'Moana' is a different kind of Disney Princess Film on Netflix
The “Disney Princess” movie has become its own sub-genre, at least since “Snow White” back in the 1930s. The trope involves a young girl who has a great destiny and winds up in a position of wealth and power, usually due to meeting, falling in love, and marrying a handsome prince. “Cinderella” is a classic example as are ”Beauty and the Beast,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “The Little Mermaid.”
More recently, Disney has been playing with the genre, expanding the settings of Disney Princess films beyond Western Europe, as with “Mulan,” set in China, “Aladdin,” set in the Middle East, and “Pocahontas,” set in North America of the early 17th century. Some recent movies have removed the ‘girl meets boy, falls in love with him, then marries him’ story altogether. “Brave” has Merida rejecting all of her suitors and having to resolve issues with her mother. In “Frozen,” the princess in question has to deal with powers that make her dangerous to be around, with her sister getting the romantic story.
This leads us to “Moana,” set in ancient Polynesia and now streaming on Netflix. Moana is a young girl who is chosen by the ocean itself to find a new home for her people whose island has been afflicted by a blight, as well as restoring the heart to a local goddess. The voyages of the Polynesian navigators over thousands of miles are both epic and, sadly, unrecorded. “Moana” casts a strong-willed young girl in the role. No handsome prince is in the film, but rather she is aided by a demigod voiced by Dwayne Johnson, usually known for tough-guy roles in action films.
“Moana” was a smash hit when it first showed on the big screen. It made nearly $700 million during its first run and won great praise for its animation, music, and vocal performances. The only people who seemed to have a problem with the film were social justice warriors who accused Disney of “appropriating” the culture and traditions of the Polynesian people for profit. However, sane people can ignore such rants and note that the movie constitutes more of an appreciation of the history of the people who spread across the Pacific in outrigger ocean craft, braving myriad dangers to see what lay beyond the next horizon and find new lands to settle.
“Moana” is a magnificent adventure story and provides a role model for young girls as an inspiration for what is possible given courage, skill, and no little luck.