9. Rogue One
10. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Moana was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker and is the 56th animated Disney film. It featured songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina. It also introduced Auli’i Cravalo (possibly the cutest Disney star ever), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Rachel House, Jemaine Clement, and Alan Tudyk (as a chicken).
Moana tells the story of a future Maori chief. She has a special relationship with the ocean, they’re friends and although she cannot command it, it’ll help her by carrying her, bringing her fish, and helping her sail. It also gifts her with the relic the Heart of Te fiti – the heart of the Polynesian Island goddess that was stolen by the demi-god Maui many years before. Moana longs to cross the coral barrier that surrounds her island and see what’s out there. But her father (the current chief) forbids it. When a mysterious plague threatens her island, Moana recognizes both her responsibility as the chieftain’s daughter (she’s not a princess as she repeatedly emphasizes) to protect her island and the chance to fulfill her dream to sail. She takes a boat and Te Fiti’s heart and goes in search of Maui to heal the islands.
If you go into this movie wanting another Disney princess flick, you’ll probably be disappointed. There is no Prince Charming in this film and Moana outright rejects the role of princess. Instead, going so far as to declare “I am Moana” – her birthright is the ocean and all the adventure and responsibility it entails. She is capable within herself to save her people and is strong enough to inspire a demi-god and confront lava demon, Te Ka. Moana is the fierce role model young girls in our day and age need just as Wonder Woman is the fierce role model we as women have been longing for. Moana is both smart and brave, willing to confront both her weaknesses and her fears, and able to take ownership for her mistakes and responsibilities.
The other fantastic thing about this movie is the music. It’s just as catchy as those Frozen songs you’ve had on repeat for years, but not nearly as annoying. I have never been quiet about my lack of love for Hamilton, but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song writing in this film is incredible. He not only utilized his own creativity, but collaborated with artists from Maori tribes to be sensitive to their particular culture. I don’t think that Disney has ever been this culturally sensitive in making a movie, which some criticized but I found overwhelmingly refreshing. This film isn’t just a girls’ Disney movie, I feel like any kid would love it, no matter their gender. There are a few mildly scary parts with Te Ka, and a jewel obsessed coconut crab named Tamatoa. If you think of a reason to not watch this film and have not seen it yet, I’d love to hear it (and will probably dispute it) in the comments. This is not only one of my top ten films of 2016 but probably one of my favorite Disney films overall.