Moana – The daughter of the tribal chief, Moana, has always had an affinity with the ocean but her father has never let her near it. When the fishermen discover that all the fish around the island are gone and the island’s vegetation is dying, Moana finds out that a demigod named Maui took the heart of the island goddess, Ta Fiti, which has caused numerous problems for the tribe, including the latest blight. Setting off to find Maui, Moana has a lot to learn but her courage and determination push her further than she ever thought possible.

Moana (2016) – Director: Ron Clements, John Musker; Co-Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Is Moana appropriate for kids

By Source, Fair use,

Rating: PG

Running Length: 107 mins

Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House

Genre: Animated, Action/Adventure


Walt Disney’s 56th animated feature film, ‘Moana’, follows the eponymous heroine whose fully embraces her destiny to save her tribe. Recently, much attention has been focused on the gender stereotyping of kids’ movies, especially that of Disney films (Snow White and Cinderella to name but two movies about simpering women who need a man to ‘save’ them) and ‘Moana’ demonstrates a definite shift against it. Moana has a mind of her own, doesn’t mention a love interest or romance and is as tough and brave as demigod, Maui (often more so) without ever being masculine or ashamed of her femininity.

Choosing a majority cast of actors with a Polynesian background, ‘Moana’ also pushes back against the controversial ‘white washing’ that has blighted Hollywood for decades and is being criticised more and more (this year’s live action ‘Ghost in the Shell’ remake has been heavily criticised for casting Scarlett Johansson instead of a Japanese actress as per the original anime movie). Disney have been listening to the criticisms and have taken action to make a thoroughly enjoyable movie that steers clear of tokenism and gender politics, and simply wants to entertain its audience.

With a strong female lead, ‘Moana’ pushes boundaries without a hidden agenda, creating a character that both boys and girls can relate to, root for, and emulate. While it is a shame that such a bright and colourful story spends much of its time in darkness with night-time and cave scenes, this by no means spoils the sumptuous visuals that one would expect from a Disney movie. With Dwayne Johnson’s delightfully arrogant-but-nice, Maui, bringing in plenty of laughs as well as a genuinely good plot and some fantastic songs, ‘Moana’ has all the elements of a great Disney movie and will keep the whole family entertained from start to finish.


The movie opens with a stylised animation of Maui, a demigod who stole the heart of an island goddess (which takes the form of a green stone). As he flees the island, he boards his boat and black clouds appear before him on the surface of the water. From this smoke, a huge demonic-looking creature emerges. Its body appears to be made of lava and its consist of two large glowing eyes and a mouth and it angrily attacks Maui. This creature is seen several times throughout the movie with its big, frightening face often in close-up.

Several young children are being told the story of when Maui stole the heart and, when it appears that Maui has been defeated, the storyteller says he entered ‘the jaws of inescapable death’; with this, a few of the children begin to bawl from how scary the story is. Another character steps in to try to help but cause several pictures of terrifying monsters to fall down, enclosing the room and most of the children then run around in a panic, screaming. This is a comedic scene but could be frightening for some younger children.

A toddler walks on a beach and sees a shell that has been revealed as the water around it has moved away, she picks it up and the water moves again, revealing another shell. This continues with several shells until she is quite far from the shore with the water held back around her. This happens because the ocean ‘chooses’ her for a special quest and, as the music and cinematography are light-hearted, it is clear that she is in no danger. However, parents may be concerned with young kids seeing a toddler being lured away from safety being portrayed as a good thing as it could undermine the ‘stranger danger’ message.

Two men are briefly shown to be getting tattoos in a traditional tribal way. One lies silently but another, a friend of Moana, comically grunts and groans in pain, grimacing while Moana comforts him.

A man tells a loved one that many years before, he was on a boat with a friend which got caught up in a storm. His friend fell overboard and he tried to save him, he is seen to reach desperately but the other man sinks to too quickly and it is made clear that he drowned and the man has lived with guilt and fear ever since.

When Moana first attempts to leave the island by boat, her and her pet piglet take a raft out and soon get into trouble. The piglet is thrown into the ocean, squealing in distress and when Moana falls in she is hit again an again by waves so that she is barely able to catch her breath. She is then dragged under the water and struggles to escape as her foot has become caught. Both she and the piglet get back to the shore bedraggled but alive, Moana later looks at her leg which has some large, purple bruises on it from her ordeal.

Moana is sent into a dark cave by a loved one in order to find out some truths of her people. She is a little apprehensive but otherwise brave. She comes across a drum which she bangs several times. After one of these times a deep, loud, tribal drone is unexpectedly heard which initially seems somewhat sinister. However it quickly becomes more of a chant/song to accompany Moana seeing images of her ancestors which is a time of happiness and revelation for her.

Moana has a pet rooster, Heihei, which is especially stupid. It walks on hot coals and has to be removed by Moana. It continues walking as its tail smokes but it is oblivious to any pain. Later, Heihei accidentally gets taken on the voyage with Moana and, after she reaches the island with Maui, at one point he picks the bird up and forcefully scratches its beak on a piece of wood, it appears surprised but not overly distressed. Maui also leaves the island without Moana but takes the Heihei with him, saying ‘boat snack!’ and he later tells it ‘I’m going to love you…in my belly!’ In a song, Maui sings about how he ‘killed an eel, (I) buried it’s guts’. This is accompanied by the animation showing Maui grab a large eel around its middle with one hand, it’s eyes bulge out in surprise and it is dragged down off camera.

Maui and Moana find themselves in a strange, island which has huge, carnivorous creatures. They are caught by the tongue of a plant which slowly drags them towards its mouth. When it is almost too late they are released and shortly after they hide but large screeching bats suddenly fly at them. They then come across a huge coconut crab who is initially hostile but comes around when Moana strokes his ego. When he discovers that she is simply distracting him, he becomes very angry. The light suddenly goes out so only his eyes and simplistic bright pink markings are seen. His anger makes him appear unhinged and his head jerks in an unnatural way. He tells them that he ‘ate (his) grandma and it took a week because she was absolutely humongous’. This scene lasts for around ten minutes and could be quite scary for some kids.



As a feisty, realistic heroine ‘Moana’ represents more positive changes to Disney’s attitude to both gender and racial stereotypes, issues which they have been criticised for in the past. Such adults concerns are unlikely to be inherent positives for children’s interest so thankfully the excellent plot, well-written characters and fun, sing-a-long songs ensure they are well catered for. Due to some scary scenes, we feel ‘Moana’ should be suitable for kids aged five and over although we recommend supervision on the first viewing.

  • Violence: 1/5
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (a man tells of his birth, saying that his parents took one look at him and threw him into the ocean)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5
  • Sexual Content: 0/5
  • Bad Language: 0/5 (one character says ‘son of a …’ but the phrase is cut off before it is finished)
  • Dialogue: 1/5 (Maui tells Moana a few times that she is going to be killed although this is mostly sarcastic or said I jest)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of seeking adventure, following your own path, ego, courage, belief in oneself, determination, destiny, the importance of knowing where you come from and not giving up on the people you care about.

Words by Laura Record

Moana Singing and Friends Feature Doll

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