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Saturday, 25 February 2017

Moana- Articles & Interviews (Part 3)

Disney's most recent hit, Moana, enjoyed a highly successful run at the cinema, and has been nominated for two Oscars. This week, it began its transition from the big screen to home viewing, as it premiered on two major VOD platforms - Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere. After this, Moana will be released on DVD and other VOD sites in a fortnight, and it will be accompanied by a number of bonus features, such as Audio Commentaries, Making-Of Featurettes and Deleted Scenes.

In the past, I have provided two posts which have highlighted a number of fascinating articles about Moana. In honour of the film's Digital HD release, here is a set of 27 articles about the film and its release on Home Video and Streaming Platforms. These range from articles about the impact of the movie and its titular protagonist to previews of some of the bonus features available on DVD...

(A Quick Warning: Many of the articles listed in this post contain substantial spoilers for Moana. If you haven't seen the film yet, tread carefully...)

Moana as a Feminist Role Model

Moana's titular protagonist is the latest in a long line of female leads in Disney films to be praised for being strong and independant. However, Moana's tenacity, bravery and self-sufficiency, and her status as the future chief of her people, mean that she is being regarded as a particularly strong role model for girls...

Disney’s Moana is a Princess Head and Shoulders (and Feet) Above the Rest - This article from Washington Post journalist Carrie Dunsmore argues that "Moana is the greatest of all Disney Princesses". Dusnmore notes that Moana has no references to romance whatsoever, and praises the fact that dolls depicting the title character do not give her high heels. These changes show that Moana is a strong modern protagonist not constrained by traditional stereotypes of femininity, and thus an excellent role model for girls.

Is The Success Of ‘Moana’ An Indication Of The Empowering Direction Disney Will Steer Toward? - This article from GirlTalkHQ praises Moana for being a well-developed and relateable protagonist who doesn't need a love interest. However, the most notable aspect of the article is its examination of why Moana was created, as it explains how she represents a response to the growing demand for feminist role models.

No Prince Required: Moana and the Evolution of the Disney Princess - Unlike the previous two articles, this commentary from Tricia Ennis on Blastr looks at all the Disney Princesses instead of merely Moana. This highlights the fact that Moana represents the culmination of 80 years of change, during which Disney Princesses have become stronger and more independant characters. Ennis also considers the evolution of Disney villains. Although I personally disagree with this article's implication that the classic villains such as Maleficent and Ursula represent a dated template which should be discarded, I admire and appreciate the messages which Ennis is trying to provide, as she states that social problems such as fear and prejudice are greater than any "singular villain" and heroes and heroines should find nonviolent ways of dealing with their enemies. Ultimately, this is a very detailed and interesting article on how Disney films have evolved over the years.

Moana's Impact

Moana's success means that its impact on pop culture has been felt in many areas. Fans have devoted plenty of time to analysing the film and creating costumes based on the characters, whilst other cinemagoers have taken interest in the movies depiction of sailing and celestial navigation techniques.

A Phenomenal Maui Cosplay From Disney’s ‘Moana’ - In spite of the controversy generated when costumes of the character were accused of being racially insensitive, the charismatic demigod Maui has been very popular with Moana fans. In a tribute to the character, Philip Odango, creator of Canvas Cosplay, has designed an especially spectacular Maui costume.Odango created every part of the costume by himself, including the fish hook and necklace, and the end product is pretty impressive...

How Far They’ll Go: Moana Shows the Power of Polynesian Celestial Navigation - This fascinating article from The Conversation discusses Moana's depiction of the astronomy and celestial navigation which the ancient Polynesians used on journeys to discover new islands. Moana's portrayal of the techniques used is pleasingly accurate (for example, we often see Moana using her hands to measure the altitude of the stars in order to check the direction she is travelling in), and this provides a level of authenticity which is not normally associated with a Disney film.

How to Dress Your Pākehā Child Up as Maui or Moana Without Appropriating Pasifika Culture- New Zealand website The Spinoff has released a number of interesting articles related to Moana, and this one from Fijian author Emmaline Matagi provides some dos and don'ts for anyone who wants to dress up as Moana and Maui. She explains why Disney's Maui costumes were such a bad idea, making some very important points about the effect which racial prejudice has on Polynesian people, and the cultural significance of tattoos. However, Matagi also notes that Moana can provide an excellent gateway to learning more about Polynesian culture.

