The Cultural Significance and Symbolism of the film “Moana”

Apr 26 2018

The Cultural Significance and Symbolism of the film “Moana”

Published by

Adrian Baker Swicegood III

Professor Marshall

GEO 131

April 19, 2018

The Cultural Significance and Symbolism of the film “Moana”

Image result for moana film poster

          The movie Moana was one of Disney’s most ambitious films. The subject of a story is based on Polynesian and Tongan culture, which is something that has rarely been attempted within Hollywood. Many fears were raised prior to the release of this film because of the thought that Disney wouldn’t do the Culture “justice” and it would simply use it as an Exotic backdrop. This had been seen before in movies such as “Lilo and Stitch” where the story just happens to take place in Hawaii when it could have taken place on an Island. Many of the Actors in the movie also happen to be Pacific Islander, including Moana, her Father and Maui’s respective actors and actresses. Moana brings Polynesian Culture to the big stage and uses animation visuals like never seen before to illustrate traditional Polynesian life before Colonization by the “West”.

          Immediately from the moment, the film starts, Traditional Polynesian music is played in lieu of the normal Disney theme song. Also within moments following the opening credits, an expositional story of the Mythology of the Culture is done entirely in traditional Polynesian art style. This backstory lays out the beliefs of the Polynesians, which includes a Pantheon of gods for various aspects of life as well as Demigods (Half Human and Half God) that serve as heroes. At the beginning of the Movie, Moana, even from an extremely young age is given the “Heart of Te Fiti”, which is a relic from the Island deity known by the same name. This relic was previously stolen from her by the Demigod Maui so that Humans would gain the power of creation and life-giving. The ocean entrusts Moana with the “Heart” because she is the “chosen one” and will restore balance to the world by taking the “heart” back to Te Fiti. However, when the Ocean tries to give Moana the heart when she is a baby, she drops it on the beach, seemingly losing it forever. Moana forgets this event and grows up in her village and spends most of her early life preparing to be Chief of the Island of Motunui  (Something that she does not want to do). When Moana becomes a young adult, her grandmother tells her to follow her dreams and leave the Island because it is what her “heart” wants. Around this same time, m. any of the foods that the islanders of Motunui eat start to become diseased or vanish completely. Moana’s father’s reaction is to ride out the hard times because he is very set in his ways of styling on the island and not leaving to find another “paradise” as he puts it. Moana’s Grandmother shows Moana a cave containing very large Polynesian “wayfinding” ships and tells her that she must make the people of Motunui not forget where they came from and their culture. This creates a lot of tension between Moana and her father, which culminates on the night her Grandmother passed away. On that same night after Moana has an argument, she is rushed to a building where she discovers that her Grandmother has fallen ill and is going to pass away very soon. As Moana’s Grandmother utters her last words, she again tells her to follow her heart and to “save the people of Motunui”. This motivates Moana to pack her stuff and take one of the ships out to sea in the hope of saving the people of Motunui.

Image result for moana opening

         ^Te Fiti^

          Moana does not know how to sail so in her first night on the sea she encounters a storm that capsizers her boat and knocks her unconscious. Moana then wakes up on a deserted Island with tally marks surrounding her in the shape of Fish hooks. She immediately realizes that she has found Maui and must convince him to aid her in returning the heart back to Te Fiti. When she meets Maui, he thinks that she is one of his adoring fans, but after she informs him who she is, he blows her off and tells her he will not aid her in her quest. Maui then goes on to say that Moana should be grateful for all the things he has done for Humanity, including creating Islands and Coconuts. He also tells her that he didn’t want to steal the heart for selfish reasons and explains that he wanted to gift it to humanity. After singing this to Moana, he traps her in a cave and effectively would have left her there to die if she didn’t escape. After Moana escapes, she boards her boat and demands for Maui to aid her in her quest. Maui’s response to this is throwing her off the boat, multiple times but every time he does this the Ocean transports her back to the deck of the boat. Eventually, Maui reluctantly agrees to travel with her.

