A closer look at… Moana

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Moana is rated PG for mild threat.

The Scoop – A joyous and uplifting addition to the Disney pantheon 

Long ago, the trickster god Maui (Dwayne Johnson) stole the Heart of Te Fiti – a stone belonging to an island goddess, which possessed the power to create life. When Maui was attacked by the lava demon Te Ka, the Heart of Te Fiti was lost, bringing down a curse which would eventually spread to all the surrounding islands.

A thousand years later, Chieftain’s daughter Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is preparing to take on her responsibilities as a leader on the island of Motunui. Her father (Temuera Morrison) has forbidden her to go out on the ocean, but she can’t help but feel drawn there. When Motunui’s resources are threatened by a mysterious darkness, Moana’s grandmother (Rachel House) tells her that she is the chosen one: she must discover the truth about her seafaring ancestors, find Maui, and restore the Heart of Te Fiti.

Our Take

What better place to go, during the cold wet days at the end of December, than a sparkling Polynesian island in the sun? Moana is a much-needed injection of joy at the end of an awful year, a heartfelt tale featuring gorgeous animation, unforgettable characters, and ridiculously catchy songs courtesy of certified genius Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The plot is a little predictable, and as a whole it adds up to something less than the 2010 classic Tangled (which I will always maintain is miles better than the all-consuming hit Frozen). But it’s churlish to nitpick when the treasures on offer include Mad Max-style coconut pirates, a David Bowie crab, and the world’s stupidest rooster. Go see it, and let it sweep you away.

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Dig Deeper

For kids children

  • Did you like the film, and why or why not? Which scenes, which songs and which characters were your favourites?
  • What did you like about Moana? What were some of her bravest moments? What makes her a good heroine?
  • What do we learn about Moana’s people, and the way that they live on the island? How do they use and look after the natural world around them? What happens if we don’t take care of our world?
  • Why does Moana want to go out to sea, and why do her parents want her to stay at home? How does her grandmother help encourage her to go on an adventure?

You may hear a voice inside
And if the voice starts to whisper
To follow the farthest star
Moana, that voice inside is
Who you are.

– Grandmother Tala

  • What did you think of Maui? Why does he pretend to be so confident, and how does he really feel on the inside? How did you feel when he came back to help Moana at the end?
  • Did you find any of the film scary? Were you surprised by what happened to Te Ka, the lava monster?
  • What does Moana learn on her journey? How does she learn to to ‘listen to the voice inside’? What helps you to feel confident about who you are and where you’re going?

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For adults 

  • Did you like the film, and how do you think it compares with other similar Disney tales?
  • What did you make of the story’s Polynesian setting? What challenges might filmmakers face when portraying a minority culture in this way, and what opportunities does this bring?
  • Do you think the film’s heroine is a good role model, and how important is this in a children’s film? How important is it for children (and adults!) to see diverse characters onscreen? Do you think Hollywood in general is taking enough steps to achieve this?

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  • How does Moana explore the tension between tradition and trailblazing? Have you ever faced this tension in your own life, and how did it play out? How does the film itself draw on Disney’s traditions, and what does it do that’s new or different?
  • What did you think of the film’s message about identity and guidance, and where they come from? Did this message resonate with you, and why or why not?

And the call isn’t out there at all
It’s inside me.

– Moana

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Published by

Sophie Lister

Damaris resources bring films to new audiences, start conversations, and enrich lives. Find out more at www.damarismedia.com Here at the Damaris Film Blog, we publish regular discussion guides to help you make the most of the latest cinema releases.

144 thoughts on “A closer look at… Moana”

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