The Polynesian Origin Myths Behind Disney’s “Moana”

by: Ellen C. Caldwell
for JSTOR Daily

Disney’s Moana has brought the studio continued success, both in its 2016 theatrical release and in its more recent home video release. In Moana, Disney merged a fictionalized tale with Polynesian history and origin myths to create the film’s plot that tells the story of Moana, a teenage girl who yearns to be on the sea and ultimately leads her people back to the water as skilled voyagers and navigators.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays the character of Maui, the Polynesian demigod who is the most recognizable mythic character Disney tapped from Polynesian legends and oral histories. In Moana, we learn most about Maui’s feats from both his tattoos that recount his victories and accomplishments and from the lyrics of the film’s hit song “You’re Welcome.”

In “The Maui Myths,” Maori natives of Talago Bay, North Island, New Zealand recount Maui’s mytho-history which aided in the creation of Moana

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