Three Ways Disney’s Moana Tugged On This Mom’s Heartstrings

Give me a second…okay, wait -no…I need one more minute.  Does someone have another tissue, please?  Wow!  I sincerely did not anticipate Walt Disney Picture’s Moana to hit me THAT hard!   I know many of my friends had loved the movie and many even blogged about how they were moved by the story-line, but the way this movie impacted me personally had my eyes leaking uncontrollably for at least one-third of the film and for at least three reasons.

I’ve been wanting to see Disney’s Moana since before it even hit the theaters.  Among my many Disney-loving and blogger friends are those who are often invited to premieres, screenings, interviews and the like and I usually take opportunity to read their reviews and experiences prior to the movie’s release nationwide.  So, before I even stepped foot into the theater, I already knew that the animation of Disney’s Moana was going to be masterful, the music electrically contagious and the characters magnetically amazing, but these things were also true of so many other Disney blockbuster hits.  So, I had to wonder ~ what made this particular animated film standout?

Movie Synopsis

Okay ~ just in case you have not had the opportunity to see the movie or read about it, let me give you a quick rundown of what Walt Disney Studios offers as its synopsis:

Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

“Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows exactly why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho) meets the mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.” 

Our experience

Now that we have that out of the way and you have an understanding of the story’s backdrop, let’s get to the heart of this post ~ experiencing this movie.  Again, it’s no secret that Walt Disney Studios creates masterpieces.  Point blank – the animation of this film was stunning!  For example, the movement of both dance and water was remarkable and authentic.  The facial expressions on each character were detailed and genuine.  The natural curl of Moana’s hair was fabulously orchestrated, even when wet, and the artistry of the necklace around Moana’s neck was exquisite and intentional.  The movement of fabric was flowing and free and the color scheme rich and beautifully depicted the Pacific Islands for an immersive experience.  It certainly had me desperately wanting to visit Disney’s Polynesian Resort again, if not the Pacific Islands themselves (#bucketlist).  The animated personification of water was spectacular and seamless.  Get the picture?  In other words, I found the film expertly appealing, attractive and mesmerizing.

But the movie was more than just animated entertainment for me.  I found myself connecting, not unlike many of my friends, to some of the characters and the story-line in ways in which I was not prepared.  Even while in the midst of preparing this blog piece, I found myself wiping away tears, listening to the music over and over again and left dreaming and wanting to find where the “sky meets the sea” in my own life.

So how and why exactly did it affect me so much?  Let me explain….warning ~ this may take awhile, so grab a cup of coffee and nestle in for this review.  Trust me ~ it’ll be worth it (at least I hope you think so).

#1: The Journey of Self Discovery

Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Moana and Maui, the two main characters of the film, are both individuals on a journey of self discovery.  Both lacked parental support in one way or another in the beginning, to which I can personally relate, but they each had at least one other person in their lives who did notice their potential and inspired them to become all they were meant to be.

I see my three sons at various stages of their own particular journeys and it is fascinating to watch (as well as exhausting and emotional for this momma).  The three of them are all finding out what makes them tick, what lights the fire underneath their adorable back-ends, what makes them smile larger than life and where their passions lie.  As their mother, I am trying hard to pay very close attention and only hope I can be half the influence seen in Gramma Tala with Moana or the gods with Maui when it comes to motivating, inspiring, encouraging, supporting them in their life choices and seeing what others may not be able to at first glance.

Of course, I can take this even more personally and say that I feel like I am still on this journey of self discovery myself.  Here I am a 40-something year old wife and mother whose dreams and aspirations have suddenly become more vivid over the last year or two. I find my heart longing to chase that horizon, as well.  So, now I’m wondering, is this my second wind or just the beginning of a midlife crisis?

#2 The Desire to be Guided by Loved Ones 

Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Reason #2 for how this film tugged on my heartstrings involved the belief system adopted by this particular people group.  Growing up in a rather strict Christian denomination meant that we did not believe in being visited by our loved ones who have passed on.  Once the soul leaves the body, we were taught that it went on to its eternal home in one place or another and, to be honest, simply didn’t have time for us anymore.  As I’ve grown into adulthood and as a parent watching her children’s faith being formed, I have also allowed myself to listen to other aspects of the Christian faith (protestant versus catholic), as well as to what other religions and beliefs involve. I’ve come to sense that this world is too vast to not be attentive to or respectful of what others believe and why.

