Moana is a Disney princess

"Vaiana": Disney's strongest anti-princess

The animated film is a lively homage to the Polynesian seafaring culture - and trumps with a self-determined protagonist without Barbie dimensions.

“I'm not a princess!” Says Vaiana to the demigod Maui, who has just dared to call her that. Whoever is right is probably a matter of interpretation: Vaiana is the daughter of a Polynesian island chief and his rightful successor, so she has, so to speak, royal status. But more important is: She doesn't want to be a typical princess, and she doesn't look like one either. Brave, stubborn and adventurous, she left her idyllic home island, disregarding her father's rules, to fulfill a mythological mission and to find her true destiny in the process. Now she is drifting across the ocean on a boat with vain Maui and now she wants to learn how to sail from him. And woe, he calls her a princess again!

Disney's newest animated film, "Vaiana" (originally called the film and girl "Moana", for whatever reason), is not only an entertaining family adventure, but also the current highlight in the emancipation story of the Disney Princesses: The Early - Snow White (1937) , Cinderella (1950) and Sleeping Beauty (1959) - were pretty, but passive and lacking characters, whose happy ending only depended on being rescued by a prince. Arielle (1989) was much more independent and rebellious, but she too sought recognition from her dream man, for whom she even sacrificed her voice. In “Mulan” (1998) a girl, albeit not a princess, fights in the Chinese army disguised as a man, and for the king's daughters in “The Ice Queen” (2013) self-determination and sisterly cohesion are important, love is not much more as a welcome by-product.

16-year-old Vaiana couldn't be less interested in romantic adventures. She is a multi-layered figure who has clear goals, but also self-doubt. With her stocky legs, bushy curls and small bosom, she is probably the first Disney princess whose body corresponds to realistic shapes instead of crazy ideals of beauty. She grows up in sheltered conditions: Always magically attracted by the sea, she initially listens to her father, who has told his people never to leave the protective reef. “You don't need more than the island,” is the mantra that the residents have internalized. When the coconuts finally dry up on the palm trees and the fish run out in the lagoon, Vaiana gives in to her urge to discover and the call of the ocean and secretly sails out.

The mystery of the stop at sea

The story is based on a historical riddle: while western Polynesian islands like Tonga and Samoa around 1000 BC Were settled in the East Polynesian only around 600 AD demonstrably humans. For around 1,600 years, the Polynesians, actually excellent seafarers who could navigate with the help of the stars, waves and currents, stopped their voyages of discovery. The reason for this pause is unknown, there are some theories. "Vaiana" explains the phenomenon with old oceanic myths: Since the demigod Maui, a tattooed shapeshifter, stole the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti, a curse weighs on the area, which affects the fear of the sea as well as the people Food shortage on Vaiana's home island is responsible. So Vaiana sets out to track down Maui and bring the heart back - to save her home, but also so that her people can resume the forgotten seafaring tradition.

As a Disney adventure leads one to expect, all of this is skilfully and lively staged by directors Ron Clements and John Musker and full of lush views of the South Seas - but there are also aesthetically unusual scenes: When the fight against a fluorescent giant crab takes place in a treasure chamber suddenly transformed into a glowing neon spectacle under the sea, or when Maui (in the original: Dwayne Johnson) starts rapping and finds itself in a kind of music video between two-dimensional backdrops. In general, the film comes up with catchy songs, even if the German lyrics are quite bulky - a catchy epidemic, as the songs of the "Frozen" triggered in children (and for which the director of the film ultimately even apologized to the annoyed parents), is still not excluded.

Incidentally, the makers of “Vaiana” were advised by a team of experts - including anthropologists, linguists and seafaring experts - for the story. Nevertheless, there was criticism from Polynesians for cultural insensitivity: Some were bothered by the depiction of Maui, which they saw portrayed as insultingly fat and too silly. As a secondary player to Vaiana, the worn-out, self-indulgent hero fits in perfectly with the story. They determine where to go anyway. And princess, Maui never dares to call her that again.

("Die Presse", print edition, December 27, 2016)