Oscar Nominated Features 2017: Moana

I recently posted a conversation I had with AnimationForce’s own @scribbleaddict and it mostly sums up what I thought about this movie. It was easily my favorite of the Oscar noms this year, and I’ve been less than favorable of Disney’s presence at the Academy Awards in the past. But I would honestly be hard pressed to find anything wrong with this movie.

Ok, maybe not so hard pressed. The story is fairly predictable, but then again, so are every other Disney animated film, so you can’t really hold that against it. What it does have going for it is, in my opinion, the first truly and wholly successful Disney musical since the Golden Age.

The problems I had with Tangled and Frozen were almost entirely rooted in their Musical-ness. Generally, I like to assume a plot can be understood and the story told almost entirely from the songs. When I was still in school, I was always trying desperately to get into the theatre program without being a theatre major, and so found myself often in deep conversation about a recent Broadway production or a classic Hollywood musical and why it did or didn’t work. Very often, it came down to the reason I stated before. It’s why Spamalot isn’t a great musical, despite its comedy entertainment value. It’s why Young Frankenstein: The Musical is terrible. You can’t just take a funny phrase from the movie like “Roll in ze hay?” and turn it into a song. There are definite exceptions to the rule, like Singin’ In The Rain. Almost none of those songs are original; it’s focus is more on the theatricality of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. But it certainly holds true with the Disney musicals. Heck, Lion King was adapted into a wildly successful Broadway show. That cannot happen with Frozen. I would bet money on it.

Moana’s soundtrack is on par with any of those classic films, or any number of smash hits on Broadway; Wicked, Phantom of the Opera… Hamilton? Oh right, it’s because Disney hired someone with real success writing music and lyrics in that specific style. For all of Idina Menzel’s Broadway chops, “Let It Go” is still just radio-pop. It’s the closest thing that movie has to a “Defying Gravity” or “All I Ask of You”, but it’s still something just as suited to Kidz Bop as it is a stage. Lin Manuel Miranda (who totally deserves to win for Best Original Song. Everything he wrote for Moana is better than anything in La La Land) knows how musical themes push a story forward while drawing on a previous point in a narrative. And his lyrics are just ridiculously emotionally powerful. I had to stop writing this paragraph two sentences ago so I could find “How Far I’ll Go” on Spotify and now I’m just confounded with a bevy of emotions.

And yeah, I’ve panned Tangled and Frozen for casting based on star-power and recognition versus their ability behind the mic and in the songs, and yeah they cast Dwayne Johnson for the demigod Maui, and yeah, he’s not exactly a no-name or Broadway-caliber singer like Idina or Kristen Bell but DANG IT ALL if he’s not completely inside that role. Like if you think all he can do is be huge and intimidating or a lovable comedian then you’re in for a big surprise. Plus, most of the rest of the cast isn’t well known (for some sharp eared Star Wars fans, you might recognize the voice of Moana’s father as the voice of Jango Fett and you’d be right and also win some super nerd cred).

I’m so sorry, I probably shouldn’t have started listening to the soundtrack. I’ll be honest, I’ve completely lost all objectivity and any semblance of what I wanted to write about the film. I really do think that Moana deserves the Oscar. It’s so strong from start to finish, and it’s such an amazing tidal wave of that real Disney Magic. I do get a little emotional at emotional movies, but this movie felt so friggin good that I cried while laughing when it was done. I had planned on giving this a serious bit of thought and reflection, but knew from the get-go it would get five giant shiny crabs out of five. I really really hope it wins, because it could signify a new Renaissance. And I’ll readily admit that it couldn’t have happened without the financial and commercial successes of the two other films I’ve been repeating over and over. If either of those had failed, Disney would never have taken a chance on this movie pitch, no matter how successful Hamilton ever was. We’re seeing something change, folks. When I was a kid, I lost myself in 101 Dalmatians, Little Mermaid, and Aladdin. And now? My generation is starting a new generation of kids, and Disney is suddenly right alongside again, and I’ll get to give a child the same kind of wonder I had growing up. 

Bottom line. For those who are convinced Zootopia will win it all this year, that’s great. It’s a fantastic movie. It’s so fun. But consider this. Moana is a movie Walt would have made. Moana is a Walt Disney picture. And I think that counts for more than awards.

-Jackson @crewmannumber5

The Signs As Songs From Disney’s Moana

Shiny | Well, Tamatoa hasn’t always been this glam, I was a drab little crab once. Now I know I can be happy as a clam, because I’m beautiful, baby. Did your granny say listen to your heart; “be who you are on the inside”. Your granny lied! I’d rather be shiny. | Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Libra

How Far I’ll GoEvery turn I take, every trail I track, every path I make, every road leads back to the place I know, where I cannot go, where I long to be. See the light where the sky meets the sea? It calls me, no one knows how far it goes. If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me, one day I’ll know, If I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go. | Gemini, Sagittarius, Aquarius, Pisces

You’re WelcomeI see what’s happening here, you’re face to face with greatness, and it’s strange. You don’t even know how you feel, it’s adorable!
Well, it’s nice to see that humans never change. Yes, it’s really me, it’s Maui: breathe it in! I know it’s a lot: the hair, the bod, when you’re staring at a demi-god. What can I say except you’re welcome! | Aries
Leo, Scorpio, Capricorn