Moana: Disney’s First Heroine

Jamie McEachin, Head Copy Editor

Moana brings a lot of firsts for Disney to the table: it depicts the first polynesian ‘princess’, and the first Disney female lead without a romantic interest. The animation of Moana, voiced by  Auli’i Cravalho, is significant as well; Disney has finally created a movie that represents in a female character, and more significantly, in its female lead, a realistic, strong body type.

Directors Ron Clements and John Musker say in an interview with Time Magazine, “We saw this as a hero’s journey, a coming-of-age story, in a different tradition than the princess stories,” says Clements; Musker adds: “I don’t know that any of the other princesses we’ve been involved with we’d describe as badass.”

The lack of a romance as a major part of Moana’s storyline is another thing that sets her apart from the Disney princesses, who all, from Belle to Elsa, act as de facto role models for young girls everywhere: “We thought it would be very appealing to do a female empowerment story that didn’t center on any sort of romance,” says Musker.

All of these factors make Moana a fiercely progressive film but in a way that is sure to be more effective than more outwardly feminist media. Because of the nonchalance of its message—that of course it is normal for a young girl, and a person of color, to be strong, and capable, and in control of her own destiny—Moana will be important in teaching children of all genders that readily-accepted equality being not that big a deal to younger generations is actually a huge deal.

Photo Courstesy of Barry King