Moana: Sea it.
Pixar/Disney hit it out of the park into the Pacific Ocean on this one. While it still runs the more or less standard Disney Princess story arc, it has enough differences to feel fresh and maybe a little more mature. For one thing, Moana's not the orphan in this one, and both parents play important roles, though the grandmother role takes the most attention. The acting is great, the music is tremendous, the refinements to the animation and rendering staggeringly good. Duane does all right in this, but Alan Tudyk threatens to steal the show with one of his most "method" acting roles to date. The girl playing Moana is a great actor and the animators put a lot of loving detail into all the emotional nuances of her performance. I wouldn't be surprised if it was mo-capped, but if not, that's the proof of a great animator. See it in 3-D for sure; the extra eye candy of it is put to excellent use here without being too overt. Loved, loved, LOVED this song from the movie:
There was some spilkis before the movie was released that the modeling of the Maui character was too corpulent and stereotypical of obese Polynesians. He's the only guy rendered that way, and it's not fat: it's all muscle. The rest of the movie seems to take incredible pains to respect the source material and cultural background, though of course it's a bit of a mix of numerous Polynesian cultures.
I liked it too. But let me get a little more... ... ... ...Pacific... with my explanation. (dodges raw fish being thrown on stage)
It felt very "classic 90's Disney", while at the same time not being as basic and overrated as Frozen was. I'll keep my Frozen bashing to a minimum here, but that was basically a straight-to-DVD story with three really good songs. Also, Moana doesn't have Josh Gad in it, so that's another reason it's better than Frozen.
This legitimately had an interesting story, with great visuals, and a few hit songs of its own (mostly written by that Lin-Manuel Miranda dude from Hamilton). My personal favorite song was the giant sea crab song "Shiny", because Jemaine Clement rules and it was basically a Flight of the Conchords song.
I guess it wasn't entirely the fault of the movie (but still... somewhat), but I was tired and I think I fell asleep for a few minutes in the first act. I regained 100% consciousness at the moment when Moana was first on the boat in the middle of the ocean with the chicken (who was a pretty funny animal sidekick, and I laughed when I realized this was who you were referring to when you said Alan Tudyk stole the show), and from that point on the movie was entertaining until the end.
But while we're on the note of animal sidekicks, the pig in this movie was lame, and I'm pretty sure it was just included to sell stuffed animals at the Disney Store.
Still tough... Moana > Frozen.
I just went and saw MOANA again yesterday, picked up some more detail. The background detail goes on for miles and miles in every scene. The story development took five years and several writing teams to get to the eventual version, and I think the pig was probably more of a left-over from the earlier versions. Really, it's a very minor quibble. Jemaine seemed to be channeling his inner Tim Curry/Bowie for "Shiny", but my daughter loves Dwayne's version of "You're Welcome" as the best song.
For me, the key scenes are the ones that lead up to and follow THIS one: it raises the hairs on my neck and makes my eyes water every freaking time I play it, which is now well over a hundred times.
This clip rewards slow step-framing to really take it all in.
That song is going to win every award this year, book it, done and done. If it feels a little like the opening to The Lion King, that's because it shares the same composer, along with the Hamilton guy and the lead singer of Te Vaka.
It's a higher level of Disney story-telling than most folks are used to, with a plot both simplistic yet nuanced. The movie should pass the Bechdel test with at least a "B". The lead NEVER has any romantic plot line at all, unheard of in a Disney Princess tale before. From the very beginning scenes of baby Moana and the sea, culminating in the power ballad, "I Am MOANA", it's a line drive hit of pure "girl power" all the way, and rather than being rescued by the male lead, Moana is empowered to be his equal in reaching their goals, and his superior, in terms of heroism, inspiration, and a pure drive to succeed. This is the kind of movie I wish I could take my daughter to every week. We drove home discussing the duality of the characters and their competing motivations in a way no other animated film since maybe Toy Story. I feel like the cross-pollination with Pixar is where part of that excellence comes from, as well as the amazing amount of research work put into making this film culturally respectful and authentic.
