Moana, more like NOana

The Disney film “Moana” is a movie based around the journey of a young Polynesian girl traveling the ocean to find a way to restore the beauty of her island. She searches the ocean to find a demi-god named Maui, who helps her reverse the curse placed on the islands. 

Oh yeah, and there’s a crazy chicken named Heihei who follows them around doing absolutely nothing. Moana is a great film, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t represent the Polynesian people as accurately as it should.

Making movies about minorities is hard, especially when it’s in the hands of Disney. Disney does lots of research, but it’s always going to be modified to how Hollywood wants it. In Polynesian mythology, Maui was the main hero of every story. He pulled the islands out of the sea and was considered a God among the islands. In the film, Maui is seen as the comedic side-kick to Moana.

 “Before Disney, I’ve seen a lot of other representations… I think it’s clear from the trailers I’ve seen that he’s a buffoon in Disney”, says Teresia Teaiwa, a senior lecturer in Pacific studies at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) to news.

Dwayne Johnson, better known as the Rock, is the actor who played Maui. Johnson felt very connected with Maui, after revealing via Twitter that Maui was sketched after his grandfather. 

“a lil’ gem of a secret, my character Maui was partially inspired by my late grandfather, High Chief Maivia of Samoa”.

Another complaint about the film is that it didn’t highlight some true issues that the Polynesian people had to face. Once again this is a Disney film, and the main audience is children. Even if the film followed a plotline similar to “Pocahontas,” with settlers coming to their islands, it would be a lot more accurate. 

Many have argued that the production of “Moana” was all a marketing scheme to promote Disney’s Resort & Spa, Aulani. Only highlighting the beauty of the Pacific Islands, which isn’t a bad thing, gives the audience the stereotypical image that the Islands are an exotic vacation destination.

“As a Polynesian, I feel like Moana was all a marketing scheme for the resort, that is far from the life that many Polynesians live”, says Jordan Wilson, who is of Samoan descent.

Since the release of “Moana”, Aulani has designed special events for guests to experience exclusive to the resort. You can have your child dress like Moana, eat the same food as her people, and even learn some cultural dances. The problem that many Polynesians are having is that it’s only exclusive to the resort, located in Oahu, Hawai’i. Moana is not displayed as much as other Disney princesses at other Disney locations, like Disneyworld or Disneyland.

“I appreciate the acknowledgment of the Polynesian people, but personally it was a miss for me. It just could’ve been a little more accurate”, says Khynan Te Hira Ika, a descendant of Aoeteroa and Tonga.

Disney is doing a great job showcasing more diverse cultures, from the release of “Moana” to “Princess & The Frog”. The cultural accuracy of these movies is where they fall short. Instead of producing movies for the profit off these cultures, we should make it for the people whose history has been in silence for all these years.