Image result for youre welcome maui animation

   ^Maui in a Traditional Polnesian Art style^   

          As they are traveling, Maui reveals that the “heart” attracts the “Darkness” that is responsible for slowly killing Moana’s island. Only a few minutes after he says this, they are both attacked by a ship of Coconut pirates and narrowly escape with their lives. The night following all these events, Moana has a nightmare where she watches as the “Darkness” swallows her island and kills her parents in front of her eyes. Moana is very shocked by this whole ordeal but when she awakes she finds herself on the Island were Maui must go to receive his Mystical fish hook. They are required to travel through a portal to the “Realm of Demons”, where the ocean is in the sky and monsters are around every corner. Maui is convinced that a Giant crab has his hook and his suspicion is confirmed when they reach his lair. After using Moana as bait, Maui and Moana outsmart the Giant Crab and defeat him, successfully acquiring Maui’s hook. Now that Maui has his hook, he regains the ability to shapeshift is to various animals, something that will be useful in the quest to return the “heart”. After Maui learns how to shapeshift they set off for Te Fiti but when they arrived they are met by the Lava demon Te Ka. Te-ka, years prior defeated Maui so he is very reluctant to fight him again. During the fight, Moana is knocked unconscious and Maui’s hook is nearly destroyed. Maui becomes frustrated and abandons Moana, so she gives the “heart” back to the ocean and abandons her quest. However, on the way back home, she is visited by an ethereal ghost-like version of her Grandmother that convinces her to carry on because she knows she has it in her to be a hero.Moana attempts to fight Te Ka again, but this time single-handedly. The fight is not going well and right as all hope is lost, Maui swoops in and saves her. Moana finally reaches the hearth of the Island but realizes that Te Ka really is an enraged and cursed form of Te Fiti. She decides to split the sea so that Te Ka can run at her and meet her face to face. Right as Te Ka is in position to kill her, she reveals that she knows that Te Ka is really Te Fiti and somehow “finds the good” in The Ka’s heart, thus releasing Te Fiti from her curse. Maui then reveals that he was the one that causes all of this and apologizes to Te Fiti and Moana. He is rewarded by Te Fiti with a brand new mythical Fish Hook and she decides to not punish him because of his change of heart. Moana then goes back to Motunui and teaches her people the art of voyaging. Thus, the movie concludes with a shot of Moana leading an expedition to new lands with her people.

Related image

         ^Moana teaching her father how to “Wayfind”^

          For many reasons, this movie took quite a long time to make. Most of these problems arose because of the difficulties animating water in the traditional style of animation. CGI was decided to be used due to the great advancements it has made in animation in recent years. Another smaller concern was the portrayal of some characters as larger than they actually were. Maui, for example, has spurred some controversy due to the reported claims that some Samoans view the design as culturally insensitive because even 100 to 200 years ago native Samoans were not that overweight. Finally, some concerns have also been made regarding the fact that some think that it is culturally insensitive for a parent to allow their child to dress up as Moana on Halloween due to her Pacific Islander descent.

Image result for maui is obese

         ^Post made by a New Zealand Rugby Player of Maori Ethnicity^ 

          This movie connects to the course themes in a multitude of ways including, defining the world’s region based on their geography and cultural landscapes. Moana does this extremely well and in regard to the geography, all of the animals such as Pigs, chicken, and exotic shorebirds are all very real parts of ancient Polynesian life. The structure of the village and how their community operates is quite a communalist, meaning that the local inhabitants of Motunui and Polynesia as a whole share their goods with all members of the society. In regards to Humans effect on the environment, Moana illustrates a world were Te Fiti was stolen from and taken advantage of. This parallels in the real world to the overuse of natural resources like fish and food on the island. This shows that at the end of the movie, when Moana returns the “heart”, effectively fixing the humans relationship with nature; this shows that Polynesians as a whole have a deep connection to not only the ocean but nature as a whole. I greatly enjoyed all aspects of this movie and it can definitely be used as a great educational tool for children if they need an introduction to Polynesian culture. The most specific reason I enjoy this film so much would have to do with the fact that Moana as a character broke many of the pre-established stereotypes that many prior Dinsey “Princesses” have been placed in. 

