference to an actual Maui legend."
Csenge goes on to explain the list she put together, with the encouragement that everyone should keep reading indigenous reviews in particular, to truly assess the representational success - both of culture and legends - in the movie. You can read the post (and hear the song in full) HERE.

True to Disney tradition, Easter Eggs , particularly from Ron and John's previous huge hit The Little Mermaid, are spread throughout, making the 'family' this film has come from clear. And,as we have been told over and over - stay until after the credits! There's an extra bit of happy at the very, very end.


  1. I've been looking forward to this the most of all of Disney's announced animated movies. Disney's often most interesting when they reach outside their usual Euro-American wheelhouse. I'm probably going to wait until I can see it with my niece and nephew, though.

  2. I wasn't all that excited by this movie until I read this. Thanks.

  3. As a folklore and Disney fan, I'm excited about this movie. So glad to hear about the resounding message of belief in yourself and others, as well as the folklore heritage contained in the film and its songs.

    I've started collecting folklore of Maui over at, if you're interested in reading what I've found so far.

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