Disney’s "Moana" Depicts an Actual Event in Polynesian History

By | September 10, 2018

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A floatilla of 'vaka' or traditional canoes take part in a ceremonial departure ahead of their cross-Pacific voyage powered by sun and wind only, sailing 15,000 nautical miles to Hawaii via French Polynesia. (Getty Images)

There was much hype and anticipation when Disney announced that it would release a Polynesian-based feature-length animated movie, called Moana, in 2016. The film, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the mischievous demi-god Maui, was a box office smash and garnered much praise for finally depicting a Disney “princess” as a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need to marry her prince at the end of the story. But what casual fans of Moana don’t know is that the impetus of the lead character’s adventures is an actual historical event in Polynesian history known as “The Long Pause.” 

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First, a Moana Plot Recap

In Disney’s Moana, the title character, a feisty, determined daughter of the village chief, voiced by Hawaiian-born actress, Auli’i Cravalho, believes that the only way to save her island from an environmental disaster is for her to sail across the great ocean to return a magical, stolen artifact. Her father, the chief, forbids such a journey, explaining that no one is allowed to sail beyond the reef encircling the island. Moana, whose name means ‘ocean’, discovers a storehouse full of ancient sea-worthy canoes and learns that her people once sailed great distances across the unknown ocean, but abruptly stopped, blaming the demi-god, Maui, for making the seas too dangerous to sail.