^My Favorite scene in the Film^


  • Roy, Eleanor Ainge. “Disney Depiction of Obese Polynesian God in Film Moana Sparks Anger.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 27 June 2016,
  • Flaherty, Keely. “34 Magical ‘Moana’ Facts You Probably Don’t Know.” BuzzFeed, BuzzFeed,
  • Herman, Doug. “How the Story of ‘Moana’ and Maui Holds Up Against Cultural Truths.”, Smithsonian Institution, 2 Dec. 2016,
  • Google Images
  • Youtube


195 Responses to “The Cultural Significance and Symbolism of the film “Moana””

  1. Ocean Symbolism in Disney’s Moana – GG3163Oceans Says:

    […] Islands, Tongan culture and Polynesia. This is rarely illustrated in typical Hollywood movies and critics were cautious before it was released, stating that they were anxious the directors and producers […]

  2. real tinder porn Says:

    real tinder porn

    The Cultural Significance and Symbolism of the film “Moana” – World Regional Mix-Tape: Vol. 2

  3. dating site free and no cost Says:

    dating site for free and no fee and connect with members

  4. free dating internet Says:

    poland dating sites free

  5. single dating sites for free Says:

    russian singles free dating site

  6. URL Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More here: […]

  7. free online dating sites scotland Says:

    free dating site chat room usa

  8. mingle free dating Says:

    free europian dating

  9. dating games free online Says:

    free tg dating

  10. free christian dating sites for over 50 Says:

    free dating sites for local people

  11. free no cost dating sites Says:

    free dating sites in ohio

  12. best dumps site Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More Information here on that Topic: […]

  13. dating sites free Says:

    free texting dating

  14. free dating mobile sites Says:

    jew dating free

  15. free dating site uk no fees Says:

    100 free online dating

  16. free over 50 dating look without signing up Says:

    new free dating site 2021

  17. free good dating sites uk Says:

    100 percent free dating site in canada

  18. exchange online plan 2 Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Info to that Topic: […]

  19. hp sunucu servisi Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Here you will find 64446 more Info to that Topic: […]

  20. Sunucu Teknik Servis Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More Info here on that Topic: […]

  21. adsl teknik servis Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More on on that Topic: […]

  22. aws DevOps services Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More Information here to that Topic: […]

  23. keto diet macro ratio Says:

    are bananas keto

  24. keto cake Says:

    keto taco salad

  25. keto snack recipes Says:

    custom keto diet

  26. Online Reputation Management consultants Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More to that Topic: […]

  27. mortgage Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] There you can find 13405 additional Info on that Topic: […]

  28. gay males dating site Says:

    dating gay turkish men

  29. gay dating tv show Says:

    gay dating sites houston

  30. adam4adam gay online dating Says:

    are dating traps gay

  31. blued gay dating Says:

    iran gay dating

  32. gay dating sites for over 50 Says:

    older gay men dating site

  33. gay dating denver colorado Says:

    dating simulator porn gay

  34. indie dating sims gay options Says:

    gay thugs dating site

  35. rules of gay dating Says:

    top gay dating sites 2021

  36. cc store Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More on that Topic: […]

  37. paid to write essays Says:

    writing a argumentative essay

  38. write a reflection essay Says:

    self reflective essay on writing

  39. daily meal plan 1200 calories Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More on to that Topic: […]

  40. world market link Says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More on that Topic: […]

  41. writing cause and effect essay Says:

    analysis essay writing

  42. Representation in Disney Pixar Movies - Global Talk Daily Says:

    […] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, […]

  43. help with writing an essay Says:

    write a five paragraph essay

  44. reflective essay on writing Says:

    what to write about for college essay

  45. write good essay Says:

    writing an essay for college

  46. real money casinos Says:

    mobile casino games

  47. online casino no deposit Says:

    casino bonuses

  48. casino bonuses online Says:

    best real money online casino

  49. writing the college essay Says:

  50. writing analytical essays Says:

    where can i buy an essay

  51. cheapest essay writing service Says:

    easy essay writing

  52. professional essay writing Says:

    pay someone to write your essay

  53. sex games toys Says:

    halo sex games

  54. mom family sex games Says:

    japaese sex games father fucked daughter

  55. sex games play Says:

    best sex games

  56. sex games apps 2016 free iphone Says:

    beauty and the beast real story sex games

  57. Why Does Moana’s Grandma Have The Heart? – Sarahjocrawford Says:

    […] This relic was previously stolen from her by the Demigod Maui so that Humans would gain the power of creation and life-giving. The ocean entrusts Moana with the “Heart” because she is the “chosen one” and will restore balance to the world by taking the “heart” back to Te Fiti. via […]

