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Moana: Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray + Blu-ray 3D + DVD + Digital HD Review

Disney's Moana (2016) movie poster Moana

Theatrical Release: November 23, 2016 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: John Musker, Ron Clements / Co-Directors: Chris Williams , Don Hall / Writers: Jared Bush (screenplay); Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell (story)

Voice Cast: Auli'i Cravahalo (Moana), Dwayne Johnson (Maui), Rachel House (Gramma Tala), Temuera Morrison (Chief Tui), Jemaine Clement (Tamatoa), Nichole Scherzinger (Sina), Alan Tudyk (HeiHei the Rooster, Villager #3), Oscar Kightley (Fisherman), Troy Polamalu (Villager #1), Puanani Cravalho (Villager #2), Louise Bush (Toddler Moana)

Songs: "An Innocent Warrior", "Where You Are", "How Far I'll Go", "We Know the Way", "You're Welcome", "Shiny", "I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)"

Buy Moana from Amazon.com: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

Walt Disney Animation Studios didn't release a movie in 2015. To make up for that, they had two in 2016. The first, Zootopia, stood among the very finest the year had to offer.
A smart and funny mystery surprisingly full of social commentary, that anthropomorphic animal picture drew rave reviews and became the rare original film to join the billion dollar worldwide grossers club. Disney Animation's second offering, Moana, arrived with clearer and more extensive precedent. This one was a musical and added some further diversity to the lucrative stable of Disney princesses.

Set in Polynesia, Moana gets its title from its brave and headstrong protagonist. The teenaged daughter of Chief Tui and Sina (the rare Disney animation protagonist with two parents who stay alive throughout), Moana (voiced for most of the film by newcomer Auli'i Cravalho) lives on Motunui Island, a scenic place where residents are instructed to never leave the reef. Following the rules and staying safe would not make for a particularly entertaining movie, so fortunately for us, Moana is instructed by her quirky grandmother to go solve an old mystery that will help the family's island, which has recently been stung by bad coconuts and a dearth of fish.

Needing to restore a glowing green stone and make peace with the gods, Moana must team up with Maui (Dwayne Johnson), a shape-shifting demigod who stole the stone and brought trouble upon the people. Moana and Maui are as different as night and day. He's full of himself and proud of his beloved, magical fish hook. She's young and sweet and considerate of others. They are joined on this epic sea voyage by a nonverbal chicken functioning as animal comic relief.

Disney's newest princess is Moana, the headstrong teenage daughter of a Polynesian chief.

Moana is directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, two men who have been making animated films at Disney as long as anyone. After years of working as animators, the duo made their directorial debut on 1986's The Great Mouse Detective. They followed that up with two of the studio's most beloved fairy tales, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. They were the obvious choices to take the helm when Disney simultaneously tried resurrecting two of the company's most treasured traditions on 2009's The Princess and the Frog. The 2D animation revival didn't stick, but the fairy tale musical remains alive and well in the new standard of computer animation, a medium Disney has flourished in of late after a little bit of a shaky start.

Visually, Moana boasts all the sophistication and sheen of a Pixar production. But narratively and fundamentally, it is pure Musker and Clements Disney. The film is certain to remind you of past movies, most of which probably hold a special place in your heart. Certain aspects of Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Hercules, and Lilo & Stitch are recalled. But Moana is also its own thing, relying heavily on rarely-depicted Polynesian culture for flavor and texture. Maui is covered in tribal tattoos telling of his life's experiences. They animate when he flexes and when a point needs to be made visually.

The music, naturally, takes a Polynesian sound, with original songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (the creator of Broadway's popular and decorated Hamilton) and New Zealand musician Opetaia Foa'i. It's tough to judge an original musical's songs on even just a couple of viewings, but these tunes seem to have the right blend of style and substance, even as they comfortably fit into standard Disney musical templates. The one outlier, "Shiny", performed by a giant, self-absorbed, cave-dwelling crab-like monster, assumes the sound of New Zealand folk duo Flight of the Conchords, suggesting that the monster's voice Jemaine Clement did more than just sing that number.

