It was around ten years ago that Pixar head honchos Edwin Catmull and John Lasseter assumed leadership positions at Walt Disney Feature Animation; thereafter, re-naming the studio Walt Disney Animation Studios and ushering in an era of such critically-acclaimed (and, in some cases, Oscar-winning) box office smash hits as Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and most recently Zootopia. Disney’s animation division is now regarded by many movie buffs to be on (essentially) equal-footing with Pixar, at the top of the mainstream animation film industry.
This fall’s Disney animated release, Moana, shouldn’t break the studio’s winning streak either, given the behind the scenes talent involved; including, acclaimed Disney animated film directors Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules) at the helm, plus a screenwriting team that counts What We Do in the Shadows filmmaker Taika Waititi and Zootopia co-writer/co-director Jared Bush amongst its ranks. Reactions to Moana‘s teaser trailer have likewise been generally positive, as were those to the Moana footage shown to attendees at the 2016 Annecy International Animation Film Festival this past week.
According to THR, Clements and Musker presented the Moana footage – which varied from being near-completion to still in the storyboard stage – to the crowd at Annecy. The footage included the film’s opening, which examines the myth that inspires Moana’s (Auli’i Cravalho) sea voyage in the film: that the great sailors of the South Pacific explored and discovered the many islands of Oceania, before their expeditions mysteriously stopped a millennium ago. Also shown was a scene where the infant Moana steps into the ocean for the first time, as well as an action sequence where Moana and her sidekicks on her adventure – that includes the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) – encounter a group of beings referred to as ‘coconut pirates’ in a scene that Clements and Musker summed up as being “Disney meets [Mad Max:]Fury Road.”
On that note, you can check out a newly-released Moana international poster (which Bush posted to his Twitter account), below:
Moana‘s Annecy preview also include a sneak peek at one of the film’s musical numbers, featuring songs co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda: creator of the Tony-winning Broadway musical Hamilton and the future costar of Disney’s 2018 release, Mary Poppins Returns. One of Miranda’s Moana songs was also featured in the film’s teaser trailer, along with the music/score co-created by New Zealand guitarist Opetaia Foa’I and frequent Disney film composer Mark Mancina.
The tone and visual style of Moana‘s teaser footage has already been likened to Clements and Musker’s previous work – with The Little Mermaid and Hercules being the most obvious points of comparison, given their respective similarities in setting and mythological plot elements (obvious cultural differences in those mythologies aside). There are shades of Mancina’s acclaimed percussive work for such previously-released Disney animated films as Tarzan and Brother Bear in the snippets of music from the Moana teaser, too. And judging by what was shown at Annecy, those impressions left by the film’s teaser seem to be reflective of the movie as a whole, in the best ways possible.
Moana opens in U.S. theaters on November 23rd, 2016.