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While Zootopia was the bigger non-Pixar animated hit for Disney in 2016, Moana was still a considerable success both at the box-office and with audiences who praised the stunning animation and its South Pacific setting.

As the big "Disney Princess" movie of the year, complete with flashy musical numbers and cute animal sidekicks, Moana was a much more traditional Disney animated feature than Zootopia so had the latter failed to deliver, this would have no doubt been the studio's sure-fire hit. It is surprising, frankly, that the film was not given a Summer release considering its sunny, exotic setting as that might have actually given it a bit of a boost. Story-wise, the film follows Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho), daughter to the chief of a small Polynesian island, who finds herself stuck with the responsibilities of being the chief's heir until she is compelled to leave the island in search of a way to stop its inexplicable curse. She encounters demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who once stole the heart of an island goddess in order to offer it to mankind as a gift, thereby inadvertently causing all the problems Moana is aiming to fix back home, and tries to convince him to help.

With only a small boat and her mindless rooster pal, Moana sets off on an adventure that takes her weird places like the lair of a giant evil crab covered in gold with only her determination keeping the entire quest literally afloat. This movie has some great, very likeable characters, beautiful animation throughout, lots of funny scenes (the rooster steals the show) and some sadder moments also. Moana's relationship with her grandmother is the most moving aspect of the film and Moana herself is Disney's toughest, smartest and most talented princess yet. All that said, the whole thing feels often too much like The Little Mermaid-lite with Moana desperately wanting more, with her adorably goofy animal sidekicks and the mostly at-sea setting. Unfortunately, the film's entertaining crab baddie (voiced by Jemaine Clement) only sticks around for one scene and the story begs for some more twists and turns which could have helped flesh out an otherwise very good plot.

While it may not feel quite as fresh and bold as Zootopia, Moana is a visual treat with tons of charm, fun songs, great characters and a positive message. Both kids and adults can enjoy this one and I would certainly recommend it to any Disney fan.


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