Moana Breakdown

Recently, I watched the latest film from the Walt Disney Studios, “Moana.” This blog post has many spoilers, so I suggest coming back once you have seen the film. I made this to help readers who may have missed a scene or just Disney lovers, that want to revisit the world the Walt Disney Studios created.  You will notice once you read this breakdown of the film, that there are many lessons to be learned that apply to every day life. The story is rich with well thought out characters and scenes. Follow me as I completely break down the story of “Moana.”


The movie takes place around a group of islands in the ocean. Right from the beginning they give you the back-story of Earth only having ocean in it until the mother island emerged, named Te Fiti. The narrator goes on to tell you that the heart of Te Fiti holds the greatest power ever known, to create life itself. With this power it is said that Te Fiti gave life to the islands surrounding her. But what she did not know was that people would find out about this great power and want it for themselves. So, many went out to seek the heart of Te Fiti but only one succeeded. His name was Maui! I know what you’re thinking, “So, Maui is the bad guy in the film?” Not at all, lets just say he needed to find his way but well get to that later.


So, Maui, the demigod of the wind and sea, stole the Heart of Te Fiti. Through his powers, which is harnessed through the hook that he carries with him, Maui was able to sneak into the Island and steal the heart. By shape shifting into different animals he was able to reach the area where the heart of Te fiti was located. Once the heart was stolen, the island of Te Fiti began to crumble and gave birth to darkness. As Maui was trying to escape by boat, another who wanted the power of the heart, Te Ka, the demon of earth and fire, confronted him. As Maui went to fight Te Ka, he was struck from the sky never to be seen again. Now, his magical fishhook and the heart of Te Fiti were lost at sea.


We flash-forward 1,000 years, to the present day, on the island of Motunui, where Moana’s Grandma is telling the story of Te Fiti to a group children. In the group you see all types of kids but one child stands out for her love of the story. This is Moana, she continues to hear her grandmaother’s tale, which ends in the darkness swallowing all the islands up and killing all life created by Te Fiti. The rest of the children look on in fear while Moana looks on intrigued. But the story ends on a bright note when grandma says one day someone will journey beyond the reef, find Maui, cross the ocean to restore Te Fiti’s heart, and save life itself. Moana looks on with a face, almost saying, “That could be me!”


We are then introduced to the father of Moana, who does not believe in the stories the grandmother was telling the children and waves it off as a fairytale. We then follow Moana as she sneaks away from the conversation and walks by the shore to help a turtle to sea. The sea, which goes on to play around with Moana, hands her a green, shiny object, it’s the heart of Te Fiti. Here we see that there is a strong bond between Moana and the sea, we just don’t know why yet. Moana’s father then calls for her and the ocean returns her back to shore before her father can see. He goes on to tell Moana she must be careful because the ocean is dangerous. She gazes at the horizon, wanting something more.


Her parents go on to tell her how she will become the Chief of the island one day but how she must first learn where she is meant to be (on Motunui). Moana goes on to learn about everything they do on the island and all the different jobs that must be done, while also trying to make herslef believe this is what she is destined to be, an island dweller. Then comes a musical scene with “Where You Are” by Christopher Jackson, Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger, Auli’I Cravalho, and Louise Bush. We continue to see Moana sneaking out to sea while here father is trying to show the way they do things in the island. She meets her grandmother by the shore and musical number begins. As we begin to see how close Moana and her grandmother are with one another. We see them both dancing next to the sea. Years continue to pass as we see them aging before our very eyes. Moana now seems to be a teenager and the grandma goes on to tell her a few words in regards to life. She goes on to tell Moana that although her father is pushing her to be the Chief, to continue the path of a land dweller, she tells her listen to the voice inside her head telling her to go to sea.


We see a shot of Moana looking at boats by the shore when out of her now where her father appears. He seems disappointed that the grandma is putting all these thoughts into her head but ignores her anyways. He then goes on to tell Moana that he needs to show her something and takes her up the tallest mountain on the island. When they reach the top we see a pile of stones and Moana’s father tells her that this is a sacred place. One day she will stand on the peak of the mountain and place a stone on the mountain. We then see a close up on the piles of stones, which represent every Chief that ever lived in the island. He tells her that her future and the future of the people, who live on Motunui, belong on the island and not out at sea. She is starting to cooperate with the plans her parents have set forth.


