The happiest blog on Earth
Hello my lovely readers! So last Wednesday I got to go see Moana (the day it came out) and I absolutely adored the movie. I wrote a review for The Chant, and thought I would post it here as well. It's a bit more professional-sounding than most of the movie review I do just for this column, and I finally got around to posting it a bit late, but whatever. Enjoy!
Walt Disney Animation Studios released its newest animated film Moana on November 23, chronicling a 16-year-old Pacific Islander girl who sets out on an ocean adventure to save her village. The film reflects Disney’s neverending expertise in the area of animation, coupled with beautiful music and casting as a testament to Oceanic culture.
Moana opens with the mischievous demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who steals the heart of the goddess of creation, Te Fiti, but finds himself quickly overpowered by the demon Te Kā who loses the heart in the ocean. It later finds a young Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of the island chief, who longs to explore the sea but feels a responsibility to her people. When the stolen heart begins to destroy the island, Moana must track down Maui and travel back to Te Fiti to return it to its rightful place.
The story links basic Disney qualities with South Pacific mythology so successfully that it keeps all audiences interested. With a heavy dose of the culture of Moana’s fictional island of Motunui, the story reflects traditional Polynesian storytelling practices and beliefs: the fire demon Te Kā resembles the Hawaiian Pele, the ocean acts as its own character with a distinct personality to reflect traditional personification, and Maui comes directly from Hawaiian mythology. Furthermore, directors John Musker and Ron Clements made multiple trips to South Pacific islands to accurately showcase the often-misrepresented culture, speaking to Pacific Islander professionals from archaeologists and historians to elders and tattoo artists. The testaments to South Pacific culture make the film shine beyond the storyline and showcase Disney’s capacity for innovative storytelling and Musker and Clements’ passion for bringing accurate and inspiring tales to their viewers.
Moana does find itself stuck in a bit of predictability reflective of the earlier films The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo, but for the next generation’s children, the film acts as their first venture into the Disney storyline, so I can ignore the somewhat-pretentious complaint.
Disney’s Moana found its perfect star in sixteen-year-old Cravalho, a Hawaiian native who plays the title character with a natural gusto. Blessed with the ability to sing as well as act, Cravalho creates an enticing character torn between her love of adventure and the traditions of her people with such believability that it feels as if Cravalho herself is Moana; her personal experience growing up on stories of Maui and Polynesian culture add endearing charm.
Johnson plays the demi-god Maui with a perfect mix of humor, vulnerability, and faith in tradition. He successfully pulls off the well-known change from egotistical to wise without losing the audience’s interest in the character and the original mythology.
As one of the first companies to experiment with animation of all types, Disney’s legacy lives on through Moana. The film mixes 2D and 3D animation, highlighting the former to tell traditional tales. Filled with shots of the island Motunui and the ocean, the animation provides shockingly beautiful images with impressive clarity and realisticness. From literal tons of water to Moana’s complex and curly hair, almost no part of Moana called for easy animation and the complete detail to which Disney created each character reflects the almost five years spent working on the movie.
Furthermore, Moana pulls off its storytelling with a boost from the soundtrack, which includes twelve songs sung during the movie à la Beauty and the Beast or Mulan. Featuring songs written by the creator of the Tony Award-winning Broadway show Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as Oceanic songwriter Opetaia Foa’i and composer Mark Mancina, each song adds to the culture of the movie and moves the plot and character motivations forward.
The powerful “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana’s “Reflection”-esque solo, showcases Cravalho’s beautiful voice, and multiple reprises, including the breathtaking spinoff “I Am Moana,” reflect the character’s battle between duty to her people and her love for the sea. The upbeat song for Maui, “You’re Welcome,” adds in an extra layer of humor as the demi-god gloats about all of his accomplishments. Furthermore, the gorgeous “We Know the Way,” which acts as the theme song of Motunui and swells with a chorus in the Tokelauan language, showcases Foa’i and Miranda’s craft.
Moana’s only fault, other than its predictability, lies in a disjointed middle. Moana and Maui’s fight with the huge crab Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement) feels out of place, and the monster’s main song, a David Bowie-esque tune written by Miranda called “Shiny,” messes with the entire tone of the film. In any other context, I may have enjoyed the song, but the battle itself felt rushed and without enough backstory to truly fit into the movie’s tapestry.
Still, Disney’s Moana triumphs with original characters, testaments to Polynesian culture, and breathtaking animation. Even by falling prey to the Disney boilerplate, Clements and Muskers’ piece matters less for its story and more for its beautiful and accurate representation of a culture unknown to many.
Hello lovely readers!
I have gathered a couple of my favorite Disney photos to post here as a way to promote my photography portfolio! You can check out all my photography links in my previous post.
Hello lovely readers, and happy early Thanksgiving! I am going to try to get up a fun Thanksgiving recipe this week, so stay tuned for that. But first...
I am an aspiring photographer and photojournalist and I have officially gotten my photography portfolio off the ground. I started a photography Instagram a little whole ago (with lots of photos of Disney), and have now expanded to a Facebook, Twitter, online portfolio, and Redbubble!
The social media links are below, and I would appreciate if you checked them out. You can even purchase prints, mugs, clocks, pillows, skirts, and more with my photos from Redbubble (Disney photos coming soon!).
Thanks for your neverending support.
"Perhaps he'll make his special brew
It's finally starting to get cold outside here in Georgia, so I've been craving warm comfort food. I can't remember when the idea of making snake and spider stew popped into my head, but with beef chuck for spiders and egg noodles for snakes, this stew is perfect for a Halloween meal.