  58. 2undeviating Says:


  59. gay muscle dating Says:

    gay dating naked vh1

  60. gay dating hamptonroads virginia Says:

    busted for using someone’s photo in a gay dating website

  61. gay dating in chicago Says:

    russia gay dating profiles

  62. u.s. justice department gay dating app Says:

    gay free dating 4 older uk

  63. amateur after dating gay sex Says:

    gay dating for country folks

  64. gay chat rooms free Says:

    frree gay and bi chat sites in seattle wa

  65. gay dating online Says:

    gay dating web sites

  66. pdx gay chat Says:

    chat gay

  67. gay cam chat webcam Says:

    gay chat rooms free in illinois

  68. gay black dating site Says:

    gay men dating free

  69. buy viagra discreetly Says:

    […] blink health prices for viagra 100mg […]

  70. free slots for fun Says:

    real money slots online

  71. triple seven slots free Says:

    free vegas slots online

  72. scatter slots by murka Says:

    scatter slots naked

  73. free video slots Says:

    murka slots

  74. sim slots free games Says:

    virtual strip slots

  75. slots era Says:

    pearl warriors slots

  76. free slots home 12345 Says:

    free double diamond slots

  77. vegasworld fun free slots Says:

    free slots to play

  78. quick hits free slots Says:

    slotomania slots

  79. casino gem slots Says:

    brian christopher slots

  80. borderlands map slots Says:

    play great africa slots

  81. free igt slots Says:

    free hot slots

  82. writing a phd dissertation Says:

    dissertation writing tutor

  83. premium dissertation writing service Says:

    dissertation-help writers

  84. dissertation editor Says:

    monica crowley dissertation

  85. ford foundation dissertation fellowship Says:

    citing a dissertation

  86. dissertation searches Says:

    writing dissertation books

  87. jill biden dissertation pdf Says:

    help dissertation

  88. 3traveling Says:


  89. dissertation writers Says:

    writing a masters dissertation

  90. average dissertation length Says:

    defending dissertation

  91. writing phd dissertation Says:

    uga dissertation

  92. help writing dissertation Says:

    buy a dissertation online help

  93. masters dissertation writing services Says:

    phd dissertation writing service

  94. a dissertation Says:

    dissertation help galway

  95. online dissertation help Says:

    help with dissertation topic

  96. phd thesis Says:

    creative writing lindenberg

  97. chicago illinois dissertation help Says:

    proquest dissertations

  98. free dissertation help Says:

    defending your dissertation

  99. buy dissertations Says:

    dissertation proposal writing service

  100. help dissertation thesis advice Says:

    find a dissertation

  101. help dissertation thesis advice Says:

    write my dissertation

  102. defending dissertation Says:

    dissertation data analysis help

  103. castle casino online Says:

    las vegas usa online casino

  104. real money online casino pennsylvania Says:

    four winds casino online

  105. parx online casino nj Says:

    casino spiele online spielen

  106. casino games online for free Says:

    online casino no verification withdrawal usa

  107. free online casino games Says:

    indiana online casino

  108. online casino sweepstakes Says:

    paradise online casino

  109. rivers casino sportsbook online Says:

    betmgm online casino

  110. harrahs online casino pa Says:

    best online casino no deposit sign up bonus

  111. online casino scams Says:

    harrah’s casino online

  112. harrah's online casino pa Says:

    online casino reviews

  113. cabaret club online casino Says:

    live casino online free

  114. free sign up bonus online casino Says:

    usa casino online

  115. casino stream online Says:

