The initial release of Moana was unfortunately timed, coinciding with the start of Donald Trump’s presidency in 2016. This Disney princess movie challenged the stereotypical portrayal of princesses as weak and romance-driven, featuring a strong female lead who embraces her cultural heritage and defies traditional expectations. This release occurred during a time when the political climate in the US was shifting towards conservative values that often promote discrimination against women and people of color.
Reworded: This particular cultural symbol has stood the test of time for its striking portrayal of a society in flux. Blade Runner’s anti-corporate perspective on a future overrun by post-human slavery emerged during the height of Reaganomics, making it even more impactful. Despite this, there was something refreshing about the unconventional story of a courageous, kind-hearted young woman and her demigod companion. He oscillates between egotistical charm and a remorseful attitude, acknowledging his own failures and the harm inflicted upon his community and humanity as a whole.
Just because a cultural moment occurs during a time when it seems to be in opposition to societal norms, it does not mean it lacks the determination to make a statement. As we approach a potential second term for Trump, perhaps now is the perfect time for Disney’s Moana 2 to emerge from the studio that has become a target for the American conservative movement. This sequel could serve as a defiant response to those who wish for Disney to return to traditional storytelling that was unpopular in the 1990s.
As our society becomes increasingly divided, there is a current legal battle between Disney and Gina Carano (supported by Elon Musk) over her termination from The Mandalorian. In this contentious climate, the return of Moana may be exactly what we need. This film would not have been considered for release before the studio’s major shift away from traditional, Eurocentric family values in the late 1990s. According to sources in the entertainment industry, Dwayne Johnson is currently negotiating to reprise his role as Maui, the shape-shifting demigod from the South Pacific, and Auliʻi Cravalho is also in talks to return as the lead character, Moana.
The upcoming film Moana 2, which is currently being referred to by that name, was initially planned as a TV show. However, after studio head Bob Iger and his team were impressed with the footage in the editing room, it has been moved up for a November release as a feature film. This news does not impact the progress of a previously discussed live action Moana movie, which will not feature actress Cravalho and is still set to hit theaters in the coming year.
For those who are still critical of Disney, it should be noted that in the past, the company has portrayed Native Americans as primitive and inarticulate beings who are hunted by the lost boys in Peter Pan (1953), presented Sunflower, a character who is half African American and half donkey and depicted as a slave in Fantasia (1940), and created Sebastian, a lazy crab from the Caribbean who sings about enjoying unemployment and seems to be under the influence of drugs in The Little Mermaid (1989). However, the studio has likely made efforts to make up for these mistakes over the years. Has this been due to pressure from liberal Hollywood or society’s struggle with children’s movies that perpetuate stereotypes?
It may take several decades before we can truly understand Moana’s significance in the hierarchy. By then, the US and the rest of the western world may have either progressed towards a future of acceptance and empathy, or regressed into a repressive, authoritarian society similar to the one depicted in “The Handmaid’s Tale” where Trump and his successors have revived a 1950s-style culture of strict, conservative labeling. This would mean a world where gender roles are strictly defined, whiteness and Christianity are the norm on screen, and a young woman of color and her ally god-king would have no place in a pre-industrial, plastic-free Pacific without any hint of colonial influence.