The story behind Disney's upcoming Moana has been richly inspired by both the history and folklore of the South Pacific. As well as being a kind of coming-of-age family adventure, in which a young girl embraces her seafaring destiny, it's also something of a 'Just So' explanation for the real Polynesian history of oceanic voyaging.
Many of the story's more magical elements are yet to be revealed in the marketing - which is not so much of a surprise given that all we've had so far are a handful of convention appearances and a brief teaser trailer. Still, people have been introduced to Moana, our heroine, and Maui, the demigod who will be our travelling companion. We have met, however, Little Maui, one of Maui's tattoos, his Jiminy Cricket-style, ever-present conscience. The most exciting thing about Little Maui is that he has been animated in hand-drawn style by the wonderful Eric Goldberg, famous for his work on Aladdin's Genie. Expect Little Maui and the animated tattoos to be a real high-point and fan-favourite when the film is finished.
You'll see both Moana and (big) Maui in the middle of this collection of Moana toys, as posted to FanPop. You'll also see some of the supporting cast, including the non-talking companion animals, a pig called Pua, which means pig, and a rooster called Hei Hei, which means rooster. You can also see some 'tree spirits,' and some of Moana's family and fellow islanders.
Moana being an animated film, and a Walt Disney Animation Studios animated film at that, many details will be tweaked during production, to the betterment of the storytelling. As far as I know, however, the chief of these tree spirits is called Mokemoke and he's incredibly chatty. Mokemoke means 'lonely' so I can see why he'd have a lot to talk about when he hooks up with other characters.
Casting for Mokemoke has yet to be announced but I think the role sounds perfect for Jemaine Clement. Maybe I should pop down to Ladbrokes and put a fiver on it; the film's script was co-written by Clement's friend and collaborator Taika Waititi, after all.
If you're particularly spoiler-phobic, skip the rest of this paragraph but I think we're actually on well-trodden ground here. Directors Ron and John spilled the beans on the fate of Moana's grandmother - grey-haired in the toy line-up - during their D23 presentation last year, revealing that she will pass away very early in the film. Beyond death, however, I would say that you can look to Maori stories for further clues to her fate.
I will admit that I'm not sure what that quite singular looking character is, the kinda-sorta-fish-shaped fellow, though I'm very curious to find out. In lieu of being able to explain who this is, I will say that one of the key characters not presented in toy form is Te Po, the living island. She's certainly on a different scale to these toys. Once very lush, she's now rocky and fiery. She was revealed in concept art at the D23 presentation. What isn't widely known, just yet, is that she plays a very key part in the story. She's angry at mankind for the destruction wrought upon her body by settlers, and decides that the world would probably be better off without people.
A relatable point of view, some might say, and definitely a timelessly relevant concept.
Moana has taken a few surprising turns on its voyage so far, but I'm feeling exceptionally good about the film. Everything I see intrigues me more, and the basic conception of Moana and Maui as characters is both accessible and a little different from the Princess movie norm. Not that there is such a thing these days - recent Walt Disney Animation Studios movies have done great work in diversifying, subverting and reinventing the cliches.
Hopefully this rich streak of invention will continue. We'll get to see for sure when Moana is released near the year's end.
Source: Den of Geek
Banner Photo Credit: Disney