The Art Of Moana, by Jessica Julius and Maggie Malone, preface by John Lasseter, foreword by Ron Clements and John Musker
In many ways, this book is fascinating. Personally, I greatly enjoyed seeing the art of this particular movie and the way that the designers of Moana sought to convey an interesting period in Polynesian history where settled islanders were about to embark on the expansion of the Polynesian world that made them legendary navigators, even as it contains the usual lamentable heathen thinking that marks a lot of Disney properties. Indeed, this book is particularly interesting for providing a blunt and generally unapologetic exhibition of the way that myths and stories and history becomes Disneyfied. Not everyone is going to be a fan of this particular process, but the book certainly contains an open discussion of this process, so even if one is highly critical of Moana or of Disney films in general, this book is useful in providing a discussion of how Disney’s animators themselves see what they do and how they turn historical places and cultures, from fashion to tattoos to character choices into something that is meant to appeal to American young people, sometimes even through manipulating the body language and look of the voice actors involved in the making of their films, as is the case here.
This particular book is about 150 pages long and it is organized in a way that roughly follows the plot of the film. The beginning parts of this book set the film and this book in the larger context of Disney films, showing the aims and goals that the filmmakers had in setting a film in that particular time and place. There are discussions about the dangers of being swallowed by one’s culture, something one must fight against if one is making films about other cultures. Quite a few drawings show how the filmmakers and artists wanted to know their mountain, even if the proportions were a bit unrealistic. There is a section about how we are connected by the ocean, with plenty of gorgeous art to show how Disney animators wanted to picture the Pacific. After that there is a section on Maui, the namesake of one of the Hawaiian islands, and the artwork that went into his character. Finally, the book discusses moving into the realm of the fantastic with the sentient islands that Moana and Maui have to deal with, as well as closing sections on environment models, color keys, a culture of collaboration, and acknowledgements.