Moana: The Disney Movie Set In Polynesia You Cannot Miss Out!

Disney movie set in Polynesia

A puzzle has taken the global Disney lovers for a ride, this time, into the islands of Oceania! We are talking about the Eugene Sheffer Puzzle published on October 20, 2023. After a couple of misses, the clue that matched the most to the query of which Disney movie set in Polynesia was Moana. This 2016 Disney film celebrated the multiple cultures of these Oceanian islands. It also chronicled the events of “The Long Pause” and how Moana’s journey prompts the islanders to explore the depths of the high seas again. 

So, why is Moana back in the news? What is so special about the Polynesian culture that Moana celebrates? Is it accurate? We have answers to all your queries! Let us give you a glimpse of the same – 

Which Disney movie set in Polynesia? 

Disney movie set in Polynesia
Image Credit: Vanity Fair

The film Moana, created by the Walt Disney Animation Studio uses Polynesian islands as its backdrop. This fantasy musical was also marketed under the name – Oceania or Vaiana in some markets. Though the film is set against the fictional Motunui island, visually and geographically, this island is close to Samoa. 

The backdrop setting of this film extends over 2000 years, but, the stark semblance is resonated in the dwellings used in the movie (similar to Samoan fale) and the presence of tattoos (Samoan tatau). The 2016 movie follows the journey of the teenage heroine across the ocean (with Maui – the demigod) to save her people. 

Why is Moana back in the news? 

dwayne johnson as maui in moana
Image Credit: People

Now that you know already about the Disney movie set in Polynesia, it is only natural that you would want to know the hullabaloo about this movie. After all, was it just a puzzle that sent the world into a tizzy, or is there more? Well, the fact of the matter is – Moana is getting a sequel! The studio announced that the sequel will hit the theatres in November 2024 (November 27, 2024 – tentative schedule). 

What’s more? This will be a live-action film, to be helmed by director Thomas Kail (the Tony Awardee), with Dwayne ‘Rock’ Johnson once again stepping into the shoes of Maui – the demigod. 

As per the latest reports from the Studio, this live-action flick will also celebrate the Polynesian culture and the South Pacific islanders’ traditions, through the vision of this feisty young woman, as she craves to chart her path. 

What is Moana’s storyline? 

Categorically speaking, this film set 2000 years into the past, against the backdrop of modern Tahiti – showcases the brave story of Moana, and her feats. The daughter of Motunui’s chief, she has to return the heart (the pounamu stone, back to Te Fiti. Though the Motunui people never traveled across the reef, however, Moana takes up the responsibility and sets sail on the high seas. Maui, the demigod is her companion. By the end of the movie, Moana rediscovers the ancestral roots that directly link her to the wayfinders. 

This Disney movie set in Polynesia celebrates Moana’s true identity as the symbol of ‘ocean, sea, or expanse of water,’ a favorite with the Polynesian community. The character also stands for – independence and resilience, especially as a Black woman! 

Celebrating Polynesian culture through Moana 

celebrating polynesian culture in moana
Image Credit: LDS Daily

Let us now look into how this film celebrates the Polynesian culture through its setting – 

  • In the film, the island tribe is set against the Hawaiian culture, with elements of Polynesian and Samoan features. 
  • The attire of the characters, set in grasses and flowers, resonates with the beauty of Samoan clothing. Closely speaking, Moana’s headdress, is similar to Taupou’s outfit (female entity, chieftain’s daughter, elevated to a high rank to care for the people). 
  • The Long Pause, which has been the critical part of this Disney movie set in Polynesia, primarily put forth that – this pause occurred due to insufficient technology that forbade the individuals settled in Western Polynesia to venture eastwards. 
  • Motunui, the fictional homeland of Moana, closely places itself on the current real-world location of Niue. At the same time, Te Fiti is a direct hint to the current Tahiti islands. 
  • This film’s vivid imagination also celebrates the legend of Maui. According to the mythical tales, Maui, with his giant fish hook, lifted the islands from the depths of the sea and planted an eel onto the ground that sprouted the coconut trees. He also commanded the sun to slow down to increase the span of the days. These tales have been weaved into the lyrics of “You’re Welcome’ performed by Dwayne Johnson (the voice artist behind Maui). 

These are some of the strongest Polynesian cultural influences that this Disney movie has emulated. 

How accurate is Moana? 

polynesian culture found in moana
Image Credit: Vanity Fair

Despite what the naysayers have to say when the studio decided to pitch a Disney movie set in Polynesia – they looked to incorporate certain ‘tenets’ of the multicultural Polynesian society. It is the event of “The Long Pause” and Moana’s fiery journey across the high seas that takes center stage here. As per critics, the film has almost depicted aspects like – the “Long Pause” event, the demigod Maui, and the story of Te Fiti (the relic) with utmost authenticity. 

Though certain elements had to be eliminated to maintain the flow of this movie, without a doubt, the studio has cherry-picked the myths and lore to create the storyline. For those of you, who would like to take a look at this culture and its significance, Moana can be a fantastic highlight. 

Parting thoughts 

Disney has always celebrated the cultures of multiple communities through its films. From setting the Sultan’s Palace in Aladdin in tow with the Taj Mahal to picking up the Chateau de Chillon, Switzerland for the setting of Little Mermaid – Disney has done it all! This time, the Disney movie set in Polynesia, Moana, celebrates the warmth of the Oceania islands and the folk tales that permeate that quaint locale. Grossing a massive $643 million worldwide, Disney’s Moana did manage to uphold the charm that the South Pacific held. With its sequel ready to be made, for those of you, who haven’t had a look at the original, it is time you check it out. It is available on Disney Hotstar, Amazon Prime and Apple TV. 

For the latest updates and exciting news like this, keep visiting the website. 


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