For Moana, her family had a strong tie to their ancestors, a respect and adoration for their elders while on the earth and even beyond. They held the belief that, once their time in this life was done, they would return in some other form and were there to guide their loved ones through difficult decisions along their own journeys.  I personally think this was done exquisitely in this film and it hit me VERY hard.  I lost my father 17 1/2 years ago, while I was pregnant with our first son, which means he never had the opportunity to meet any of his grandsons.  My father and I were close in many ways, though distant in many more; however, I miss his laugh, his odd sense of humor and his hugs.  I REALLY miss his hugs.  According to the teachings with which I was raised, I have no ability to reach out to him, to be encouraged by him or will ever hear his voice again.  Oh, to have opportunity to see him and speak with him even one more time…to hear him call out, “Tina Marie!” ~ I would move heaven and earth, if allowed, to do so.  I just feel that, if we had that opportunity to connect with those who ultimately know better now, we’d feel a stronger sense to do the right thing and ultimately lead a better life world-wide.

You can read more about my connection with my father in my post, Happy birthday, Dad….

But there was one more thing about the movie that literally pulled at this mother’s heartstrings, so much so I was choked up all afternoon.

#3 Letting go

Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

As noted above and as many of you know, we have three boys.  Our oldest just turned 17 very recently and will be heading off to college this coming fall (a year ahead of schedule, too ~ what was I thinking?!). Moana’s character is 16, the oldest child of the chief of Montunui and obviously destined for leadership.  Much like our son, she has always had a strong will, is brave and is incredibly smart.  Moana also has a passion for exploration, despite how much her father, Chief Tui (played by Temuera Morrison), tries to discourage it for what he believes to be her own safety.  Nonetheless, Moana has always struggled with this drawing and connection she has to the ocean and her grandmother, Gramma Tala (played by Rachel House) knew this, as well as the fact that Moana had a calling on her life and was meant to have an impact.

Here’s the interesting twist.  In order to follow that calling, Moana had to ultimately disobey her father’s wishes and go beyond the reef.  I’ve read a few reviews that felt this particular allowance of disobedience to be a negative as it could encourage rebellion or defiance of authority for some children watching.  I understand from where these thoughts are derived and I agree that disrespecting parental authority seems to be granted too much permission in today’s entertainment; however, I see something different taking place here.  Moana is 16 ~ but not the kind of 16 year old who wants to hang out at the mall, take endless selfies with her phone or argue with her parents simply because she can.  She is a 16 year old Pacific Islander being shaped and molded for leadership.  She has been given opportunity by her father to offer an opinion here and there.  This means that she is at least seen as responsible and mature, able to be trusted and her ideas seen as holding value.  There is a respect already in place here.  Her decision to go against her father’s wishes was not selfish and actually had merit.  Of course, she still faced her own self-doubt and questioned her heart’s motives until her grandmother, in various ways throughout the film, encouraged the will inside Moana and motivated the drive she already had inside of her to pursue what needed to be done.

Okay, so how does that affect me?  As noted, my oldest son is 17.  As he is learning how to be responsible, I am learning how to let him be, but I still feel the same pull as Chief Tui to keep him safe and within the boundaries of my own (s)mothering arms.  Nonetheless, he is my strong-willed, stubborn, “hell-bent to drive me into the ground” kid.  He is independent, determined and persistent in ways I was as a teen, only he has a lot more guidance than I did. Sometimes it is scary for me to let go and let him either stand on his own two feet or fall so he learns how to get back up once he is out on his own because I fear his inability to recover, like I suffered at times ~ or like Chief Tui experienced when he was at sea.

I’ve been a pretty tough, boundary-keeping momma and, without regret, have had to pull my son back a good handful of times from moments where he has made decisions on his own, without consultation or permission, that have backfired exponentially.  Much more like Maui, he has the same all-encompassing drive to succeed that sometimes gets him into trouble.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Over the last year, however, he has grown tremendously and we have seen him take on responsibility, prioritizing and leadership as if he was destined to change the world.  I’ve begun to see that it is now my job (as well as my hubby’s) to know when to let him get his feet wet, or even soaked, in learning the decision-making process on his own.  Sometimes his decisions shock us, sometimes they teach him a lesson or two and sometimes they even prove us to have been wrong and we find ourselves having to apologize to him (because it’s important for kids to see this when applicable).  Nonetheless, if he knows he has our respect and we trust that he is going to utilize as much of what we taught him over the years as possible (which is what we ultimately see in Moana’s character)…..I truly believe he has the potential to change the world.  If we just allow him to pursue the horizon ahead of him with confidence, there is no telling how far he (and his brothers) will go.

