Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall | 113 minutes | animation, adventure, comedy, family, fantasy, musical | Dutch voice cast: Vajèn van den Bosch, René van Kooten, Kenny B., Has Drijver, Rene van Wegber | Original Voice Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk, Oscar Kightley, Troy Polamalu, Puanani Cravalho, Louise Bush
We all know the ‘classic Disney princess’ type: beautiful and blessed with a wasp waist, endless lashes, luscious hair and an angelic singing voice. The women around her are so jealous of her beauty that they stoop to criminal behavior in order to outdo her. This makes her dependent for friendships on animals that meekly hang around her, or on dwarfs. Apart from that dazzling beauty, the classic Disney princess is rather clumsy: to be saved, she depends on princes on white horses, who just happen to have to come by at the right time to put the young lady in distress out of her misery. Then they have to take care of their princess for the rest of their lives, because the classic Disney princess has no knowledge of an education or a career of her own.
Over the years, the princesses have happily moved with the times. With the ‘Disney Renaissance Era’, which started with ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989) and ended in 2000, the ladies became a lot more articulate and independent. Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan enter a world where men still rule, but women no longer just follow orders. They are aware of their changing role in society. The most recent princesses, created in the twenty-first century, go one step further. Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida and Anna and Elsa are modern and idealistic. They don’t necessarily need a man in their life to make their dreams come true.
Vaiana – originally called Moana but renamed Vaiana in a number of European countries due to a rights issue – is the most progressive of all Disney princesses in this light. She grows up in Polynesia, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, in a male-dominated culture. She is the chief’s daughter, but does not see herself as a princess. She dreams of sailing the ocean, but her father, after a traumatic experience, determined that everything outside the bay around Motonui Island is off limits. However, Vaiana (voice of the very young Hawaiian debutante Auli’i Cravalho) is so attracted to the sea, and the sea to her, that she will not let go of her dream. In a beautiful scene early in the film, the special bond between Vaiana and the sea becomes sweet, sketched almost poetically. Actually, that’s when we get wrapped up in this movie. While Vaiana’s father (Temuera Morrison) anxiously tries to keep her away from what he sees as the blue danger, it is her grandmother (Rachel House) who introduces her to the folk myths and tells her that she is the chosen one to rule the island. to rescue. The vain Polynesian demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) once stole the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti. As a punishment, he was banished and lost his magic fishing hook. But as long as the heart, a magical gem, has not been returned to Te Fiti, nature on and around the islands, including around Vaiana’s island of Motonui, dies. To save her people and her land, Vaiana disregards her father’s commandments and, with her silly sidekick, Heihei the chicken rooster, out to sea. Before long, Vaiana, who is helped by the sea, stumbles upon Maui, but things don’t go smoothly between the haughty macho demigod and the small but brave princess. Vaiana is not the type to be lectured. But they have no time to lose and during their adventure at sea they turn out to need each other more than they themselves think.
‘Vaiana’ (2016) is an unconventional Disney movie. Not only because the heroine is even stubborn, smart and self-assured than her predecessors, but also because the obligatory element of gently budding love is completely absent. The film was created by veterans John Musker and Ron Clements, known for ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Aladdin’ (1992), men who grew up with hand-drawn animation and delivered their first complete computer-animated film with ‘Vaiana’. They know how to translate their knowledge and skills of animation in its most basic form into 2016, and that pays off in eye-catching and highly detailed visuals. One of the best finds is probably Mauis, who moves like a tattoo on his muscular torso and shows him, comparable to Jiminy Cricket in ‘Pinocchio’ (1940),
Musker and Clements immersed themselves in the Polynesian area, its inhabitants and their mythology, in order to give the most accurate representation of it. The film was attractively decorated with songs, including ‘How Far I’ll Go’ (sung by Opetaia Foa’i, singer of the South Pacific band Te Vaka) and the hilarious ‘Shiny’, sung by a Jemaine Clement voiced and sung monstrous crab with star allure, the highlights are. Yes, and even Dwayne Johnson sings his own songs himself! Catchy music, engaging characters, a compelling story, an original setting, humor and warmth; ‘Vaiana’ has it all and Disney does it again. The greatest strength of this film, however, is the ironclad and powerful princess who is the beating heart of all events and with her intransigence,