[Scott Roberts] "It felt very "classic 90's Disney""
That was on porpoise of course. (As was that.) My guess is that the two most valuable names in the Disney library right now aren't Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, but Ariel (The Little Mermaid), Belle, and Mulan.
You know there's a live-action Mulan in pre-production, right? In fact, if you go to Google and type in "live-action" I bet the first autocomplete choice is "live-action Mulan" -- at least it was for me this very second when I checked it out. Remarkably enough, the script is being re-written as we speak by the team behind Jurassic World (oops TERRIBLE GENDER WRITING...and uhm TERRIBLE MOVIE) and the Avatar sequels (hmmm, maybe getting warmer).
The most remarkable thing to me is that Ming-Na Wen could probably still play Mulan. I know that y'all are much too cool to be watching Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, but Ming-Na is absolutely slaying on that thing.
Anyway, the closer they can stick the landing to the 90s, the better.
[Scott Roberts] "But while we're on the note of animal sidekicks, the pig in this movie was lame, and I'm pretty sure it was just included to sell stuffed animals at the Disney Store."
Originated with Jiminy Cricket I suppose, but elevated to an actual THING by Eddie Murray in Mulan , natch. The donkey in Shrek was just a reprise. Not that plenty of character actors and voice actors don't get to be where they are by doing exactly that --
-- but I was looking at the voice cast again, and just blown away by the wall to greatness. Any movie with James Hong and George Takei is on the right track (please 2016, don't notice that they're both still with us at 87 and 79 yrs old!), but going up and down the roster, from June Foray (ROCKET J. SQUIRREL!!! and Natasha, Cindy Lou Who, the granny in the Tweety Bird cartoons, etc etc) to James Shigeta (JOSEPH TAKAHAGI!!!!), Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Fierstein, and BD Wong -- with Donnie Osmond doing his singing!
In fact, thinking about this further, Lea Salonga (Princess Jasmine) did Mina-Na's singing voice, and the Supreme Goddess of This Sort of Thing, Marni Nixon, did the singing for June Foray! Just as she'd done for Debra Kerr, Natalie Wood, Audrey Hepburn, and others.
I think the best-cast animated feature in Disney history by a long, long shot.
Trust me, if you haven't Mulan'd yourself in a good while, that ain't good. I remember watching it at the time and thinking, wow, Disney totally played for keeps with this. It's like, after Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, they felt they could do anything, and they were right. They did everything right with this.
AND Mulan landed right in the middle of Buffy and The X-Files, throwing a bright illumination around Moana as not just a princess, but gods, demigods, the supernatural, and a hero's epic quest. Joseph Campbell is out there somewhere grinning at all FOUR of his daughters: Buffy, Scully, Mulan, and Moana.
The thing about Frozen is that I can't decide if it's better than I remembered, because I was mostly bored out of my mind, or worse than I remembered, because the best of it was amazing. If it had ended with "Let It Go", it'd be like the best movie ever. LOL The sister stuff was good, but if they'd just handed out a card as we were leaving the theater ("The sisters' love for each other saved their lives and the kingdom"), I'd have probably been fine. LOL
For sure though, when I want to get my Frozen on, I'm less likely to reach for THAT and more likely to reach for THIS:
Alright Tim, you've convinced me to watch Mulan again! (I probably haven't seen it in 15 years) I was just starting high school when it came out, so it kind of missed my childhood memory window like Little Mermaid through Lion King. You know what, I was just looking at the 90s list, and I don't think I've ever even seen one minute of The Hunchback of Notre Dame...!
[Mark Suszko] "The lead NEVER has any romantic plot line at all, unheard of in a Disney Princess tale before."
I thought that was pretty awesome. Forced romances have always kind of irked me, but maybe even more so in a movie for children. Just go on adventures!