In the Shadow of Frozen - In spite of Moana's critical and commercial success, it hasn't become a phenomenon in the same way as Disney's 2013 hit Frozen, which continues to inspire a spectacular amount of merchandise. However, this article from Nouse argues that this is not necessarily a bad thing, as Frozen's overexposure has led to increased scrutiny and criticism of its flaws. Moana will still be regarded as a great film, even if it isn't being used to advertise tins of soup...

Moana: A Review for Sailors - One of the most unique and interesting features of Moana is its depiction of ancient wayfinding techniques. In this article, sailing expert Damian Lord provides his opinion on how Moana depicts wayfinding. The review is almost entirely tongue-in-cheek, and its insights on sailing are rather simplistic, but Damian provides some very funny comments about the unusual assistance which Moana receives.

Someone Noticed That “Moana” Basically Has The Same Plot As “The Lord Of The Rings” - This Buzzfeed article is inspired by a fan theory which states that Moana's magical Macguffin, the Heart of Te Fiti, has the power to extend human life. It points out the numerous parallels between Moana and Lord of the Rings, highlighting the enduring appeal of the 'Heroes Journey' narrative which links both films.

The Truth Behind Disney's 'Moana,' Overcoming 'The Long Pause' - This article from Iowa State Daily discusses the ways in which Moana was inspired by Polynesian culture and history. It places particular emphasis on the "Long Pause", a 1,000 year period when Polynesian wayfinding voyages appeared to stop. Their sudden return of this iconic tradition inspired the story of Moana's attempts to restore wayfinding to Motonui.

The Making of Moana

It's always fascinating to learn more about the making of Disney movies, as scripts, storyboards and drawings are steadily developed into an colourful and entertaining film which the whole family can enjoy. These articles look at how the music and animation, two of the highlights of the film, were created. They also provide some insights into the directors and voice acting.

Animating the Friendly Ocean in Disney's 'Moana' - One of the most spectacular aspects of Moana is its animation of the ocean, which the movie depicts as a living being that can interact with the same protagonist. In this article, animators Marlon West and Amy Sneed discuss how they used all sorts of sophisticated technology to depict the ocean. The process is difficult and time-consuming (it takes a week to finish 3 or 4 seconds of footage), but the end result makes all the hard work worthwhile...

Go Behind the Scenes of Disney's 'Moana' With Lin-Manuel Miranda - The music in Moana was created by three very different musicians: Composer Mark Mancina, who previously worked on The Lion King, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man behind Broadway hit Hamilton, and Opetai Foa'i, founder of the New Zealand group Te Vaka. This Moviefone article provides a brief clip showing how the trio created one of Moana's standout songs, "We Know the Way". It highlights how well they got on, and discusses the hard work which goes into composing a catchy and memorable number.

‘How Far I’ll Go’: The Incredible Journey Behind Disney’s ‘Moana’ - In this in-depth article from Animation World Network, Moana's producer, Osnat Shurer, discusses the making of the movie. The article focuses on the film's animation, so it also features interviews with several of the animators, who reveal how much effort went into bringing ordinary things like costumes, feathers, hair and especially water to life. This resulted in detailed and realistic animation, which made Moana beautiful to watch.

LOOK: ‘The Art of Moana’ Delves Behind the Scenes of Disney’s Latest Animated Feature - Another article from Animation World Network, this shows off some of the artwork published in the tie-in book 'The Art of Moana'. Ranging from concept art depicting the ocean to drawings of characters like Moana and Gramma Tala, the illustrations shown here are pretty impressive. It's also fascinating to consider how these images were transferred to 3D animation.

‘Moana’: How Disney Crafted Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Oscar-Contending ‘How Far I’ll Go’ - Out of all the songs in Moana, the most successful is probably "How Far I'll Go", which has been nominated for Best Song at the Oscars. In this IndieWire article, Moana's directors, Ron Clements and John Musker, discuss how the song was constantly altered to reflect changes to the story and Moana's goal as the movie evolved. They also point out the ways in which the composition of the song, and the animation accompanying it, highlights Moana's internal struggle - Should she stay on the island, or follow the call of the sea?

