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Moana (2016)

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John Musker and Ron Clements are the directors behind Disney Renaissance classics such as Basil The Great Mouse Detective (1986), The Little Mermaid (1989), Aladdin (1992), and Hercules (1997). Since Disney's shift towards computer animation, Clement and Musker add to that CV with their latest outing, Moana. Following recent Disney faves such as Tangled (2010), Frozen (2013) and Zootropolis (2016) I had high expectations for this.

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e film tells the story of the princess of a Polynesian tribe chosen by the ocean to find and return a god's magical relic where it belongs. Moana goes in search of the relic that has the power to create life and safe her tribe with the help of a idiot chicken and a demigod, Maui. I don't think it's a true story. If my attempt to describe the plot doesn't make a lot of sense, please don't let it put you off - there is a reason Disney is telling the story, and I'm sat here in my pyjamas eating a tube of paprika Pringles. Much like everyone else, Disney films played a huge role as I grew up, and Lion King is one of the first films I remember going to see at the cinema. More recently Tangled and Frozen blew me away, and Zootropolis did a fantastic job at entertaining and educating in equal measure. I was so pleased to find that not only did Moana continue to ride the successful wave of those films, but also carry on their tradition of having a strong female lead character - I'd go as far to say that breakout star Auli'i Cravalho's Moana is the most three-dimensional to date too. She has ambitions and motivations everyone will be able to connect with, and the patience to put up with an idiot chicken that kept reminding me of the braindead horse in Family Guy. The demigod, Maui, voiced brilliantly by Dwayne Johnson, also keeps the princess company. Johnson has said in the past how hard a job voice acting is and how annoyed he can get at the casting of other big name celebrities in animations despite their poor delivery. Apparently he would often ask for validation from the Moana crew that he was doing a good job, and it's that level of care from everyone involved that runs throughout this film.
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To say I had run out on the first day of release to catch Moana would be a lie. Had it not been for Lin-Manuel Miranda, this film would have passed me by. Charlotte and I currently have an unhealthy obsession with his Broadway smash hit musical, Hamilton (we're always very late to the party). Telling the story of founding father, Alexander Hamilton via hip-hop and rap, the soundtrack has been on repeat in our flat for the last week. When we realised writer and lead, Miranda, had contributed towards the songs of Moana it didn't take long for Charlotte to book tickets to go. His influence definitely shines through in Moana's brilliant 'How Far I'll Go' and 'You're Welcome'. Although I think parents only just recovering from car journeys with 'Let It Go' on repeat may be safe in this occasion, that isn't to say the tunes aren't great during their place in the film. Jermaine Clement's (in coconut crab form) quirky and bizarre "Shiny" could also have been plucked straight from a Flight if the Conchords episode. Never a bad thing in my book.
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Moana features beautiful looking backdrops, foliage, and coconut pirates, as well as some of the best looking ocean animation since Life of Pi (a character in itself). It all adds up to one of the most stunning films of the year. As a kid's film, this ticks every box. Time will tell, but I assume it will be just short of the longevity of a Lion King, Frozen, or Zootropolis, but that isn't to take anything away from what was a load of fun from start to finish. I recently watched a YouTube video about average films, the mimicking of each other and why that has become the norm. The lack of originality in cinema sometimes can get frustrating, so when there is it should be celebrated. It's therefore disappointing I've heard very little of Disney's latest outing, its original plot (no sequel or reboot here), strong female lead, or excellent mix of superb music and visuals. Production companies churn out lazy kids film imitations like Secret Life of Pets (2016), uninspiring sequels such as Shrek The Third (2007), or throw celebrity voice overs at toy adverts such as Trolls (2016) all to often. It's refreshing when imaginative plots like Moana's, or Zootropolis' challenging commentary on the world around us hit our screens. I know which will find a place in my collection should I ever decide to have kids.
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