Contest: Moana Songs

Posted on January 25, 2017 at 8:00 am

You can win a CD of the Oscar-nominated music from “Moana!”

Send me an email at with Moana in the subject line and tell me your favorite beach. Don’t forget your address! (US addresses only) I’ll pick a winner at random on February 6, 2017.

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Contests and Giveaways Music

Moana: Maui Sings “You’re Welcome”

Posted on November 28, 2016 at 1:36 pm

One of “Moana’s” highlights is this buoyant song from Maui (Dwayne Johnson), bragging about all he did to create the world. You can see the hand-drawn animation of the tattoos, including mini-Maui, and the tapa paper effect Mark Henn talked about in our interview.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips


Posted on November 27, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Copyright 2016 Disney

Disney has kept the best of its reliable formula and freshened it up with a spirited story inspired by the ancient myths of the Pacific Islands and a spirited heroine who dreams of adventure, not finding a prince. It is gorgeously animated, heartwarming, exciting, and slyly self-aware. At one point a character notes that if she has a dress and an animal sidekick, she must be a princess. And in a scene way at the end of the credits (stay ALL the way to the end), a character re-appears to compare himself to another well-known animated Disney character. But it is also utterly sincere in its affection for the heroine and her quest.

Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) lives on an Polynesian island paradise. Her father is the king and she will someday be the community’s leader. She has the run of the island, and loves the shore. She has the heart of an explorer, but her parents tell her that their people do not go beyond the reef because it is not safe out on the ocean. They do their best to warn her, but there is nothing that can stop Moana’s curiosity and sense of adventure, even after an initial voyage goes badly. Moana wants to know what happened to the courageous voyagers who once led expeditions from her island led by wayfarers who navigated with the stars. The ocean itself invites her to explore.

When an environmental disaster strikes, Moana realizes that the rules have to change. Her people will be wiped out unless she can return the heart that was stolen from Te Fiti, the goddess who created the world. Her heart, a pounamu stone, was stolen by the mischief-maker Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and the destruction that created has reached Moana’s island. Moana needs to find Maui and return the heart, before all of the island’s plants and fish turn to ashes.

Moana finds Maui, but he does not want to help, he has lost the stone, and Te Fiti broke the magical fishhook that is the source of most of his power. Without a working fishhook, his ability to shapeshift is badly compromised, leading to some hilarious misfires (watch quickly for one of his mistaken personas, a character from “Frozen”). Johnson’s ebullience is perfect for Maui, reminiscent of Robin Williams as the genie in “Aladdin,” with his mercurial personas and helpful but trickster role. He is covered with Maori-style tattoos which delightfully interact with him, a mini-movie of their own.

The two of them go on a journey filled with adventure and with great songs from “Hamilton’s” Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i. Highlights include Maui’s riotous “You’re Welcome,” as he explains all that he has given mankind (inspired by Maori creation myths) and “Shiny,” performed by Jemaine Clement as a treasure-loving giant crab. Moana is an appealing heroine, brave, smart, determined and devoted to her community. She is even devoted to her animal sidekick, a scrawny chicken with very little brainpower.

The animation is spectacular, with the ocean a character of its own, pygmy pirates, the giant crab, and a lava monster. And the resolution is especially satisfying, with not just redemption and triumph for our heroes and justice, compassion, and forgiveness rather than demonization of the character who would otherwise be the typical villain. The loveable characters, hummable songs, and heartwarming and joyful conclusion make this a holiday season treat for the whole family.

NOTE: Stay all the way to the end of the credits for an extra scene. And be sure to get there in time for the adorable animated short before the film, “Inner Workings,” a sort of variation of “Inside Out,” as we see a man’s internal organs responding to the world around him and enticing him to transcend his daily drudgery with a visit to the beach. It was directed by veteran Disney animator Leo Matsuda.

Parents should know that this film includes action-style peril and violence with some disturbing images, sad (offscreen) deaths, brief schoolyard language, and brief potty humor.

Family discussion: Why didn’t the ocean return the heart itself? What did Moana learn from Maui’s story about his parents?

