What To Expect From Disney’s Polynesian Animated Epic ‘Moana’

Moana Disney Concept Art

Disney recently announced that its animated feature Moana will be ready for theaters in 2016 and released a teaser artist concept to go along with the news. The positive buzz around the film is already swelling, and may have even pushed up the release date.

Disney described the film in the their press release as a “sweeping, CG-animated comedy-adventure.” It will take place in ancient Polynesia, and is the story of a teenage girl, Moana Waialiki, in search of a fabled island. She’ll be accompanied by characters from Polynesian folklore and mythology. Although Moana won’t hit theaters until late 2016, Disney fans are already eager to see the film for a number of reasons.

First, Moana isn’t white.

Frozen, Tangled, and Brave all set feminist Disney precedents like the tomboyish Merida who refused all available suitors, or Frozen‘s focus on the relationship between sisters rather than a boy meets girl story (although there was plenty of that too). Still, they seemed to reinforce the criticism that Disney is too eurocentric. Even in The Princess and the Frog, critics have pointed out that Disney’s first black princess spent much of her time as a frog.

Moana will instead go to the other side of the world, with a Polynesian main character and new cultural vibe.

Second, despite the rumors, Moana will not use the hand-drawn/CG hybrid animation featured in the short Paperman.

Nevertheless, Ron Clements and John Musker intend to take Disney’s computer animation to a new level in Moana, which is their first CG film. The two directors are best known for The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Frog, making them veterans of the classic hand-drawn style. Paperman, maybe too revolutionary for a feature-length film, had some aspects of classic animation are likely present in Moana.

Third, more girl-power.

Recent characters like Merida and Elsa have been a hit with audiences and critics for portraying strong characters with complicated motivations. From John Musker’s description, Moana will follow suit.

“Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself. She’s the kind of character we all root for, and we can’t wait to introduce her to audiences.”

The last thing to expect is a long wait, although it could be worse.

Originally Disney set the Moana release date for 2018, but after a positive reception after the news first broke, that date was moved up to 2016. That should be just in time for children to stop singing Let It Go.

[Image Credit: Disney Studios, concept art]