Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Moana: Ultimate Collector’s Edition 2D / 3D Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Moana,” the sweeping story of a spirited teenager who sets sail on a daring adventure to save her people, starring newcomer Auli‘i Cravalho as the voice of brave and tenacious Moana and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (HBO’s “Ballers,” “Central Intelligence”) as the larger-than-life demigod Maui, has dazzled both critics and audiences. The film earned a 95% critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes and the No. 1 spot at the domestic box office opening weekend. Now, “Moana” sets a new course, arriving to homes on Digital HD/3D and Disney Movies Anywhere, and on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD. 
Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) is the daughter of the chief of the Polynesian village of Motonui. Her father (voiced by Temuera Morrison) has warned Moana that she cannot travel beyond the reef. He won’t even allow her to board a boat. Having been in love with the ocean since childhood, Moana has always wanted to make her way out into open water.  Island life has always been good to Moana and her family but suddenly the coconut trees are dying. These trees are a critical part of village life because they use every part of the tree. Soon the fisherman report empty traps.  Something must be done.  Moana’s grandmother Tala (voiced by Rachel House) also has an adventurous spirit and she encourages Moana’s ambitions. 

As legend tells it, Te-Fiti was the mother of all surrounding islands.  Her heart (the stone) was stolen by the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson). Without her heart, Te-Fiti gave way to a terrible darkness. This demon of fire defeated Maui and his magical fish hook was lost. Moana seeks to return the heart to Te-Fiti and wants Maui’s help to do it.  Without his hook, Maui fears the lava demon Te-Ka.  Moana is made guardian of the ancient stone of Te-Fiti. The brave Moana seeks out the demigod and agrees to help him retrieve his hook in order to return the stone to its rightful owner. Along the way, Moana and Maui will face an adorable, yet dangerous band of coconut shell pirates, intent on keeping the stone for themselves. Moana and Maui must learn to work together to restore Te-Fiti to her previous glory.

Moana is officially one of my favorite movies of all time. Disney’s filmmaking team took great care to fully capture the culture of the inhabitants of the south pacific.  Motonui is beautiful. You’ll see the clothes, dancing and tattooing that are big parts of life in the village. The water, which is a character of its own is amazingly realistic.   Everything about this movie makes me want to travel the South Pacific. You can pause many times and view what could be a vacation postcard. The voice casting is perfect. Auli’i Cravalho has an amazing voice and she perfectly belts out Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “How Far I’ll Go.”  Dwayne Johnson was rightfully the filmmakers’ only choice for Maui. He oozes charm as he deliver’s Maui’s cocky lines. "Firefly’s" Alan Tudyk rounds out the cast as the brainless but lovable rooster Heihei.

Additionally, the digital animation techniques used to make this film are top notch. The costumes are incredibly detailed and authentic. Moani’s hair is amazingly lifelike and each strand has movement like you’ve seen in no other Disney film. The sights and sounds of the ocean and the lush islands make it easy to forget your watching an animated film. The more I watch the film, the more impressed I am with the tiny details that make the film come to life.
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
Moana deserves a five-star rating for its video presentation on both 2D and 3D Blu-ray. The blue skies and beautiful ocean waters are where the film shines the most. The detail is absolutely incredible when you stop to look at items like the frayed fibers on the rope on Moana’s boat. Clouds, smoke and fire also look amazingly realistic. Many animated films do well with characters but Moana has the best landscapes, sand and greenery and water I’ve seen in any computer generated world.  Bright colors like you’ll see on Heihei are a bit muted on 3D.  This is a film that looks great in either 2 or 3 dimensions and a true collector will be proud to have both.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Moana offers a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. Before you see the Disney logo’s fireworks, your living room will be filled with the sounds of the choral singers. The music throughout is well balanced and is an important part of the storytelling. You can close your eyes and listen to the waves crash like you are on vacation. During a storm you’ll hear the lower end take hold with angry waves and thunder. Dialogue is intelligible and consistent throughout the film.
Extras (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Moana’s Blu-ray contains a healthy list of supplemental features.  The short film Inner Workings can be viewed in 2D and 3D although the 3D Blu-ray contains no additional extras.
  • Theatrical Short Film: Inner Workings (6:26) – The producer and the director provide a short introduction to the short film about the inner workings of a man’s body. The short has humor, heart as you watch the man think through his options in life through happy and sad times.
  • Maui Mini-Movie: Gone Fishing (2:29) – The demigod tries to command the ocean with humorous results. Moana stands by to mock him as he attempts to catch a meal.
  • Voice of the Islands (31:14) – The co-directors discuss how trips to the Pacific Islands affected them and shaped the movie. They explain the obligation to do right by the individuals they met with respect for the ocean, the culture and the people. The history of Polynesian navigation is explored in this comprehensive and very worth-while featurette.
  • Things You Didn’t Know About…(4:01 total run-time)
    • Ron, John, Auli’i and Dwayne – Rapid fire questions about food, sleep fears, music and more.
    • Mark, Opetaia and Lin-Manuel – Questions about food, Disney rides, songs, sleep, and songwriting and other curious facts.
  • Island Fashion (5:14) – A look at costume design and interpreting cultural elements. Specific detail is given about Moana’s beautiful, yet functional outfits and the importance of the beauty of background characters.
  • The Elements of (14:15 total run time):
    • Mini-Maui – A look at how Maui’s tattoos function as his conscience, and the research to make authentic 2D Maui’s come to life.
    • Water – Details about water animation tests and new ways the filmmakers brought the ocean to life.
    • Lava – The collaborative effort that created the lava monster and its layered effects.
    • Hair – The fun and challenging process of creating Moana and Maui’s beautiful locks, and the new simulation technology that made it happen.
  • They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana (12:38) – The musical team of Mark Mancina, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’I show you how they created the vocal-centric, percussive Polynesian sound. They explain how their songs represent the culture and are seen on numerous research trips. The unique, diverse team bonded quickly and created a fun working environment.
  • Deleted Song: “Warrior Face” (3:41) – Lin-Manuel Miranda provides introduction to the deleted song, with basic animation.
  • Fishing for Easter Eggs (2:52) -The actors that play Moana and Maui point out some inside jokes, references to other films and hidden Mickeys found in Moana.
  • Deleted Scenes (25:57) – Available with play all function and optional introductions by Directors John Musker and Ron Clements
    • Grandmother's Warning/Legend of Maui
    • Canoe Race
    • Father, Daughter, Boat
    • Education of Moana
    • Discussing Moana's Future
    • Race the Wind/Ties That Bind
    • Under the Sea
  • “How Far I’ll Go” performed by Alessia Cara (3:04) – The one feature I didn’t enjoy is this music video. I greatly preferred hearing the film’s star sing the song.
  • How Far I’ll Go” around the world (2:44) – Hear the song in multiple languages.
  • Audio Commentary - Co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements provide feature length audio commentary where they discuss Moana’s origins, music, characters and performances.
  • Sneak Peeks - Commercial for Disney Movie Rewards, Descendants 2, Elena of Avalor, Aulani Resort, Cars 3, Beauty and the Beast.
Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I’ve seen Moana once in the theater and three times on Blu-ray so far and I have enjoyed it each and every time.  The film was impeccably cast and is sure to please viewers of all ages.  It does have more than one sad moment, which I usually complain about.  In the case of Moana, the low points drive the story and truly belong.  It doesn’t feel like Disney is making you sad just so the happiness feels a bit higher.  The list of extras is long and well worth the time.  If you only have the ability to watch the film in 2D you won’t be missing a whole lot, but the 3D experience is worth the time and extra money.  I highly recommend Moana.

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