Lifelike water animation drenches ‘Moana’ disc
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.