Moana needs the services of disgraced, egotistical demigod Maui to fulfill her hero's journey.

Being a Disney animated musical fairy tale gives Moana weight
that other original animated movies can never know. But it also introduces the weight of expectations and comparisons. Moana will need more than multiple viewings to stand up to the gold standards of your favorite Disney movies and songs. In fact, you may have to be under the age of 12 and not attached to any of the studio's many beloved musicals to embrace this fully. But as Frozen demonstrated, there are many, many children who meet those requirements and are ready to share their love. Moana has more to offer and more to like than Frozen, although it's not nearly as Broadway-ready as that 2013 box office titan.

It was also not quite as Oscar-ready. Though it had timing on its side, opening in theaters right before Thanksgiving, Moana also had the misfortune of competing against two better movies from the same distributor for the same Best Animated Feature Oscar: the aforementioned Zootopia and Finding Dory. While Pixar's blockbuster sequel was denied even a nomination (adding to an interesting trend where the studio either wins or doesn't get nominated), Zootopia managed to defy the Academy's memory-challenged reputation and win the statuette nearly a year after it was released in theaters.

Moana also drew a second Oscar nomination in the category of Best Original Song. Competition is typically not that intense there, but it had to compete against two songs from the decorated original musical La La Land, whose "City of Stars" gave it one of its seven six wins at that bizarre ceremony.

Grossing $248 million domestic and $617 M worldwide, Moana was definitely a profitable hit for Disney. But it was much less of a draw than behemoths Frozen and Zootopia were, its numbers more in line with plain old blockbusters Big Hero 6 and Tangled.

Shortly after coming home empty at the Oscars, Moana hit home video in a DVD, a Blu-ray combo pack, and, reviewed here, a three-disc Ultimate Collector's Edition presenting the film on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD.

Moana: Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.39:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-rays: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English) / DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, English, French, Spanish
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Lenticular Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD ($39.99 SRP), as standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Disney has yet to get on board with 4K, but judged within the formats of Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D, most of their transfers leave nothing to be desired. Moana certainly meets a definition of perfection, having been transferred directly digital and thus representing exactly what the animators intended up to 1080p. The 2.39:1 visuals are colorful and appealing, while the 7.1 DTS-HD master audio is suitably vibrant and immersive.

The body parts of a working stiff show us how he feels in "Inner Workings." Breakfast is a bigger challenge than Maui expects in the new mini-movie "Gone Fishing."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

As is customary, the Blu-ray 3D devotes practically all of its space to the 3D feature presentation.
It includes a 3D version of Inner Workings alongside the film. For other extras, you will need to turn to the standard 2D Blu-ray.

Inner Workings (6:26) is also found on the 2D Blu-ray, where it is preceded by a 48-second intro from the producer and director. If you saw Moana in theaters, then you should have already seen this charming and original, Oscar shortlisted but not nominated short film. It shows the various body parts of a man waking him up and getting him to work without dying. Less derivative of Inside Out than you might fear, this 1980s-set 'toon directed by seasoned story artist Leo Matsuda proves to be quick-witted and funny, reminiscent of Pixar's better shorts but without as much of a one-joke feel.

Next up comes the "Maui mini-movie" Gone Fishing (2:29), a short created for this release. It shows a hungry Maui struggling to catch a fish as he attempts to command the ocean instead of talking to it as Moana, who is also featured, does.

Directors John Musker and Ron Clements reveal "Things You Didn't Know About" themselves. "Costume designer" Neysa Bove shares insight into the film's "Island Fashion."

"Voice of the Islands" (31:13) is a general making-of featurette that establishes the production as being steeped in the culture it depicts. Among those it acknowledges are the input of the Polynesian consultants and the nearly all Polynesian voice cast. It is a thorough and well-produced documentary.

A fun pair of "Things You Didn't Know About" shorts (4:00) lets directors Ron Clements and John Musker, voice actors Auli'i Cravahalo and Dwayne Johnson, and composers Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa'i, and Lin-Manuel Miranda dish on their favorite foods, favorite Disney songs and rides, favorite animals, and sleep habits.

