Discussion about environmental themes in the 2016 Disney film, Moana. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker.
You may want to watch the film first and think about:
- How does the movie make you feel about the ocean? How does it give you that feeling?
- Who, if anyone, is the villain of the movie?
What the film did well
Accurate depiction of ecology and geology
- Employed biologist to guide animators while researching polynesian islands
- Tamatoa – decorator crab – normally attaches things to shell as camouflage, but uses the behaviour to catch fish
- Magical without as much exaggeration or fantasy as might be expected in an animated Disney film
Representing different cultures and ‘ways of knowing’
- Localized into: Tahitian, Maori, Hawaiian
- Established Oceanic story trust involving historians, storytellers, craftsmen, navigators etc. to take part in development of the script and visuals
- Disney Examiner article
- Tamaira, Marata & Fonoti, Dionne. (2018). Beyond Paradise? Retelling Pacific Stories in Disney’s Moana. The Contemporary Pacific. 30. 297-327. 10.1353/cp.2018.0029.
- ‘Traditional’ skills – navigation by stars, reading weather and water currents.
- Different ways to see the world, highlights different details
- Apollo 13, required navigation using landmarks and relative positions
- Ocean as connector instead of barrier
- In Western/European views water is often a barrier to be challenged and crossed
- Return of Heart of Tefiti as a metaphor for voyaging to new islands as something central to their culture?
- Balances population around islands, less resource pressure
Use of resources
- First introduced to problems with coconut groves and poor fishing Moana suggests measures for sustainable food production
- Crop rotation is common practice
- balances use of nutrients in soil
- Pathogens which attack specific plants can build up in soil if same crop is grown year-after-year
- Rotating fishing areas to allow populations to recover
- Non-magical reasons why resources may be diminishing?
- Thrived on island for centuries – soil in easily farmed areas may be depleted
- Dependence on single crop may be allowing pathogen to spread
- Larger population, fishing pressure might be too high
- Father’s understandable response to tragic event early in life leads to extreme risk aversion
- Moana never learns to sail and ends up in greater risk because she has not learned how to manage the dangers in sailing.
- Does nothing to curb Moana’s desire to explore the ocean, but deprives her of the skills needed to do so with competence
- Ocean is very hands-off
- Other than when responding to Maui, the Ocean does not directly intervene
- Possibly intervenes in extreme risk – Moana being knocked out in the storm
- Allows Moana to learn how to sail on her own rather than propelling Moana to her goals
The magic of the Ocean
- Not reliant on abundance of coral reefs to create the desire to explore
- The way characters relate to the ocean transmits the love of it
- Even in the Land of Monsters, part of what makes the scene magical is the perspective on the ocean
- The ocean’s draw comes from the vast size, horizon, peace, danger
What the film missed the mark on
Perspective is very human-centric
- Presents care of the environment as being for the benefit of humans
- Care of nature could have been for its own sake
Focus on expansion
- Hesitant about whether the world can support moving to new islands forever
- Surely there are only so many islands Maui can pull from the ocean
Living things depend on and interact with inorganic parts of the environment, creating a self regulating system. This is similar to the way in which predator-prey relationships form self-regulating systems.
Wikipedia entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis
- The ocean represents the inorganic parts of the ecosystem, nudging humans restore balance by returning the Heart
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Intro/Outro music: Selfish by Derek Clegg. Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 US License