We’ve got a Moana Review for you today! “Are you guys like those dorks who dress up to go see the new Star Wars movie?” My husband asked as my daughter and I got dressed to go see Moana.
“Yes, yes we are,” I said without an ounce of shame.
Despite last night being the THIRD time I’ve seen this movie (once at a screening in LA, and then again at the World Premiere), I still got into it. And to be honest, I enjoyed it more than ever this time around.
I’m going to break this review down into parts. No spoilers. Just my review plus tips and tidbits to help you enjoy it with your little ones. Then I’ll also have a 6 and 3-year-old Moana review from my kiddos at the end.
Next to our love for Disney animated movies is our love for the short films. Inner Workings is the delightful one right before Moana. In in you get to see Paul being torn between his head and his heart (quite literally). I don’t have a ranking of my favorite short films yet but this made me think I should to do one because Inner Workings would be near the top. Both of my kids loved it, even my 3-year-old was mimicking Paul’s actions and laughing (he’s not easy to impress).
Moana is nothing like Disney has done before
I repeat, this is nothing like Disney has done before. At that point, you can’t go into it expecting it to be like any other Disney Animation Classic or princess movies. We went to a press conference with Lin-Manuel Miranda and he said when he was writing the music for Moana he had to keep saying to himself “don’t think of Frozen, don’t think of Frozen…” I think you have to tell yourself that before seeing the movie too. I had high expectations and a lot of questions leading up to the film, but I tried not to over-research so I could be surprised and enjoy it for what it is.
If you go in expecting this to be the next Frozen I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. It’s completely different from the princess predecessors but beautiful in it’s own way. Yes, there is great music, there is a beautiful story line, and of course absolutely stunning animation. But that’s where the similarities end. The animal sidekick doesn’t talk but manages to steal the show with (mostly) silent humor. And though the whole film was computer animated (a first for these iconic directors) they incorporated the hand drawn elements in Maui’s tattoo which works as a conscience for him.
That said, if you’ve ever had anything against the Disney Princess films, this one is sure to change your mind. There’s no love story/love interest, the movie is truly about a girl and her own journey to save the world and along the way she finds where she belongs and discovers what she was born to do.
It gets a little weird, but there’s a point
There’s a part where they go into the realm of monsters. Watching it the first time I was like “Oh no, here’s the Pink Elephant moment.” (You know… from Dumbo?). It gets a little creepy and it seems random HOWEVER… In our interview with directors John Musker and Ron Clements they told us how this scene was to break up from being on the water for too long, and actually based on Polynesian mythology about a world below the ocean. So knowing that I loved that scene WAY more the second and third time around. And interestingly enough, it was my daughter’s favorite part.
Don’t expect a singalong version, but do expect to sing along
The first time I watched the movie my ears were trying to pinpoint my favorite songs. There are two or three songs that are super catchy. I’m pre-ordered the album last night (it drops on the 18th!) because my daughter was singing her favorite song over and over. Yes, there are some GREAT songs that you’ll want to have on repeat, however I don’t foresee this having the musical power of Frozen. I hate saying this cause I’m sick of that soundtrack but I mean… Few Disney movies meet that level.–There’s a singalong at Disney World, a musical at Disneyland. Moana’s soundtrack is incredible and it has musical genius Lin-Manuel Miranda behind it (and you can totally tell). But the non-English languages have me wondering if this will take off the same way. Either way, we’ll be belting it in our house and car.
Is Moana scary?
I’m always hyper-aware of scary parts of the movies, especially when I see them before my kids. I worry it’ll be too intense for them when it’s blown up on the big screen. There’s a crab in the realm of monsters that’s hilarious, but gets a little scary when the lights go out and he’s singing and things get a little psychedelic. My 9-year-old sister called it “creepy” but my 6-year-old says it was awesome. My 3.5-year-old son didn’t seem to mind either.
There’s a frightening-looking lava villain that I thought might be a little dark for my kids but they didn’t bat an eye. Know your kids. This isn’t nearly as scary as say The Good Dinosaur, but loud, dark theaters can make any scary scene quite a bit more intense. So think about your kiddos and what they can handle.
The hour and 53 minutes is a beautiful journey through Polynesian culture. The directors John Musker and Ron Clements (directors of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and The Princess and the Frog) told us how they spent years and years visiting different South Pacific and Oceania islands to learn about the people, culture, music, dancing, chants, animals, sounds and more. They even went back and changed some things about the movie when people told them they got it wrong. For instance, Demigod Maui was originally bald but the directors were told no… He needs long, thick hair, because it’s a part of his “mana”, power as a demigod, so they went back and redid that.
With this cultural immersion, you’re going to quickly notice the difference from other Disney movies where the location kind of just played into the backstory. Rich Polynesian history is at the forefront of this film and plays a role throughout. From haka dances the non-English lyrics in songs–It left me wanting an Ancestry DNA re-test to see if I have this beautiful culture running through my blood.
Look for the hidden treasures!
Finally, the Easter eggs–As fans call them. Hidden surprises throughout the movie found in the form of characters from other Disney movies.
The first time around I noticed Squirt and Sven and Wreck it Wralph, but I haven’t noticed any more yet but the directors told us there’s: Dory, Baymax, Flounder, Olaf, Sven and Squirt. The second and third time I’ve been trying to just look for those and I continue to fail.
We’ll go for my round four opening weekend and I’m going to be looking for more of those. Let me know if you spot any!
Also, don’t forget to stay past the ending credits to see a funny scene at the end.
3-year-old Moana review
Did you like Moana?
Yea, I liked it.
What part was your favorite?
I liked the chicken. He screamed.
You liked the chicken?
Yea, and when she fell off the boat in the water.
Do you want to see it again?
What was your favorite song?
6-year-old Moana review
Tell me what you thought of Moana.
It was… Eh, it was… AWESOME! *hands flailing in the air*
Why was it awesome?
Because it’s my new favorite movie. And it’s really cool, and it’s just really nice. First of all, Moana looks exactly like me. And second, I just like the songs in it, I just think it’s perfect. Nothing’s wrong.
Where there any boring parts?
No. Not at all, the whole time I was staring at it, like an eye contest.
What was your favorite part?
When he was singing “SO SHINY!… I just love it so much. SO SHINY! I’m gonna sing it all night… SO SHINY!”
Did you think it was funny?
Yes, it’s like every part is so funny. The grandma said ‘I hope I picked the right tattoo’ and the chicken was on the boat and bumping his head, and he had a coconut on his head and…” …Yea, I really like it and it’s really funny.
What would you say to someone thinking about seeing Moana?
It’s going to be so great and it’s so awesome, you have to see it!
Did you think it was scary?
No. The lava person might scare babies.
What do you think the moral of the story is?
Follow your heart and never give up.
What would you say to someone who says they don’t want to go see a ‘princess’ movie?
Well actually she’s not actually a princess, she’s the chief’s daughter and she likes to go on boats. It’s cool, and Maui can turn into a bird with his cool little hook thing. She’s more of a hero.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I’M SO SHINY!
Just as a personal note, this was the first time my kids laughed out loud in a movie theater. It was so fun to see that. Often the jokes and message don’t sink in until we see it again later but I enjoyed sitting back and watching their reaction, which was pure joy. Definitely a must-see family flick. Don’t miss it!
Moana sails into theaters everywhere Wednesday November 23rd and believe it or not, we are getting tickets to see it AGAIN. Let us know what you think!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our Moan Review be sure to check out our other Disney posts!