Life­like wa­ter an­i­ma­tion drenches ‘Moana’ disc

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - BY JOE SZADKOWSKI

Afe­male-em­pow­er­ing, an­i­mated block­buster from late last year de­buts on high-def­i­ni­tion to en­trance home theater-lov­ing fam­i­lies in “Moana” (Walt Dis­ney Stu­dios Home En­ter­tain­ment, Rated PG, 107 min­utes, 2.39:1 as­pect ra­tio, $27.99).

The story cel­e­brat­ing tra­di­tion, fam­ily and per­se­ver­ance stars Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), a vil­lage chief’s 16-year-old daugh­ter who is on a quest to save her dy­ing Poly­ne­sian is­land of Mo­tunui, which is quickly be­com­ing de­void of veg­e­ta­tion and food.

She re­quires help from the shape-shift­ing, hook-wield­ing demigod Maui (Dwayne John­son) to con­front the lava de­mon Te Ka, re­turn the glow­ing heart to the is­land god­dess Te Fiti and bring her is­land back to life.

The im­pec­ca­bly de­signed and voice-acted movie cel­e­brates the Pa­cific cul­ture and its mytholo­gies while delivering not only joy­ful per­for­mances and song from Miss Cravalho, Mr. John­son and the tal­ented cast but also stun­ning an­i­ma­tion through­out.

The dig­i­tal trans­fer — much like all of Dis­ney’s fea­ture-length, com­puter-an­i­mated ef­forts — is three-di­men­sional and eye-pop­ping, and re­quires mul­ti­ple view­ings to ap­pre­ci­ate the fan­tas­tic ef­fort that an­i­ma­tors put into the pro­ject.

Just a few in­cred­i­ble ex­am­ples:

● Hand-drawn, two-di­men­sional an­i­ma­tion mixes with three-di­men­sional an­i­ma­tion to high­light one of Maui’s liv­ing tat­toos.

● Char­ac­ters in­ter­act with pa­per cutouts dur­ing a mu­si­cal num­ber.

● In a com­plex bat­tle, Moana and Maui fight co­conut-en­cased tribes­men, rem­i­nis­cent of a “Mad Max” chase scene.

● Bi­o­lu­mi­nes­cent hues burst forth from crea­tures in the Realm of Mon­sters.

What’s more, the dig­i­tally an­i­mated hu­man char­ac­ter mod­els look like three-di­men­sional plas­tic dolls com­plete with life­like flow­ing hair that looks real enough to touch.

The 1080p high-def­i­ni­tion dis­plays the pret­ti­est wa­ter I have ever seen in an an­i­mated movie. It’s eas­ily a sup­port­ing char­ac­ter, and ar­ti­sans bring it to life often in­ter­act­ing with Moana while sur­round­ing beau­ti­ful, color sat­u­rated trop­i­cal is­lands.

View­ers will be mes­mer­ized by the re­al­ism of the wa­ter re­spond­ing in waves, wa­ter­falls and surf; glis­ten­ing on rocks, bub­bles and froth; or drench­ing beach­heads and Moana her­self.

I am dis­ap­pointed the movie was not of­fered in a full-screen pre­sen­ta­tion for home theater own­ers, and nearly dis­traught that Dis­ney has yet to dive into the ul­tra-high-def­i­ni­tion realm. I just know that “Moana” and its vis­ual won­der­land would have been a show­case for the lat­est tech­nol­ogy.

Best ex­tras: A most wel­come op­tional com­men­tary track with co-di­rec­tors John Musker and Ron Cle­ments leads the way. The track does not dis­ap­point. It’s rich with de­tails that touch on the film’s ori­gins, vis­ual styles and mu­sic — as well as mak­ing the ocean a char­ac­ter — re­search on the Pa­cific cul­ture and the best way to an­i­mate tod­dlers (draw them act­ing drunk).

Next, the di­rec­tors lead a 31-minute ed­u­ca­tional doc­u­men­tary loaded with back­ground on the peo­ple, his­tory and cul­ture of the Pa­cific Is­lands.

Un­der fea­turettes, those look­ing to learn about the com­plex­i­ties of de­sign­ing an an­i­mated film will find about 20 min­utes of tooshort but fact-filled seg­ments ex­plain­ing the use of two-di­men­sional and three-di­men­sional styles in cre­at­ing lava, hair and wa­ter, and 25 min­utes of deleted scenes (with op­tional di­rec­tor com­men­tary).

And, as tra­di­tion with Dis­ney re­leases, the ex­tras in­clude a the­atri­cal short show­cas­ing some of the com­pany’s tal­ented cre­ators. In this case, we get di­rec­tor Leo Mat­suda’s “In­ner Work­ings,” star­ring the com­puter-an­i­mated in­nards of a bored man liv­ing in 1980s Cal­i­for­nia and his quest to en­joy life.

Ad­di­tion­ally, young­sters can en­joy a min­i­movie called “Gone Fish­ing” that ex­plores the dif­fi­culty in feed­ing the demigod Maui.

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