Need a way to pull together a Disney costume in no time at all? Take a look at these easy cosplays for October 31st! Many of the options from Polyvore are super expensive, but cheaper alternatives can always be found.
For a darker twist, Maleficent is a great choice! You can be inspired by the original cartoon or the new movie, and all you need is a wealth of black.
Clothes: A long dark dress works perfectly for Maleficent, but you could pull off a black top and pants as well. If you can work in some feathers on the top (like the jacket above), that will go the extra mile. Easy black shoes, simple black jewelry, and a headband (or some horns if you can find them) will round it out.
Hair: Maleficent works with any hair color, but a dark brown is best. Either style in an elegant updo or just leave your hair curled.
Makeup: A smoky eye is the obvious choice, with lots of highlighting for your cheekbones and a nice red lip. Dark red or black nails are perfect.
Need some inspiration for your Disney-themed Halloween costume? Check out these amazing Disney cosplays!
Are you ready for the best time of the year? Break out your Halloween decorations and finish up your costumes with this Halloween mix of Disney tunes!
Sorry about the major lack in posts, I've literally been up to my head in work. I am super excited to get started again though, and I will be doing a super fun Halloween week two weeks from now (or maybe next week-ish).
Anyway, I put together a quick list of the top 10 underrated Disney movies so you can check that out below!
10. A Goofy Movie
I'm fairly certain you can ask any millennial and they will espouse the importance of this movie. After Goofy's son Max finally gets a girl to notice him, Goofy proposes a cross-country fishing trip to increase the bond between the two. Max is basically salty the entire time, but eventually learns love and acceptance. This movie was released straight to VHS and played on Disney Channel, so it missed the major applause it could have garnered. Still, it's worth a watch for a comical yet sweet story.
9. Oliver & Company
Love old stories imagined in new ways? Check out this sweet retelling of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist with a kitten and a pack of "ruff" dogs. It's sweet and musical and well worth a watch.
8. The Sword in the Stone
Following the retelling series, Disney's version of the story of King Arthur and Excalibur ties together adventure, silliness, and a crazy villain with the old-time Disney charm.
7. Treasure Planet
Arguably one of the most well-known underrated Disney movies (and one that never had its heyday in the theaters as it was Disney's biggest financial loss), Treasure Planet tells the story of a young man named Jim Hawkins who stumbles upon the map to a great treasure trove. A crazy race for the treasure ensues, featuring aliens, gold, supernovas, and more.
6. Brother Bear
As another movie that flew under the radar of many fans, Brother Bear ties in a Phil Collins soundtrack with a heartwarming coming-of-age story about an Inuit boy named Kenai who is transformed into a bear to learn how to "see through another's eyes, feel through another's heart, and discover the meaning of brotherhood."
5. Meet the Robinsons
I feel like Meet the Robinsons was a movie that had its heyday more on Disney Channel than in the theaters. This heartwarming and complex story follows a young inventor who is catapulted into the future where he finds a crazy family (The Robinsons) and must battle off an evil (yet fairly dumb) mastermind. The film's time-traveling theme brings the perfect plot twist and the moral of the story -- you always have true love and acceptance in your family, even if they're not blood -- could make anyone cry.
4. Emperor's New Groove
For a great overview of this movie and my reactions to it, check out my post here. This crazy adventure of a Incan emperor turned into a llama blends comedy, coming-of-age stories, and quick-moving storytelling for a story fans will never forget.
3. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
A young cartographer with major determination to find Atlantis ends of uncovering a major mystery when he travels to find the lost secrets of the underground city. Like Treasure Planet, this adventure film was totally overlooked in the theaters even though it features a cast of strong characters and an interesting plot that leaves viewers wanting to find Atlantis themselves.
2. Robin Hood
When movies are fairly old, we tend to forget that they exist (see: The Sword in the Stone, The Black Cauldron, etc.). Still, Disney's Robin Hood will forever live on in my heart as one of my favorite Disney movies. The film tells the famous story of a bow-and-arrow-wielding outlaw who steals from the rich to give to the poor, but rewrites every character as a member of the animal kingdom under King John (a problematic lion). With Robin Hood as a charming fox, Maid Marian as a sweet vixen, and Little John as a huge bear, the movie twists together amazing music, charming stories, and a happily-ever-after for a classic that lives on.
1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
By far, Hunchback is my favorite Disney movie. Based on Victor Hugo's dark short story, and with quite a dark plot itself, the film centers on Quasimodo, a hunchback who rings the bells for Notre Dame. He dreams of leaving his tower and falls in love with the gypsy Esmeralda, but his caretaker Judge Claude Frollo has sinister plans that get in the way. It is a great mix of important morals like accepting yourself and an adventure that never stops.
The school season is finally back in swing! I'm going to try my best to keep updating this blog, but I have loads to do as this is my senior year.
Still, I love this blog and I'm looking forward to continued innovation in the future.
As a note, I have now hit three years of running this column, which is crazy. I'm so thankful for all of the people who are reading this blog and I really hope to be able to continue to provide an interesting experience for all of you.
I still need to finish my series on The Best of Disney (I'm almost done with Animal Kingdom I promise) and I have a couple other ideas up my sleeve. Let me know if you have any other ideas over on my contact me page; I love hearing from you guys!
Before I post anything else, though, here is some important news from Disney World: the famed Main Street Electric Parade will ends its 28 year run on October 9, 2016. Make sure you work in a trip to the park before then to see the amazing show one more time!
Kat Shambaugh: photographer, graphic designer, wannabe Disney princess. Literature, Media, and Communications major at the Georgia Institute of Technology.