The Man Behind The Magic - Before he teamed up with Ron Clements to direct Disney classics like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Moana, John Musker studied English at Chicago's prestigious Northwestern University. This article from the Northwestern University website features Musker talking about how Moana was made, discussing the research trips to the Pacific Islands, the animation process, and the music. He also provides information about how his time at university inspired him as a film-maker and an animator.

The Rock Recording 'Moana' Song "You're Welcome" Will Make You Smile — VIDEO - In this article, Dwayne Johnson, who voiced Maui in Moana, discusses audience reactions to the movie, as he the wide range of fans who have asked him to sing Maui's signature song, the lively and anthemic "You're Welcome". We also get a clip showing Johnson recording the song.

Where Lin-Manuel Miranda Got Inspiration for his Oscar-nominated ‘Moana’ Song - Another article about the making of "How Far I'll Go", this piece in the Washington Post features Lin-Manuel Miranda discussing how he wrote the song, and drew inspiration from other classic Disney tunes such as "Part of Your World".

Deleted Scenes & Songs

Disney films tend to go through some substantial changes during the production process, as numerous characters, ideas and songs get cut at various stages. Moana was no exception to this rule, as a number of elements were altered or deleted whilst the movie was being made.

Deleted 'Moana' Reveals Maui Was Bald — and the Heroine Had Six Brothers - Here, USA Today provides an overview of some of the ideas and characters which were deleted. It showcases several rejected designs for Maui (who was initially supposed to be bald) and characters from earlier drafts of the script, such as Moana's six brothers.

Meet Moana's Six Brothers in Deleted Scene From Disney's Animated Adventure - This article gives us a more detailed look at Moana's brothers, as it shows a deleted scene where she competes against them in a canoe race. It's a very interesting and entertaining scene, and the brothers we see have plenty of personality. However, cutting the brothers allowed the film to focus more on Moana, so it was a wise decision.

“Moana” Almost Had A Very Different Ending - One of the best scenes in Moana is the ending, where Moana returns the Heart of Te Fiti to its rightful owner. However, it was a relatively late addition to the movie, being created just 8 months before it was released. This article from Buzzfeed features Moana screenwriter Jared Bush talking about the many alternate endings which were rejected during the production process, and explaining why the final version has such an impact.

'Moana' Deleted Scene Has Our Heroes On the Run From A Giant, Eight-eyed Bat - Another deleted scene included on the DVD provides a more detailed look at Lalotai, the terrifying underworld which Moana and Maui travel to in order to find Maui's magical fish hook. Here, Moana and Maui try to get past a number of scary creatures, including an eight-eyed monster called Walu the Wicked, as they attempt to regain the hook from Tamatoa. As Lalotai was a pretty memorable location, it's great to explore it and learn more about the monsters based there.

'Moana' Deleted Songs and Scenes Detail Cut Brothers, Maui's Past - This article from Hollywood Reporter discusses the deleted scenes and songs which have been released online. It provides a quick overview of these, with videos of three deleted songs: "More", "Unstoppable" and "Warrior Face".

The Moana Soundtrack Hints At Some Major Changes To The Film - Moana's deleted songs were initially released on the deluxe edition of the soundtrack, which also contains early demos of the numbers that appeared in the finished movie. This article from CinemaBlend examines the deleted songs and demos in greater detail. It analyses the lyrics of "More", "Unstoppable" and "Warrior Face" for the information they provide about the original portrayals of Moana and Maui. It also takes note of differences between the demo versions of "Where You Are" and "Shiny", and the completed songs. The effect which changing or deleting a song has on the characters and the message demonstrates how important music can be in a movie like Moana.

Watch a cut Moana song sung by Hamilton stars - Here we get a closer look at "Warrior Face", one of the deleted songs. Inspired by the Haka tribal dance, this pleasingly energetic and ominous number would have accompanied a scene where Maui teaches Moana how to intimidate the monsters they encounter in Lalotai. In this video, the song is being sung by two of the stars of Hamilton, Christopher Jackson and Phillipa Soo.

Other Bonus Features

In addition to the usual making-of featurettes and deleted scenes, the DVD of Moana has some more unusual bonus features. Here is some more information on them...