We then jump to Moana cooperating with the plans her parents have set forth and becoming involved with everything in the village. We see her walking around the village, becoming involved with everybody. We jump to a woman harvester who shows Moana a coconut that has become blackened and dry inside. Moana tries to stay positive and told the harvester its fine. Telling her just to move the trees over to a new area. The problem seems to be fixed for now. Now, a fisherman comes in and tells Moana and her father that the fish have disappeared and they have not caught any food lately. So, Moana thinks and tells everyone on the shore they should try fishing beyond the reef. Her father disagrees and tells her in an upset tone that no one is to go beyond the reef.


We then jump to Moana and her mother talking. Moana is upset and her mother tells her that her father is hard on her because he was she. We then flashback to Moana’s father with a friend, getting on a boat. They ended up getting caught in a horrible storm and her father’s friend died. He blamed himself and vowed never to go to see again.


We then come to my favorite song on the movie, “How Far Ill Go.” We see Moana’s infatuation with the sea growing, causing her to be stuck between two options, going out to sea or staying on Motunui. She thinks and rushes to the sea and gets on the boat. She heads out to see and starts to reach larger waves when one knocks her off the boat. She gets stuck under some coral by the reef. But instead of panicking she quickly breaks it with a rock and swims to shore, barely. We cut to a shot of her foot scrapped from the coral.


Her grandmother then comes and Moana tells her she is going to put the stone on the mountain and just that she will just stick with the plans her father has made for her. Grandmother then says “okay,” Moana is shocked her grandma doesn’t tell her anything. Grandma goes on to say that when she dies she is going to become a manta ray. Moana is confused and not sure if the grandmother is trying to tell her something. She tells Moana something she wants to hear, that there is a hidden place with history from her ancestors.


As she walks in she sees a bunch of boats and one huge ship with a drum. She goes on to pound the drum, which then triggers a spirit to turn on the torches and have her look at the designs from her ancestors. Moana then sees her ancestors weren’t island dweller but were voyagers!!! She becomes extremely happy to find this out and runs to her grandmother to ask her why they stopped being voyagers? She told Moana the story of Maui and how her ancestors became scared of the oceans because monsters controlled the ocean ever since Maui stole the heart of Te Fiti. So they forbade everybody from traveling beyond the reef. But the grandmother tells Moana that she has noticed that the darkness has traveled from island to island, and is now reaching theirs. She tells Moana, however, one day someone will travel beyond the reef, find Maui, cross the ocean and restore the heart of Te Fiti. Grandma shows her a constellation of stars on how to find Maui.

Banging drum


Moana runs into a village meeting and tells them about the boats she found and how they must travel across the ocean and restore Te Fiti or else their island will suffer the same fate of Te Fiti. During the heat of the argument, a villager runs in and tells the family that Grandma is dying. Moana and her father run to the hut with Grandma, where they gather around. Soon after, Moana’s parents walk away and her grandmother tell her to go to the ocean and complete the mission. Moana doesn’t want to leave her grandmother’s side but she convinces her that she must go, the ocean calls to her. Moana embraces her grandmother, sneaks off to grab her belongings, and leaves.



She sets out to sea and we see Moana look back at the hut where her grandmother is. We see the light inside the room turn off and the grandmother’s spirit rushes through the tress, into the water, and becomes a light figure in the shape of a manta ray (transforming after death into the animal she said she would be). She dives under water and pushes Moana past the waves she previous failed to get over. She was now out at sea, with only, “Hey Hey” the rooster for company. They were setting out to find Maui the demigod.


But once nightfall came, a big storm flipped the boat over, having Moana holding on for dear life. The next morning she found herself washed up on shore confused. Asking the ocean that had been her friend for so many years, why she flipped over her boat and left her secluded on this random island? Then she suddenly hears a noise and hides in fear. We are then introduced to Maui. He goes on to say, “A boat, a boat, the gods have given me a boat!” Maui becomes startled when he sees Moana and screams. Moana then tries to demand Maui to get on her boat.


But Maui thinks she is just a fan who is thanking him for trying to bring the heart of Te Fiti to humans. He continues to ignore her and goes on to sing the musical number, “You’re Welcome” by Dwyane Johnson. After Maui is done bragging about everything he has done for the mortals, he traps Moana in a cave. He plans to steal the boat she floated to shore with. But now is when we realize all of Maui’s tattoos actually come to life and represent different moments throughout history. One of his tattoos refuses to leave Moana behind. He ignores the tattoo and continues on to the boat. Moana goes on to escape through the roof of the cave while Maui floats away on her boat. She jumps from the top of the cliff to try and land on the boat but she misses. Maui says, “sorry,” and continues on. Moana becomes determined to swim to Maui but as soon as she starts, the ocean grabs her and zooms her to the boat. When she lands on the boat everybody including “hey hey” are shocked by what just happened.