“See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me  

And no one knows, how far it goes.  

If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me

One day I’ll know, if I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go”

Uh-oh…my tissue box is empty.  Time to open a new one.  I saw so much of my own life and the lives of my sons in this film.  No doubt, I will be watching it over and over again and shedding a million more tears in the process.  If you haven’t seen Moana yet, I encourage you to do so.  It is truly a moving, inspirational animated film that will tug at your heartstrings in one way or another.

~ T.M. Brown

PS – The chicken lives!!!

Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

You can follow Moana on social media at:

Be sure to catch up on these relative Footprints stories, too!!

21 thoughts on “Three Ways Disney’s Moana Tugged On This Mom’s Heartstrings”

    1. Absolutely! I actually LOVED it and will definitely watch it again…I just know ahead of time that I need to bring some tissues with I hope you find the opportunity to see it, too. It is a fantastic story. Thanks for the read!

    1. Wow! Norway – such a beautiful country! I hope this film makes it way over there soon. It truly was a fantastic story. Thanks for the read, Veronica!

  1. This was super sweet to read and I am so glad you enjoyed the movie. I was names after the Little Mermaid and Disney has always been very special to me. I also cry at every single movie. I cant help it. I am the oldest of 5 kids and have two very loving, supportive parents. I moved in with my fiance two years ago (at 24, he was my boyfriend then) and my parents were so mad. They didnt speak to me for months. I knew that I didn’t make the decision lightly and neither did Shyler. We both new that we had found our Forevers and wanted it to start right away. My parents finally saw that I knew what I was doing, but they also wish I had stayed little forever. It is a fine line letting kids go. You sound like an amazing mom and even when your son makes weird decisions, you’re there to help him back onto his feet and trust in your parenting that you’ve raised him to handle things with aplomb. Everything always works out! wish your son luck at college, and congrats to you!!

    1. Letting go of our “littles” is always going to be tough, no matter what age they are. I’m glad things are working out for you and hope they continue to do so. I’m sure your parents were just making sure you were making right decisions and that you wouldn’t get hurt. Our hearts feel the pain tremendously when our children get hurt, so we try to help them avoid it. At the same time, we have to learn to take those baby steps to let go, as well. Thanks for the read and the encouragement. I wish you the best, Ariel!!

  2. What a wonderful summary! I was just telling my husband about this movie today and how we HAVE to go see it. Thanks for this extra encouragement!

    1. No problem, MaryJane! I hope you enjoy it when you get the chance to go see it. Let me know what you think once you have. I’m actually looking forward to seeing it again (and trust me – the music never leaves you!!!!) Thanks for the read!!!

  3. This is a great summary of the movie, and so glad you got so much out of it (oh Disney, you’ve done it again!). I haven’t seen it yet but heard great things, and your review makes me want to see it more!! Thanks for sharing 😊

    1. “You’re welcome” ~ haha…you’ll understand the quotation marks once you’ve seen the movie. Thanks for the read and I hope you get to see it soon. I’m glad my review encouraged that and I hope you share your thoughts after you’ve seen it! And yes – Disney has done it again! LOL!

    1. LOL!! Some of those commercials are done so well that it’s hard not to get a little emotional. I wouldn’t stay away from this movie just because it’s storyline is strong. It is a great movie in which to find yourself and relate. I hope you decide to go!! I think you’ll love it (big smiles!). Thanks for the read, Bethany!

  4. Wow. I think we would have needed to share that box of tissues! Since becoming a parent I watch films so differently and many times look at my own children and my parenting etc. I love that you have clearly picked up on all the movie was meant to be. Now, it is clear I will need to take tissues with me. I cried when we saw Inside out!

    1. Inside Out was fantastic, too! Disney has been doing a great job at, not only entertaining children, but telling the story in a way that the adults can relate. Yes – bring that box of tissues and I hope you get to see the film soon! It’s fabulous – and thanks so much for the read!!

  5. This is such a heartfelt review of the film, a film which I also loved. I love that Disney movies can have a meaningful impact on people of all ages!

    1. Thanks, Sophie! I agree – Disney has this amazing way of entertaining the littles and pulling on the heartstrings of adults. It takes genius and Disney has mastered it. Thanks for the read!

  6. That sassy grandma got both my partner and I, such a free spirit! When the spirit ray went under the boat, I died!!!

Leave a Reply