The release of the new animated Disney film “Moana” has sparked lots of controversy.
It all started back in June when the movie trailer was first shown during a commercial break in the Tony Awards and a number of well-known Polynesians including politicians, media experts and artists expressed dissatisfaction with one component of the film, the character of “Maui,” according to the Washington Post.
In the film “Maui” is a Polynesian demigod who is convinced by Moana to join her in her journey to save her people.
The film was inspired by Polynesian cultures and the demigod Maui who is a significant figure in Polynesian mythology.
“Moana” was done with care and detail to show respect towards the Polynesian Culture this included producer Osnat Shurer, directors Ron Clements and John Musker going on several research trips to the islands of Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa and Moorea.
Producer Osnat Shurer said on lrmonline.com: “The visit there changed the vision of what the film could be.”
The film has been applauded for casting actors authentically fitting the characters they played. Moana is played by 14-year old Hawaiian born Auli’i Cravalho and Maui is played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is half Samoan.
Despite all the caution and care given in the film to respect Polynesian culture, Maui is still causing controversy.
He is depicted as obese in the film which to many viewers is stereotyping Polynesian people.
Many thought it was unnecessary and there was no reason to make Maui obese considering most Polynesians or people of Polynesian decent now, and in history, aren’t obese or overweight.
Other viewers don’t see it as obesity, but rather a symbol of how powerful and strong the demigod is.
The controversy continued when Disney stores released the Maui Halloween costume and people showed disapproval and accused it of cultural misappropriation which lead to the removal of the costume online and in Disney stores.
Disney expressed the following as shown in the Chicago Tribune: “The team behind ‘Moana’ has taken great care to respect the cultures of the Pacific Islands that inspired the film, and we regret that the Maui costume has offended some. We sincerely apologize and are pulling the costume from our website and stores.”
Additionally some Polynesian viewers saw the character as offensive because in the film Maui isn’t taken seriously and is seen more as a comical character.
Regardless if the animated character is overweight or seem as a way to symbolize power and strength this all goes back to the concept that our society has an idea of what is considered physically ideal.
It is great to have change and show something different than the common tall, muscular character.
Children need to be taught that they don’t have to look a certain way to feel good about themselves and be more loving and accepting of their own physical appearance in order to grow into happier and more loving adults.
Disney movies have a great influence on children and “Moana” could have a positive impact in children. “Moana” will be released Nov. 23.