Adventure Animation

'Moana' Blu-ray Review: Disney's newest animated classic goes far and follows its heart

March 6, 2017Ben MK

Disney is no stranger to taking tales from the realm of mythology and bringing them to the big screen in larger-than-life fashion. That tradition proudly continues with Moana, a buoyant yarn rooted in the centuries-old stories of ancient Polynesia, which pairs a headstrong young heroine out to save her world named Moana (newcomer Auli'i Cravalho) with Maui (Dwayne Johnson), the shapeshifting demigod who unwittingly broke it.

To do so, Moana must seek out and find Maui, who vanished into the sea after battling the lava demon Te Kā, and convince him to help her restore a magical stone known as the heart of Te Fiti to its rightful place. Before they can do that, however, they'll first have to recover the one object that grants Maui his shapeshifting powers — his long-lost, magical fish hook, which was bestowed to Maui by the gods, and which he now suspects lies with a greedy, giant crustacean named Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement), who dwells deep beneath the earth in the Realm of Monsters.

Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker and co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, Moana doesn't upend the feel-good formula that has come to define Disney's hand-drawn and computer-generated output for the last few decades. In fact, the film wholeheartedly embraces its animated heritage. But even though Moana doesn't break new ground — other than being absolutely gorgeous to behold — it's still fun and uplifting nonetheless, thanks to terrific songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, an endearing cast of characters and a joyfully self-aware sense of humor.

Likewise, Moana also fully embraces the heritage of its characters. For not only are the majority of the roles portrayed by actors of Polynesian descent, but everything else about the movie feels authentic and completely reverential towards the culture of the South Pacific. No doubt, it wouldn't be surprising to learn that the filmmakers required years of painstaking research to yield an outcome that feels this honest and heartfelt; but it's a small price to pay when the end result is a new family classic capable of withstanding the test of time.

Moana navigates its way onto Blu-ray with a flawless 1080p transfer, perfectly showcasing the movie's stunning animation. Picture quality is crystal-clear and razor-sharp, from individual grains of sand and locks of hair on the characters' heads, to the intricate details of fabric patterns and Maui's numerous tattoos. Likewise, contrast and black levels are top-notch, and the film's colorful palette is rendered with unparalleled richness and vibrancy, from the clear, blue ocean waters, to the lush, green island vegetation, to the beautiful purples of picturesque sunsets. As for the movie's sound design, dialogue, upbeat melodies and the film's array of infectious songs come through loud and clear, thanks to a robust DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix that also surrounds viewers with the sounds of ocean waves, island breezes, rhythmic drumming, and crackles of thunder and lightning.

Disney's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes an iTunes digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Theatrical Short Film: Inner Workings (7:14) - The short that played before Moana in theaters, preceded by a brief introduction by Director Leo Matsuda and Producer Sean Lurie.
  • Maui Mini-Movie: Gone Fishing (2:29) - In this brand new short, the ocean gets playful with Maui as he tries to catch some fish for breakfast.
  • Voice of the Islands (31:13) - Directors Ron Clements and John Musker share their experiences from their research trips to the Pacific Islands, from the people they met there and how it affected the film's development, to the history of the Polynesian navigators, the culture's relationship with nature, and the casting actors of Polynesian descent.
  • Things You Didn't Know About... (4:00) - Two brief pieces ("Ron, John, Auli'i & Dwayne" and "Mark, Opetaia & Lin-Manuel") in which the cast and the filmmakers share fun facts about themselves, from their favorite foods, to their favorite Disney song.
  • Island Fashion (5:13) - Neysa Bové, who did costume design on the film, talks about her work on the movie.
  • The Elements Of... (14:14) - Four short featurettes ("Mini-Maui," "Water," "Lava" and "Hair") that touch on how the 2D-animated Mini-Maui was integrated with the rest of the film's 3D animation, creating realistic water effects for the film and giving water its own personality, creating the lava demon Te Kā, and creating the characters' hair.
  • They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana (12:37) - Songwriters Mark Mancina, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa'i talk about collaborating on the film's songs, from "We Know the Way," to "How Far I'll Go," to "You're Welcome."
  • Deleted Song: "Warrior Face" with Introduction by Songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda (3:41) - A deleted song sequence in storyboard animatic form.
  • Fishing for Easter Eggs (2:52) - Stars Auli'i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson guide viewers through some of the movie's inside jokes and references to other films, from Aladdin's magic lamp and The Little Mermaid's Flounder, to Frozen's Sven and some of the hidden Mickeys.
  • Deleted Scenes (25:56) - Seven scenes, with introductions by Directors John Musker and Ron Clements ("Grandmother's Warning/Legend of Maui," "Canoe Race," "Father, Daughter, Boat," "Education of Moana," "Discussing Moana's Future," "Race the Wind/Ties that Bind" and "Under the Sea").
  • "How Far I'll Go" Performed by Alessia Cara (3:04) - The official music video for the song from the movie.
  • "How Far I'll Go" Around the World (2:44) - A look at how the song plays in English, Thai, Bulgarian, Icelandic, Hungarian, Tahitian, Russian, French, Latin Spanish, Greek, Castilian, Danish, Korean, Hebrew, Swedish, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Czech, Vietnamese, Dutch and Japanese.
  • Audio Commentary - Directors John Musker and Ron Clements talks about the film's music and the songwriting, the development of the story, the animation, the actors' vocal performances, the character design, the production design, the dance choreography, the humor and the tone, the cameos, their research for the movie, their homage to Mad Max: Fury Road, and more.

Moana is available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment as of March 7th, 2017. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, English, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 47 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on November 23rd, 2016.

You May Also Like