Dwayne Johnson Gets Schooled by the Ocean in Moana Bonus Clip - One of the most intriguing bonus features to accompany Moana's Digital and DVD releases is Gone Fishing, a comedic short featuring Moana and Maui in the vein of Tangled Ever After and Frozen Fever. It centres around Maui's attempts to show off his control of the Ocean, which don't go to plan. Dwayne Johnson shared a clip on Instagram a couple of months ago, and it can be viewed in this article. Based on the clip, it seems that Gone Fishing is going to be an enjoyable opportunity to spend some more time with Moana, Maui and their friends...

See the Secret Aladdin Easter Eggs Hidden in Moana - Like many other Disney movies, Moana features several subtle references to the studio's previous classics. Disney fans will be aware of some of the 'Easter Eggs' in Moana (e.g Maui shapeshifting into Sven from Frozen, Tamatoa talking about Sebastian from The Little Mermaid), but others are harder to spot, even in repeat viewings. This article from Entertainment Weekly highlights a number of references made to Disney's 1992 classic Aladdin. For many people, 'Easter Eggs' like these may seem innocuous, but they demonstrate the level of detail which goes into animating a Disney film.


All of the articles listed above provide insights into how Moana was made and why it became so popular. Most of the articles show how much hard work went into making the animation, music and characters that allow the movie to stand out. Meanwhile, the rest of the articles demonstrate how popular Moana and its titular heroine have been. Overall, the articles shown in this post highlight why Moana is such a great film, and I definitely recommend buying it, whether on DVD or VOD platforms...

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Future Fairy Tale TV Series #1 - Tangled: The Series

In November 2010, Disney released Tangled, their take on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale Rapunzel. Depicting the adventures of Rapunzel, a sheltered teen with 70 feet of magical blonde hair, and the charming outlaw Flynn Rider (real name: Eugene Fitzherbert), Tangled marked Disney's return to form after over a decade in the wilderness, making over $590 million worldwide, and paving the way for the likes of Frozen and Moana. Although the protagonists of Tangled appeared in a 2012 short called Tangled Ever After, which depicted Rapunzel and Flynn getting married, Tangled has been overshadowed by Disney's more recent hits. However, Rapunzel, Flynn and their friends are about to return, as Tangled: The Series, which is set between the film and Tangled Ever After, will arrive on the Disney Channel next month, almost 2 years after it was initially announced.

Tangled:The Series is the thirteenth animated series to be spun off from a Disney animated film, following in the footsteps of shows like Aladdin: The Series and The Lion Guard. It will begin with a TV movie called Tangled: Before Ever After, which will air on the Disney Channel on Friday March 10th, with the series proper starting on March 24th. Tangled: The Series will last for three seasons, consisting of a total of 78 episodes. In addition, there will be two further TV movies after Tangled:Before Ever After, one airing in November, and the other airing in February 2018. There will also be four animated shorts released on April 11th (It is currently unknown whether these shorts will be standalones like Tangled Ever After, or form a continuous story like Frozen:Northern Lights). All in all, it seems like Tangled fans will be kept happy for a very very long time...

The Plot

Tangled:Before Ever After picks up where the movie left off, with Rapunzel being reunited with her parents, the King and Queen of Corona. However, whilst her father and Flynn (now back to being called Eugene) want her to settle down and embrace the responsibilities of life as a princess, Rapunzel would prefer to explore the world beyond the castle walls, aided by her new lady-in-waiting Cassandra. During the course of one adventure, Rapunzel comes across a set of mysterious stones, which causes the enchanted hair that got cut off at the end of Tangled to magically grow back. The rest of Tangled: Before Ever After, and the subsequent TV series, will depict Rapunzel's attempts at dealing with the return of her hair and healing powers, and her relationships with her friends and family.

The Characters

The two main characters in Tangled: The Series will be the movie's central couple, Rapunzel and Eugene, with Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi returning to voice them. Rapunzel wants to make up for 18 years stuck in a tower by doing as much exploring as possible. Meanwhile, after years as an outlaw, Eugene would prefer to live a normal life, hence his return to using his birth name. They will be accompanied by Rapunzel's two animal companions, her pet chameleon Pascal and crime-fighting horse Maximus, both of whom will probably steal as many scenes as they did in the movie. Also returning are the "pub thugs" who Rapunzel befriended in the original movie, such as Big Nose and Hook Hand. Their menacing looks contrast with their friendly personalities and passion for innocent hobbies such as piano playing and collecting ceramic unicorns. One of the most important reasons for Tangled's success was the strong  and appealing set of protagonists, and it will be great to see them go on new adventures.

