Beyond Paradise? Retelling Pacific Stories in Disney’s Moana

Date
2018
Authors
Tamaira, A Mārata Ketekiri
Fonoti, Dionne
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
University of Hawai‘i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Abstract
The trope of paradise has figured prominently in filmic representations of the Pacific—Polynesia in particular. Films from Hollywood’s Golden Age up to the contemporary period testify to the perduring presence of “paradise” in the nar- rative plotlines woven about the region by outsiders for outsiders. In this article, the authors examine Disney’s latest blockbuster production, Moana (2016), an animated movie that is set exclusively in the Pacific and draws on Polynesian oral traditions to tell the story of a young girl on a mission to save her people from the threat of disaster. We interrogate the degree to which the trope of “paradise” is deployed in the film and, more significantly, how Pacific Islanders—specifically members of the Oceanic Story Trust—were instrumental in shifting the film’s narrative beyond a fixation on “paradise” toward a perspective that is infused in meaningful ways with Pacific histories and epistemologies. Although Moana has received a fair amount of academic attention—much of it before the film was even released, especially by Pacific scholars who lambasted it as yet another example of cultural theft and exploitation—much of the emerging discourse has failed to consider in any substantive way how Islanders themselves were involved in the development process. In order to address this lapse in understanding, we provide firsthand insight into the working relationship between Pacific and Disney partic- ipants and reveal the complex and negotiable process of exchange that transpired in the making of Moana.
Description
Keywords
paradise, Moana, Oceanic Story Trust, Disney, Pacific stories, Māui
Citation
Tamaira, A M K, and Fonoti, D. 2018. Beyond Paradise? Retelling Pacific Stories in Disney’s Moana. The Contemporary Pacific 30 (2): 297–327.
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