If you like this, try: “Whale Rider,” “Brave,” and “Mulan” — and try navigating without GPS

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3D Animation Fantasy Musical Scene After the Credits

Interview: “Moana” Animator Mark Henn

Posted on November 25, 2016 at 9:57 pm

Copyright Disney 1016
Copyright Disney 2016

I love talking to Mark Henn, one of the greatest animation artists of all time. And I loved seeing his work in “Moana,” Disney’s new animated musical set in Polynesia. Henn worked on the animated tattoos sported by — and interacting with — Maui, a demi-god played by Dwayne Johnson.

How did the idea of animating Maui’s tattoos come about?

First off, there’s Ron Clements and John Musker. Most of their films have been traditional, hand-drawn and I’ve known them my entire career. So since this is their first CG film, I think it started with a desire from their point of view to in some way if possible to incorporate hand-drawn elements as much as they possibly could.

It had been kicked around early on in the development — how can we do this? And so as they researched when they were in the South Pacific they saw that the tattoos and all of that play a big part culturally for the people of Oceana. So, I think it became very apparent very quickly that this was a very simple but very effective way to incorporate the hand-drawn elements that they both grew up with and were involved with throughout their career and blend it with the modern, the CG computer animation that we we’re doing nowadays.

The tattoos have a very flat graphic character and design so we try to take advantage of that. At the early screenings of the film, in its story sketch phase, they would come out of the screenings and almost everybody to a person would say, “We’ve got to have more tattoos in. We need more of Mini Maui and more tattoos which Eric, we both felt… We were glad to hear that… So, they put him in as much as they possibly could and you’ve seen it… We can’t put any more in.

So, it was perfect really, and it worked out so well. And our technicians really made it very easy. We do our animation on paper and then it is practically a one-button push to get that information then mopped on as we call it and placed onto the CG characters. So it opened up a whole variety of visual things because it was not only the tattoos we did that way but part of Dwayne’s song, “You’re Welcome.” A lot of those elements were all hand-drawn, the dancing figures in the background and those singing little faces and the fish and birds and things. So those are all hand-drawn elements that open the door for more visual interpretations. Because of the limitlessness of the medium we could do all kinds of things. So it was just a lot of fun.

Oh, I love to hear that — it makes me so happy to return to an artist’s hands holding a pen or a brush.

Me too. That makes two of us.

What did you like to draw when you were a kid?

I enjoyed drawing and I drew all kinds of things. I went through my car phase when I was younger and then dogs. I had an experience once in Cleveland. I was doing a promotional tour at the time for “Pocahontas,” and I was in between presentations. A gal approached me backstage with those fateful lines: “Do you remember me?” I had to admit that I didn’t. She said, “Well, we went to high school together and I still have some of your drawings that you did on the bus.” And she pulled out drawings that I had done, and she had saved. I think we were in band together and it was probably on a band trip but she saved these drawings all these years and I was really quite touched by that, that somebody would think enough to keep them. I think they were cavemen or something.

What else did you do in “Moana?”

It was primarily the tattoos but tEric Goldberg and myself animated actually the opening part of the prologue when you hear grandmother explaining the history to the kids of how the world in their mind was fashioned. And you see these serpents and you see the crab and the first little image of Maui changing into the hawk, and the Island of the Sea raising up and spreading out. We also did a lot of these tapas which are these illustrated images that comes from Oceana the South Pacific. Those appear in the prologue and then a big part of Dwayne’s “You’re Welcome” song has that tapa look. The tapa paper, the type of paper that they use is similar to papyrus. It’s actually made from tree bark and some other organic materials so it has a real heavy texture to it. The technology allows us to create that look, to make it look like the tapa paper that they saw in person when they went on their research trips and then they were able to then give it a 3-D effect and made it look like it was torn on the edges. It was a lot of fun and as I said, it looks great.

Do you have a favorite classic Disney animated character?

I have many, no question, but one of my all-time favorites is Captain Hook and Frank Thomas, who animated Captain Hook, is still one of my inspirational animators. As for the ones I have animated, I get asked that question quite a bit and I always feel like Frank, who always said that it’s kind of like trying to pick a favorite child. But if push comes to shove and I had to pick one that just has a very, very ever so slight lead I would maybe go with Mulan.

I know your faith is very important to you. Would you like to share a favorite Bible verse?

For me like most people or a lot of people John 3:16 is foundational for me and has always been.

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Behind the Scenes Interview
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