Moana demands for Maui to go with her to complete the mission, but Maui just throws her off the boat. But once again the ocean throws her back on the boat. For a third time he knocks her over and the ocean once again brings her back in. Lastly, Moana shows him the heart and announces that they both must return it. Maui looks at it and toss it in the ocean, the ocean throws it back and ends up hitting him on the head. A pretty funny sequence I might add.

Moana then asks Maui if he is afraid of the heart of Te Fiti, which he then reacts in fear. He tells Moana if she doesn’t put it away bad things will start to come for it. Seconds later, an arrow hit the boat. We jump to a shot of ships full of coconut pirates. They come seeking the heart of Te Fiti. After a long altercation where Maui tries to leave the heart of Te Fiti after the coconuts take it. Moana jumps on one of the pirate ships, fights the coconuts, grabs the heart, and lands back on the boat. Escaping the pirate coconuts, Maui congratulates Moana but says he still isn’t helping her take the heart back. He then mentions that they haven’t even reach Te Ka, the lava monster. She asks Maui if he has ever defeated a lava monster? We focus in on the tattoo of Te Ka and a tattoo of Maui scared.

Clearly Maui is scared of Te Ka because last time he faced him he lost his magical hook and heart of Te Fiti. He tells her he is not going on a suicide mission and tells her, he is only going to get his hook. She tries to bribe him by saying if he helps that he will be considered a hero once again. Also making him remember that he ruined the world when he took the heart. Convincing him to fix everything and become the hero he always was. So, they make a deal that once Maui gets his magical hook back, they will go back to Te Fiti to restore the heart.

We go on to see Moana and Maui starting to bond and get along. He goes on to teach her how to sail while relaxing on the boat. Moana falls asleep throughout the night and we cut into a dream. In the dream, she begins to see her home island being destroyed and turning into darkness; she becomes frightened and wakes up. When she awakes they have reached a small island that is called, “the realm of monsters.” He tells her he can only go alone but of course Moana does not listen and goes up the small rock mountain with him. They finally reach the top and Moana realizes after talking with Maui that the ocean chose her for a reason. Maui goes on to perform a ritualistic dance and smashes the ground on which he stands. Doors on the floor begin to open and we see a huge hole that leads to the bottom of the ocean. It’s so far down you can’t see where the water begins.


Maui jumps and Moana looks on, scared to jump but does it anyways. They enter some deep underwater realm where everything seems to glow. They continue into this unknown world to where the hook is located, in a cave on a mound of gold and coins. Maui tells her, she must stay behind because she isn’t experienced. She will end up getting caught and killing herself. Then Maui thinks of a not so brilliant idea of using Moana as bait. Moana walks into the cave with sparkles and glitter all over to attract the crab to come out of his shell of gold coins. He comes out and goes on to sing the song, “Shiny” by Jemaine Clement. The distraction works and Maui grabs the hook, only to find he doesn’t really remember how to use the magical hook properly. The crab goes on to beat up Maui, almost being beaten to death when Moana comes up with an idea.


She sees glowing, green algae on the floor and paints a rock with it in the color of the heart of Te Fiti. It distracts the crab, since he was seeking the heart all those years as well. Moana and Maui escape the underwater realm and land back on the shore. Maui thanks Moana for helping him but is afraid that he cant help her since he wasn’t able to at least shape shift into the right animals to escape the crab. She continues to assure him that he can do it and they head out back to sea, toward Te Ka, to hopefully defeat it.

As night falls we start to see Maui become more and more doubtful that he can defeat the, Te Ka. The film then focuses in on the tattoo of Maui as a child and Moana asks him, how does he get his tattoos? He tells her they show up when he earns them. She asks Maui about the tattoo of a child being thrown into the ocean by a woman. He originally doesn’t want to tell her but finally gives in after Moana connects with him and tells him that she wants to help but only if he lets her. He tells her that he wasn’t always a demigod and that he had human parents. Apparently, Maui had horrible parents that didn’t want him and decided to throw him away into the ocean. The gods saved Maui and made him a demigod and gave him his magical hook. He goes on to tell Moana that once he had his powers he became consumed with trying to please humans. He gave them islands, fire, coconuts, anything they could ever want, including the heart of Te Fiti. Maui came to realize it was never enough and continued to become consumed with helping the people that threw him away. Moana tells him that maybe the Gods found him for a reason, that maybe they found him in the oceans because the gods found someone worth being saved. She tells him that the Gods aren’t the ones that make him Maui, he is. They have a touching moment and continue onward to restore the heart to Te Fiti. As he begins to train to beat Te Ka, there friendship continues to get stronger through all their hardships.