    888 casino online support

  116. free online casino no deposit Says:

    online casino real money no deposit bonus codes

  117. best us online casino Says:

    slots casino online

  118. virgin online casino Says:

    new online casino no deposit bonus

  119. slots casino online Says:

    casino mate online casino

  120. live online casino Says:

    foxwood casino online

  121. vpn best Says:

    free vpn trial

  122. free secure vpn Says:

    hola free vpn proxy

  123. vpn for firestick free Says:

    tunnelbear free vpn

  124. free vpn service Says:

    best vpn to use

  125. vpn free trial no credit card Says:

    free phone vpn

  126. best phone vpn Says:

    best vpn proxy

  127. best budget vpn Says:

    best free computer vpn

  128. buy 911 vpn Says:

    vpn windows 10

  129. paid gay escort dating Says:

    black gay dating sites

  130. meetme dating site Says:

    best online dating website

  131. dating wites Says:

    free dating site for usa

  132. f dating site Says:

    dating free site online

  133. single women local Says:

    xxxlesbian dominance

  134. meet site Says:

    meetme dating site

  135. best site dating Says:

    casual dating sites

  136. freeca Says:

    100% free dating sites

  137. free local dating site Says:

    top online dating websites

  138. free dating online dating Says:

    zoosk dating

  139. free local singles Says:

    pof dating login

  140. dating services melbourne Says:


  141. single women online Says:

    dating best site

  142. men dating sites Says:

    sabrina carpenter dating

  143. real money online casino usa Says:

    online casino michigan

  144. online casino games Says:

    online casino no deposit sign up bonus

  145. sugarhouse casino online pa Says:

    casino online uk

  146. gay connect chat Says:

    gay chat rpulete

  147. free gay mens chat phone Says:

    best gay chat

  148. free gay webcam chat Says:

    free chat gay man colorado

  149. gay chat cam random Says:

    gay furry chat

  150. gay black man chat Says:

    gay teen chat groups

  151. free xxx gay interational chat rooms in johnstown, pa Says:

    google zoom gay chat rooms

  152. gay video cam chat Says:

    oldest free chat line for straigh or gay

  153. gay chat apps for pc Says:

    gay phone chat lines

  154. gay chat rooms of pa Says:

    western pa gay chat

  155. reddit gay chat room Says:

    gay chicago webcam chat

  156. rhode island free chat gay Says:

    choose a gay video chat free

  157. write my paper reviews Says:

    apa papers for sale

  158. cheapest paper writing service Says:

    buying papers

  159. custom paper writing service Says:

    help on writing a paper

  160. help with writing papers Says:

    help writing paper

  161. write my paper please Says:

    write my biology paper

  162. papers writing service Says:

    best paper writing services

  163. do my college paper Says:

    buy dissertation paper

  164. help on writing a paper Says:

    purchase college papers

  165. pay someone to write my paper Says:

    pay to write my paper

  166. english paper help Says:

    write my philosophy paper

  167. pay for a paper Says:

    buy papers for college

  168. best online paper writing service Says:

    paper writing services reviews

  169. order custom papers Says:

    paper writing services for college students

  170. where can i find someone to write my paper Says:

    help with your paper

  171. instant paper writer Says:

    help on writing a paper

  172. paper writing service college Says:

    help with papers

  173. do my college paper Says:

    finished custom writing paper

  174. 1switches Says:


  175. coursework masters Says:

    coursework paper

  176. coursework in english Says:

    help with coursework

  177. creative writing coursework Says:

    coursework writing uk

  178. coursework sample Says:

    custom coursework

  179. coursework help uk Says:

    coursework website

  180. coursework support Says:

    do my coursework for me

  181. coursework help uk Says:

    custom coursework writing

  182. coursework uk Says:

    coursework help university

  183. coursework on a resume Says:

    coursework only degree

  184. coursework resources Says:

    do my coursework

  185. videodating Says:

    lady dating

  186. online dating sites for free 100% Says:

    free online sex dating websites

  187. dating sim Says:

    online dating best site

  188. free personals site Says:

    online dating sites

  189. pof dating sites usa Says:

    the best online dating site

  190. chatting dating site Says:

    international dating site usa

  191. date personal Says:

    text hot naked singles

  192. mingle2 Says:

    zoosk dating site

  193. chat singles Says:

    free dating sites in iran

  194. dating service hotmail south africa Says:

    dafing sites

  195. absolutely free online dating sites Says:

    gay free

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.