Disney’s Polynesian Princess Moana Art: Fact or Fiction?

Disney's MoanaThis little bit of news slipped under my radar when first announced back in July on Rotoscopers. There was more discussion back in December when a supposed piece of concept art was released, then pulled for not being official. That artwork is now making the rounds again, which is how I saw it on twitter yesterday. The artwork made me excited, official or not, and I thought if nothing else, getting the word out there to share interest in this upcoming film and its subject, couldn’t hurt. So what is Moana going to be about? Think Tiki!

According to BlueSkyDisney.com:

“After a short break we’ll finally get Ron [Clements] and John [Musker]’s next feature, “Moana” which will be a Polynesian tale involving the island folk and the idols made famous the world over.  It will also mark the directing duo’s first computer animated film, or at least computer hybrid animated film (think “Paperman”).  Following that, if story issues are worked out Dean Wellin’s teenage space race animated film will rush to the screens.  Wellin’s film is an unusual story that is different from most Disney Animation, just as Big Hero 6 marks a change in perception of what comes from the Mouse.”

More details, from BleedingCool.com were first broken in October:

“…it’s an epic, or even mythic, adventure set around 2000 years ago and across a series of islands in the South Pacific.

The lead character, Moana Waialiki is the only daughter of a Chief in a long line of navigators. She’s really a bit of nerd, but a nerd about sea voyaging, and when her family need her help, she sets off on an epic journey. Some of the other characters are demi-gods and spirits drawn from real mythology.”

Given those details, I may be on board with the following image not being official or from Moana at all. Being obsessed with navigating the sea doesn’t seem to match with splashing around on a rock in a grotto…but it is pretty nonetheless! It reminds me instantly of Shag‘s work, but concept art has surprised us before, so who knows. This image below is reportedly by artist Sue Nichols.

Not Moana

 

More than just the artwork controversy above, I can’t wait to see this tale unfold. I think tiki culture is something that has intrigued us for decades; its mysterious, tropical allure has survived for centuries and certainly risen to the heights of pop culture since the 1950’s. I look forward to another potential princess that doesn’t have her future gift-wrapped for her by way of a magic wand, and hope Disney has learned from the successes of Merida in Brave and Anna in Frozen (and to an extend Rapunzel too). And obviously, any time Disney can use its platform to explore, educate and promote other cultures and backgrounds, and give little girls (and boys) someone to identify with, I’m all for it.

As far as the tiki gods and their role in the story, I hope we get a reverent history lesson rather than bathroom humor and goofy sidekicks. This is something which Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have done for years and years with great success. Proof that animation can be for adults as well as children and we don’t need to rely on some formula of strife + main character + comic relief + happy ending = the only way. If the story is good, audiences will come. Anyway, I’ll get off my fangirl soapbox for now and just hope we get a Polynesian Princess we can all be proud of.

Moana will be a musical, with music composed by Mark Mancina, responsible for music arranging on The Lion King, Tarzan, and Brother Bear among many others.





About Suzannah Otis

Boston girl living and blogging in Walt Disney World's backyard. Wife, Mom of 3, coffee addict, lover of travel and adventure.