We jump to some time later on in the day and Maui screams out, “I figured it out!” He says he knows why the ocean asked him to pull up islands, because Moana’s ancestor voyaged to find them. He tells her that the ocean found the perfect person in Moana to restore all the islands back to normal. She thanks him for being so sweet and they finally see the island area where Te Fiti and Te Ka reside.


Moana sends Maui to go and fight Te Ka but after much struggle Maui escapes back to the boat. Moana continue to take him through a passage to some how out run Te Ka but Maui is afraid they wont make it. In the heat of their argument, Te Ka goes to strike them and Maui blocks it with his hook. Which causes them to sail away from the island due to a huge blast.


We then cut to Moana and Maui in the middle of nowhere, where we see Maui’s hook almost completely broken. Moana tries to convince him to go back and fight but Maui has lost faith, saying that without his hook he cannot beat the Te Ka. Moana says she must help him because the ocean chose her. But he tells her it chose wrong, which kills her inside. He gives up, transforming into a Hawk and flying away.

Moana then asks the ocean, why did it choose her? She felt that it chose the wrong person and to choose someone else. Moana begins to cry and the ocean takes the heart to the bottom of the ocean. Shortly after, a light figure of a manta ray comes into the frame, its Moana’s grandmother. The manta ray then turns into a spirit figure of her grandmother. Moana cries to her saying its all her fault that everything went wrong. The grandmother says it was her own fault to put so much on her shoulders. If she wants to go she will help Moana return home, and she can forget about the mission at hand.


But Moana is hesitating to leave; she is stuck between going back and finishing the dangerous mission of returning the heart of Te Fiti. They go on to sing a song that reminds her of her roots and whom she is meant to be. She decides she will continue the mission at hand, because her ancestors were voyagers and so is she. She jumps into the water to retrieve the heart of Te Fiti and continues her mission back to the island of Te Fiti.


Moana return back to where Te Ka is and tricks the volcano into following her, only to realize it was a tricked and Moana was headed for the passage she had showed Maui earlier. She barely passes through the passage when the volcano knocks her off the boat. While she is trying to flip it back over Te Ka tries to strike her when Maui comes out of nowhere and saves her. He continues to fight Te Ka while Moana heads for the Island of Te Fiti. The volcano knocks Maui down and proceeds to attack Moana, which knocks her off her boat. Luckily, the ocean is on her side, as well, and takes her to the shores of Te Fiti.

She continues to take the heart to the spiral of the island where the heart belongs but realizes Te Fiti has disappeared. This is where Moana realizes that Te Ka is actually Te Fiti transformed into a volcano out of anger from having her heart stolen. Moana goes on to shine the heart towards Te Ka to get its attention. Moana tells the ocean to let Te Ka cross the ocean to where she stands. The ocean does so and Te Ka begins to crawl quickly over to where Moana stands. Moana tells Te Ka she has traveled to find her and that she knows its name. That she knows they stole her heart but that this one moment does not define her. Moana says this angry volcano is not who she is. They embrace each other as Moana restores the heart to Te Ka.


We start to see Te Ka turn into Te Fiti, a beautiful island full of greenery and life. The ocean sends Maui and Moana onto the island; Te Fiti grabs them to speak with them. She looks at Maui first in disgust but then forgives him and offers him a brand new magical hook, since he broke his in the battle with her evil self, Te Ka. Te Fiti then builds a brand new boat for Moana and continues to turn into a beautiful island. Maui and Moana meet on the shore of Te Fiti to say their final goodbyes. They both disappear, Moana back to Motunui and Maui flying away into the horizon.


As Moana returns closer to her home island of Motunui, we begin to see life starting to return. Her family notices her in the distance as everything is changing and knows she is the one that made all of it possible.


We move to the village celebrating, Moana’s father taking their voyager out of hiding, and zoom in on the mountain with the stones but now there is a shell at the top. I believe this is a way of them say they are back to being voyagers, instead of island dwellers. The movie ends with a fleet of ships sailing off in the distance with Moana acting as new captain of the biggest ship.


In my opinion, this was one of Walt Disney Studios better films, not only visually but also on paper (the script). It was rich in back-stories, characters, and lessons to be learned. I definitely consider Moana as one of the newest Disney Princesses. Two Thumbs up!!!! See myself watching this one with the kids many times.


One thought on “Moana Breakdown

  1. Thank you for your clarification on dusney’s latest film
    Love your comparisons and simplification.
    Truly will see the movie now understanding and looking for the metaphors

    Look forward to more interpretations by you



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