Rapunzel's parents will also be central to Tangled:The Series Although they appeared in Tangled, they were not named and did not speak. They will have a much larger role here, with Rapunzel's father, King Frederic, being voiced by Clancy Brown, and her mother, Queen Ariana, being voiced by Julie Bowen. Both of these actors are intriguing choices. Aside from his portrayal of demanding boss Mr. Krabs in Spongebob Squarepants, Clancy Brown is almost entirely known for his villain roles (whether in live-action films such as Highlander and The Shawshank Redemption, or animated shows such as Superman:The Animated Series and Avatar:The Last Airbender), so it will be interesting to see him apply his signature deep and powerful voice to a loving (albeit overprotective) father. Meanwhile, as Queen Ariana, who shares her daughter's free-spirited nature, Modern Family star Julie Bowen is replacing Ashley Judd, who was originally cast in the role. It seems like Rapunzel's relationship with her parents will provide the series with its emotional core, and the 78 episodes and 3 TV Movies planned for Tangled: The Series represent an ideal opportunity to explore this in greater depth.

There will also be a variety of entirely new characters. The most prominent of these is Cassandra (voiced by Eden Espinosa), a feisty handmaiden who aspires to follow in her father's footsteps and join the Royal Guard. Other characters include a pirate called Lady Caine (voiced by Laura Benanti), who will be the primary villain in Tangled:Before Ever After, Lance Strongbow, one of Eugene's former associates (voiced by James Monroe Iglehart, who won a Tony for playing the Genie in the Broadway version of Aladdin), Varian , a teen alchemist (voiced by Jeremy Jordan), a Blacksmith called Xavier (voiced by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and Old Lady Crowley (voiced by Ursula herself, Pat Carroll, who is nearing 90 but still sounding awesome). We know little about these characters at the moment, but given the high-quality voice cast, we can assume that they will be pretty memorable.

The Animation

In contrast to the movie's elaborate CGI 3D animation, Tangled: The Series is animated in 2D. The 2D animation style used has a rougher, more primitive look similar to concept art. It also resembles children's storybooks, such as the Little Golden Books series. However, whilst it's not going to emulate the finesse and detail of the original film, the animation for Tangled: The Series is bright and expressive. Tangled was the first Disney Princess film to be made with 3D animation, so it's really nice to see Disney return to their roots in traditional animation with this series.

The two people most responsible for the animation on Tangled: The Series are Alan Bodner, the Art Director, and Claire Keane, who will be Visual Development Artist. The daughter of veteran Disney animator Glen Keane, Claire worked on the original Tangled, and her colourful approach (she created the murals which Rapunzel paints in her tower during the movie) is perfect for the series. Though the hair does not look as realistic, the animation for Tangled: The Series is pretty good when you consider the pressures of working on an animated series (you need to produce much more material in a far shorter time period),  and it provides a very distinctive look, but one which emulates the style of the original film enough to be recognised as part of the same universe.

The Songs

Claire Keane, Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi are not the only people from Tangled to return for the Tangled: The Series, Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, who wrote the songs for the original movie, will create new songs for the show. One of the songs they wrote for Tangled:Before Ever After, "Wind in My Hair", has just been unveiled. It's a catchy little pop song, which does a great job of conveying Rapunzel's free spirit and passionate nature. Another tune, "Life After Happily Ever After", will be released online the morning before Tangled: Before Ever After premieres. Alan Menken has earned his status as a Disney Legend, and Glenn Slater has worked with him as a lyricist since 2004. Hopefully, they will ensure that the songs in Tangled: The Series will be worthy of standing alongside the likes of "When Will My Life Begin?" and "I See the Light".


Whilst the original movie tried to please as wide an audience as possible, Tangled: The Series will seemingly be aimed primarily at preteen girls. However, this isn't a bad thing, as long as there is enough to keep other viewers interested and engaged, and those outside the target demographic will probably enjoy Tangled: The Series as well. Judging by what we know so far, it seems like it will retain the spirit of the original film, whilst taking Rapunzel's story into exciting new territory. This means that it is going to be a must-see for Disney fans, and enjoyable entertainment for children and parents.