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20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Moana’

Moana, the 56th entry in the Disney animated canon, was released in 2016 to critical praise. There is much to like in this film, which follows the story of a young Hawaiian girl as she struggles to adapt to what her family expects of her. Of course, one can instantly see the similarities between this premise and ones of other Disney films such as Pocahontas and Mulan, to name a couple. Still, Moana is original and enjoyable enough to forgive the fact that this story has been told before.

Read: 20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Zootopia’

With the musical genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda and great voice talent like Dwayne Johnson, Moana has a lot in its favor. The songs are engaging and certainly memorable, and the voice cast does an excellent job creating their characters, specifically newcomer Auli’i Cravalho as Moana herself.  The animation is also breathtaking and beautiful to look at. It is amazing how realistic and lifelike things such as water or fire can look thanks to modern technology.

The film is definitely a worthwhile entry to the canon, though, as I said before, there are some familiar story beats here that many members of the audience will recognize.

Since its release in 2016, I have grown to love Moana (its soundtrack in particular) and it has become one of my favorite Disney movies in recent years.

Live-action remake: There is no live-action remake planned for Moana.

Moana in the theme parks: There is not much of Moana in the theme parks yet, although there is a live show in Hong Kong Disneyland called Moana: A Homecoming Celebration that opened in May of 2018.

However, as part of an upcoming expansion of Epcot, there will be a new attraction called Journey of Water. As described by the official press release, it will be the “first-ever experience based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios hit film, Moana,” and “will let guests interact with magical, living water in a beautiful and inspiring setting.”

Originally, this was planned to open in 2021, but recent reports indicate this is unlikely.

Sequel/Spin-off: At last years’ Disney Investor Day, a spin-off of Moana was announced for Disney+. Also titled Moana, this series will bring back the character from the film by the same name, likely taking place after the events of the film. It is planned to be released in 2023.

Early reports for Walt Disney Animation Studios’ then-untitled film Encanto hinted that it would serve as somewhat of a sequel to Moana. Though it wouldn’t feature the character of Moana, it would be taking place in the same universe. When Lin-Manuel Miranda joined the team to write new music, this only added fuel to the fire. However, at this point, it doesn’t seem that there will be any connections between these two films.

Moana is available to stream on Disney+.

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