"Island Fashion" (5:13) lets Neysa Bove discuss her work as the film's "costume designer."

Moana's hair gets animated in the last of four "The Elements of..." shorts. "Fishing for Easter Eggs" points out an appearance made by the Magic Carpet from "Aladdin."

"The Elements of..." (14:14) goes into detail on four animation subjects:
Mini-Maui (the character's 2D-animated tattoos), water effects (and making the ocean a character), lava effects, and hair. It's a bit technical without getting too dry.

"They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana" (12:37) documents the creation of the songs and score starting with a research trip to Samoa and New Zealand

The deleted song "Warrior Face" (3:41) presents a demo and rough story reel animatics, with an introduction by Miranda. It is a song by Maui and Moana.

Sure to be appreciated, "Fishing for Easter Eggs" (2:52) has Cravahalo and Johnson pointing out some nods to other Disney films (including other Musker-Clements joints) that are hidden in Moana.

Moana competes in a sailing race against her brothers who were deleted in one of the Blu-ray's longer deleted scenes. Alessia Cara sings (and rakes sand) on a beach in the music video for her pop cover of "How Far I'll Go."

A substantial deleted scenes section consists of seven cut bits (25:56) that are each humorously introduced by Clements and Musker. These show Moana as a child and competing in a boat race against her six subsequently deleted brothers.

A music video for the strangely sped-up pop cover of "How Far I'll Go" (3:04) finds an auto-tuned Alessia Cara singing on a beach and raking Polynesian patterns into the sand.

"How Far I'll Go Around the World" (2:44) presents Moana's Oscar-nominated song with each line heard in a different language. Multi-language reels are always interesting, even if you are unversed in most of these dozens of languages.

Finally, we get an audio commentary by Musker and Clements. This is neither their first movie nor their first commentary. They talk passionately and quickly throughout, discussing what's onscreen and elaborating on certain topics that have arisen in the documentaries. Naturally, they cover just about bases you could want, from music to animation, and they do it with vigor that is often missing on live-action commentaries. Disney animation fans will find this worth a listen.

Maui is surrounded by spear-wielding coconut creatures on the colorful Moana DVD main menu.

The discs open with the timely teaser for the record-smashing live-action remake Beauty and the Beast.
The menus' Sneak Peeks listing run ads for Disney Movie Rewards, "Elena of Avalor", Disney's Aulani resort, and Cars 3, before repeating the Beauty teaser.

The DVD, identical to the one sold on its own, only includes Inner Workings, Alessia Cara's "How Far I'll Go" music video, and the audio commentary in the way of extras.

Exhibiting rare creativity, the main menu features animated gags involving characters against colorful floral backdrops, including more of the coconut critters than you'd expect, while an instrumental version of "You're Welcome" plays. The Blu-ray 3D presents the menu in 3D, naturally.

The three plainly-labeled discs are held on opposite sides of a standard side-snapped keepcase. Topped by a lenticular-faced slipcover, they're joined by a Disney Movie Club ad and a sealed packet supplying your digital copy/Disney Movie Rewards code.

Moana surprises Maui with her ability to keep up with him on the ocean.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Moana invokes the formulas of Disney's beloved animated musicals, which yields an expectedly enjoyable experience, albeit a familiar one that probably cannot stand up to your memories and your favorites. Nonetheless, this flavorful and vibrant outing supplies more entertainment than most of last year's and is well worth seeing.

Boasting a demo-worthy feature presentation and a host of substantial extras, Disney's Blu-ray 3D combo pack is easy to recommend as the best way to own the movie.

Buy Moana from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Doctor Strange Tanna
2016 Animated Films: Zootopia The Secret Life of Pets Finding Dory Kubo and the Two Strings The Red Turtle The Wild Life Storks
Directed by Musker & Clements: The Great Mouse Detective The Little Mermaid Hercules Treasure Planet The Princess and the Frog
Disney Animation: Frozen Big Hero 6 Wreck-It Ralph Tangled Winnie the Pooh Pocahontas Meet the Robinsons

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Reviewed March 27, 2017.



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