Disney Polynesian Princess Film in the Works

A Polynesian protagonist? Disney, I’m sorry I doubted you.

Possible concept art via Tumblr

Possible concept art by Sue Nichols

Actually, scratch that. My faith in Disney’s integrity has been temporarily restored. For how long depends entirely on Moana. After the relative financial disappointment of The Princess and the Frog and the success of the racially homogenous Tangled and Frozen, I was genuinely concerned that Disney had lost interest in telling stories with non-white characters. However, news that Disney has been in pre-production on Moana, a movie about a Polynesian chief’s daughter who has to save her family, since 2011 proves otherwise.

It is really, really important for the future of Disney diversity that Moana be a financial and critical hit. Three elements are vital (in my mind) to Moana‘s success.

#1. Ethnological Accuracy

Moana better look like a real Polynesian woman, not some dark-skinned Barbie with the gigantic eyes and teeny nose we’ve seen so much recently or, um, Voldemort. I’m not sure animators realize how racist it is to fudge on ethnological accuracy. “You must have European features to be pretty,” is the implicit message. To be fair, the characters in Lilo and Stitch, Brother Bear and The Princess and the Frog were ethnologically accurate … but the memory of Pocahontas’ impossibly pinched nose still gives me pause.

#2. Cultural Authenticity

From what little information is available, it certainly looks like Disney is doing its homework. According to babynames.com, the heroine’s name, “Moana,” is a Polynesian name meaning “ocean,” (which is thematically relevant to the plot) and the movie will feature demi-gods and spirits from Polynesian mythology. Disney is clearly trying here. It doesn’t look like Moana will take place in an Agrabah-like amalgamation of western notions about the Pacific Islands. However, Disney still has a history of cutting corners with cultural accuracy and the knowledge that Moana is being written and directed by two white men, Ron Clements and John Musker, doesn’t help.

#3. A Good Story

When all is said and done, Moana needs to be engaging. The reason Frozen was such a success was ultimately because it told an original, engrossing and emotionally moving story. If Moana is just another film about a princess yearning to defy tradition or follow her dreams … honestly, I’m already dozing off. It doesn’t matter how impressive the visuals are or how ethnologically, historically, mythologically and culturally accurate it is. If it doesn’t tell a story that’s worth telling, no one will remember it.

Moana is currently slated for a 2018 release.


  • Reply July 17, 2014


    Finally, Disney recognizes other races besides Caucasian. I just hope they’ll make more characters like her for other races and create a GREAT role model for children other than whites.

    • Reply January 22, 2017


      “Finally”? What about Jasmin, Esmeralda, Mulan, Tiana, Pocahontas and Hiro then?..

  • Reply November 20, 2014


    While I agree with your points, as an animator let me just point out we are not the ones creating the story. Only drawing the pictures of someone else’s design. I’m sure that Disney animators are the same way. Personally I’d love it if all animation companies would branch out more and include characters from around the world from project to project, but these decisions are entirely up to the creative directors and producers and more often than not, as we’ve seen, their ideas center around recurring features and motifs.

  • Reply December 23, 2014


    I’m so happy. I feel like everybody only cares about whites. There are others in this world too. I’m glad she’s Polynesian. I hope they make one of a Mexican too. It took a while for them to get Tiana (Princess and the Frog) out. If me and my sister were the creators, there would be princesses and characters of all races, and I mean ALL!

  • Reply January 22, 2015

    "white" girl

    The dumbest fucking shit I ever read. Sorry but it is. Pretty sure there is more to a Disney movie than the character’s race/appearance, like, oh idk.. a plot? a lesson to be learnt? The beautiful way the animators create emotions though colours and motion? …maybe? durr :)

    If you’re such a Disney specialist and know it all, then you would know Disney only does movies based loosely off ancient stories and myths that already exist, unfortunately there is far more western stories created then those from other cultures and backgrounds. They have to choose an existing story wisely, they can’t just do every single asian/african/middle east stories/myths, it has to be something that fits in well with what Walt already created (Princess/girl, guy/prince, evil/enemy etc) If they just did a story on what ever, their company would go bankrupt and spiral down hill. logiiicccc.

    lol people like you so small minded and ignorant. There’s better issues to be posted than the colour/background of a non existent person.

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