Moana is a fine entry to the legendary Disney canon

Who are you? That is the central question that Disney’s new animated film, Moana, asks. It’s very easy to get swept away by Disney’s new animated film Moana. It’s also very easy to get swept into a formulaic Disney film that’s been told over and over again. And it’s also very easy to lose sight of that message. Moana, however, takes that order into new directions to tell an incredibly fun and insightful story that rings true to the heart of Disney, resonates with its audience, and strikes at the heart of one searching for their identity.

Directed by the team behind The Little Mermaid, John Musker and Ron Clements, Moana tells the story of the titular character’s journey to save her home by travelling across the sea to meet the demigod Maui and restore order to her world. Every moment of this movie felt like a thrilling and exciting adventure, and the animation that helped to create and shape this movie only enriches the experience. The animation is absolutely mesmerizing and breathtaking — each blue sea made you want to glide your hand through it, and the water’s movements are a marvel of animation that can’t be described in words. These landscapes and animations are built for the big screen. I also watched the film in 3D, and while 3D usually doesn’t work for me, this movie is the rare exception, being made to be enjoyed in all three dimensions.

Besides being well written, the characters of Moana are also incredibly impactful. The titular character, Moana, is an extraordinary, admirable woman who feels organic and real, and throughout the movie she constantly surprised me and made me smile. In addition, the movie was often surprisingly meta, with demiguy Maui utilizing his arrogance to comment on Disney’s typicality when he wasn’t stealing the show with his infectious personality. Tamatoa, a huge crab, comments on his fondness for breaking into song and his quips were as dazzling as he was.

The music of Moana is written by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. While Miranda’s signature feel, style, and vibe are all over Moana’s music, there is a distinct theme that stands out on its own. All the tunes are destined to become instant classics, and fit perfectly within the world of Moana. Miranda even lends his voice to some of the tracks, particularly a jazzy, upbeat cover of “You’re Welcome” featuring Grease! Live star Jordan Fisher, which make them as equally amazing as Hamilton and this movie.

Moana is groundbreaking for everything it stands for. It opens audiences up to the rich culture of Polynesia, delivers a journey and lesson of self-discovery in a powerful way, showcases a future classic collection of Disney songs, becomes a self-aware Disney film for the first time, and features a powerful heroine that is an inspiration to all in her demeanor and how she leads her people. This instant classic holds its place with the other great films before it, and is an incredible journey that teaches people to help find who they truly are.