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Word of warning: We’re going to be talking about the ending of Moana, so spoilers ahead.
Moana is not your typical Disney movie. As you might have already heard, the film’s directors and producers set out to have a diverse cast that would reflect its setting. Now that we’ve seen the smash hit, another delightful change has become evident: The female lead of this story, the titular Moana, is actually the hero at the end, not the demigod, Maui. Her victory is saving the day, not finding a boyfriend. Our own Kevin Polowy talked to the film’s directors, John Musker and Ron Clements, about this.
“How important was it that she was ultimately the hero of this story?” Polowy asked. “It was crucial,” said Musker. “It was very important, and the truth is, even for us, even though that was always the intention, sometimes we can lose sight of that,” added Clements.
That’s right — even though the film has a strong feminist message, Musker and Clements might have made the mistake of making their lead a supporting player. Fortunately, their female coworkers piped up. “We had versions where [Maui] was so moved by her, he lifted up an island where he had never lifted up an island,” Clements said. “He did various things that seemed to turn the focus on him.” “We sort of got pushback from women on the staff, [who said] ‘Wait a minute!’” Musker shared. “A lot of the women [said], ‘No, no,’” Clements recalled. “And they were right, and we agreed.”
So instead of Maui beating everyone up to save the day, Moana sails into the fray by herself and then figures out how to defeat Te Kā all on her own. Auli’i Cravalho, who played the film’s star, was pleased with the message of the movie. “Every Disney film is kind of reflective of its time, and I think it’s time that we have a heroine that’s in charge of her own story, who doesn’t need a love interest,” Cravalho told Polowy. “The main theme of Moana is the journey she goes on that I think everyone can relate to.”
Dwayne Johnson on his nervousness about singing a Lin-Manuel Miranda song in Moana: