As the very best animated Disney films often do, Moana marries mythology and musical to depict a princess struggling to find her place. However, Moana blasts beyond this tried-and-true method by introducing a transformative detail: Moana is more concerned with following her own values than she is on cozying up to a love interest and ruling as a princess. The film sports wonderful songs that are used in crucial bits of storytelling, the voice-acting is incredibly strong, and the plot features some interesting beats and develops a potent theme. There are interesting tweaks to the humor and animation styles as well, which keeps the film looking and feeling fresh throughout. Moana herself practically overflows with heroism, and she is perhaps the most complete and realistic Disney princess to date.
Today, words are exceedingly lightweight. You can say whatever you like because words are as substantive as foam to us. That’s no more than a reflection of how empty our reality has become. And yet even now, the truth is that words are power. It’s just that we’re meaninglessly drowning in a sea of powerless, vacuous words.
-Hayao Miyazaki, 1999 – Director’s notes for Spirited Away