Blaring through our kitchen speakers, from the CD played in my car and on the screen of my phone are the scenes and songs from Disney's new film Moana. My little sister at the moment is living and breathing Moana. From the constant pleas to play 'No One Knows' on the computer and the requests to watch her dance [just like Moana does in the film] you might think it is driving me crazy; however, I absolutely love it!
I love the songs and the characters, I love the fact that my sister watches the footage of the film and tries to copy Moana dancing with the water. It is this stuff that makes my heart warm. Compared to a year ago when all my sister did was run around screeching Frozen's 'Let it Go' and all I wanted to do was run around pull my ear drums out. Let's just say that Moana is a definite Disney improvement, and not just in the song department.
I have to admit I was a little bit gutted when Moana lost out to best animation feature and best song at the Oscars. The inner Disney in me was all fired up, and I realised that it was not just because of the fantastic songs I had been humming for weeks. Moana was a new kind of character to the ones my sister had seen on screen before. Moana is not the usual waif like, slightly bug eyed princess that we have all been accustomed to, but a resilient and natural depiction of girl sailing off to save the world. Not since showing her the film Mulan had my little sister been so excited by a strong female character. My little sister was aspiring to be like Moana and I am so grateful for this.
I am thankful for a Disney film in which they have given us a heroine and not a princess. When Moana encounters Maui [the tattooed demi-god] she says "I am not a princess" to which Maui replies [in a kind of Disney-esque mansplaining tone] "If you wear a dress and you have an animal sidekick, you're a princess". Much like the character my sister was very quick to defend and explained to me that Moana is most definitely not a princess but the daughter of a village chief. Touché. She is also badass, I might add. Navigating the ocean and defeating all kinds of obstacles put in her way.
Not only does the film promote a coming of age story without a whiff of a love interest in sight, but it also brings up lots of interesting topics that kids might not have been introduced to. Since watching the film my sister and I have talked about death and spirits because Moana's grandmother is reincarnated in the movie. We have also talked about different cultures, discussing the pan-Pacific place that the film is set; which is a mixture of Fijian, Samoan and Tongan [amongst others]. Speaking about traditions, ancestors and Polynesian explorers. We have also talked together about the language in the film because to my knowledge this is one of the first Disney productions [apart from the opening of the Lion King] where bi-lingual lyrics have been married together in such a beautiful and seamless way. Listening to the soundtrack together in the car there are songs which also feature no English at all. I looked in my rear view mirror, having stopped at a traffic light, to see my little sister transfixed. I asked her if she was alright, to which she replied "I just love listening to the language in this song."
Moana did not deliver at the Oscars, but let us not think of what it did not win, and perhaps think of what it has achieved. Disney has produced a story of female empowerment told through an adventurous, dark-skinned, curly haired character with no love interest, that takes destiny into her own hands. This story of adventure, friendship, tradition and culture; takes Moana on a journey of self discovery and it is teaching girls from a young age to be strong and powerful which is a beautiful thing. Moana shows us that there is a fire inside all of us and personally I am grateful that my sister has a character like her that she is aspiring to be.