My family and I got invited to see an advanced screening of Disney’s Moana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort in Walt Disney World and we had an absolute blast! If you haven’t seen Moana, you need to. It’s beautifully animated, funny, heart warming and has some of the best songs in a Disney film ever (yep… better than Frozen). But, it’s also a really important movie. It solidifies a creative streak of near perfect animated films that began over six years ago. So, how has Moana reinforced Disney Animation’s New Golden Age?
How Moana Has Reinforced Disney Animation’s New Golden Age
First Golden Age of Disney Animation
The First Golden Age is where everyone is going to disagree. From 1937-1942 Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi. All impressive films that laid the foundation for animation being taken seriously as an art form. But, I’m going to argue that 1950-1961 is where we see the magic start to happen. Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. During this time we see two of the most important aspects of Disney animated movies really bloom. The heroine and the villain.
Second Golden Age of Disney Animation
A lot of the films that Disney made from the mid 60’s to the mid 80’s took a lot of backlash. Not that any of us should EVER listen to critics, but “uninspired’, “unoriginal” and “lack of creativity” were thrown around quite a bit. Personally, I’m a huge fan of The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, The Rescuers and The Black Cauldron. All were great movies, but they certainly broke away from some of the formulas that people had come to expect from Disney. Then, in 1989, The Little Mermaid jump started the Second Golden Age. It was a beautiful film that won over critics and movie goers. People who didn’t have kids were going to see it. You would walk down the street and people were singing the songs. It was an instant hit! What followed was of string of animated classics that is almost mind boggling. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. All of them are as close to perfection as any film can get. Wonderful story telling with accessible, lovable characters, fantastic music and jaw dropping animation. The creativity literally poured out of the screen… Then Pixar happened.
Third Golden Age of Disney Animation
I’m not bashing Pixar, quite the contrary. I’m a big fan! Monsters Inc. makes me laugh like a crazy person and cry like a baby all at the same time. Pixar’s Toy Story took animated films into a whole different stratosphere. The stories were original, the animation was original, the characters felt real even though you knew that a toy spaceman and cowboy just COULD’NT be real! It was a new experience and it took Disney animation a while to find it’s footing. I remember being in an advanced screening for Tangled and watching my (at the time) six-year-old daughter just absolutely enthralled by it. Disney Animation seemed to be finding its voice again. Then came another rush of insanely creative and fantastic movies… Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen and Big Hero 6. Then 2016 brought us Zootopia. It is the best written film this year by a landslide. Socially, it said what everyone in America needed to hear and then wrapped it up in a brilliant mystery that kept you going until the end. I love this movie! But, Disney didn’t stop there. Moana has some of the same traits as past films and then throws you a curve ball.
There is no romantic through line. There is, if you count the love that Moana has for her family and culture. A young girl senses her destiny, knows what she must do and ventures forth into the unknown. It helped that Auli’i Cravalho, who voiced Moana, was only 15-years-old when she began working on the film. She brings an earnestness and natural believability that sets her apart from every other Disney princess. Now, throw in the biggest movie star in the world (Dwayne Johnson), a man who has so much musical talent it’s unfair to the rest of us (Lin-Manuel Miranda), let the co-director of Zootopia write it (Jared Bush) and then let the directors of The Little Mermaid bring it all together (John Musker and Ron Clements).
Moana is the movie that blends everything that is wonderful about Disney Animation into one perfect experience. If this movie is any indication of what the future holds. I am looking forward to this New Golden Age.