"The Ocean chose me for a reason."
- After being told by her father that she isn't allowed to go beyond the reef no matter how much she wants to, Moana throws herself into learning how to become a good leader for her people instead of moping and succeeds in finding many things she enjoys about her allotted role in life.
- This becomes incredibly evident when Moana shows impressive leadership skills from teaching the young ones their customs to finding the main cause behind a leaky roof that the home's owner couldn't figure out. This actually counts as something of a Chekhov's Skill, as it shows that she seeks to treat the cause of a problem, rather than just the symptoms.
- It's very refreshing to see a character being trained to become a leader and have that character actually want to be a leader. Moana knows that it's her duty to become chief, and despite her desire to travel the ocean, she also wants to become a good leader for her people.
- Moana standing up to Maui, grabbing his ear and trying to drag the demigod away.
- Even though they're the antagonists, the Kakamora are pretty awesome in regards to being able to make three ships from one. The fact that they're based off the War Boys from Mad Max: Fury Road just make them all the more awesome. They even play their own theme music.
- Maui himself. Think about it. He was an abandoned child, left to die by his parents, but he managed to become the greatest hero in Polynesian legend. Heck, between all his amazing heroic feats, he SHAPED the world Moana lives in. In this universe, this guy is single-handedly responsible for ALL the Magical Underpinnings of Reality.
- Also a serious case of Shown Their Work for the creators, as everything that Maui says he did in this movie are in fact deeds attributed to the Maui of Polynesian Myth. (Though Maui in Myth had help...but, at the same time, didn't rely on artifacts.)
- It does seem in-character for Maui to leave out any help he may have had in order to make himself look better.
- At one point during Maui's song "You're Welcome", he grabs a giant bat monster, crumples it into a ball and slam dunks it into a giant monster's mouth.
- Moana and Maui vs. the Kakamora pirates.
- Moana taking on a whole mob of them BY HERSELF, snatching Hei Hei and dropping back onto the boat while the Kakamora's boats crash into each other sending them flying into the ocean.
- Maui steering the canoe out of the three-boat collision.
- Moana tricking Tamatoa with a decoy of the Heart, made by coating a barnacle with glowing green algae.
- Moana asks the ocean to take back the heart, but then builds up her determination and changes her mind... only this time she doesn't just ask the ocean to give it back! What does she do? Dives in, finds the heart at the ocean floor, grabs the thing HERSELF, and gets back on the boat, all in the span of 10 seconds! Basically her way of saying, "Know what, ocean? You brought me this far, but I got it from here!". She will return the heart to Te Fiti even if Maui is no longer in the picture. Determination!
- Moana modifying the line her Grandmother gave her from a request into a personal mantra: I am Moana of Motunui. Aboard my boat I will sail across the sea, and restore the heart of Te Fiti! Up to now her entire quest was about getting Maui to complete the mission. Finally she realized that she brought everything about herself, and that it would be her that saves the world when Maui ran away.
- Moana using Maui's own trick of spinning the boat, that he had used earlier to evade the Kakamora, this time to misdirect Te Kā and give her time to get past her.
- Heihei—a character so impossibly dim-witted that the part where he notices that he's in the middle of the ocean comes across as an Out-of-Character Moment—catches the Heart of Te Fiti before it falls overboard, and returns it to Moana instead of trying to swallow it like he did before during the scuffle with the Kakamora.
- Maui, who left Moana after his fish hook gets cracked after his first battle with Te Kā, returning to help Moana get the heart back to Te Fiti by fighting Te Kā, providing a distraction so Moana can get past. His rapid-fire shape-shifting is a truly EPIC sight to behold, and he slices through Te Kā's limbs with his fishhook like they were hot butter, repeatedly forcing her to regenerate them instead of throwing lava bombs at the vulnerable Moana.
- His opening move is to fly up close and then turn into a whale in midair. He promptly falls into the water, the splash drenching Te Kā, simultaneously creating a wave that propels Moana forward.
- He still stands his ground against Te Kā even after his fish hook is destroyed, performing the Haka, a traditional warrior chant and accompanied dance of Polynesian cultures meant to show prowess and strength to intimidate the enemy, risking everything he had left to save Moana and he was going to go out chanting boldly in defiance of Te Kā. And given how much he seems to love having fun and just life in general, his willingness to die for Moana is very powerful.
- Moana's determined, almost serene, slow motion walk across the parted (at her request) ocean to confront Te Kā, as the terrifying lava god charges at her. SHE DOESN'T EVEN FLINCH. With good reason - by this time, she figured out that Te Kā and Te Fiti were one and the same, and returning her heart would calm her rage.
- The song and the musical score that accompanies this scene just seals the deal on how awesome it is.
- It should be pointed out that while Moana knew restoring her heart would calm her, she didn't have the option of just putting it back in. So what does she do? Armed with nothing but her voice and her compassion, she calms Te Kā herself.
- Moana's Character Development is second to none: a brave, stubborn Determinator used to fighting, stunting, persuading, or commanding her way around obstacles, her approach gets her in trouble when she follows her dream—voyaging onto the ocean—and faces forces she has no way to command or control, starting with the ocean itself and followed by a sequence of gods, monsters, and demons. What does Moana do? Learn to be a navigator: read the signs, use finesse and know-how to optimize her actions to the environment, and find her own way. Her Determinator tendencies get her in trouble during her first attempt to breach the outer islands and deliver Te Fiti's Heart past Te Kā, when she tries to power through a gap under heavy fire. After everything goes disastrously wrong in her Darkest Hour, what does she do? Use the skills she learned as a wayfinder to work her way cleverly past Te Kā, despite being completely alone, a single powerless Unchosen One with no demigod and no ocean to back her up. Her compassion is what saves Te Fiti but the intelligence and skill that she learned along the way in dealing with tremendous forces is what gets her there and makes her the perfect one to re-awaken the traditions of her people as their voyager-chief.
- The following scene / lines near the end of the movie — which is as funny and heartwarming as it is awesome:
[Moana and Maui upon encountering the Goddess Te Fiti] Maui: [Faux-enthusiastic / nervous tone]
Te Fiti! Hey... How you been? Te Fiti: [Gives a deadpan "Cut the crap" look] Maui:
Uh-hum... Look -- What I did was... wrong. I have no excuse. I'm sorry. Te Fiti: [Smiles gently and appreciatively. Then offers Maui his most prized object — his Hook — back on the palm of her hand.] Maui: [Does a little child-like dance in joy, but doesn't even dare to take the Hook from the Goddess' hand.] Moana: You know, it'd be rude to refuse the gift of a Goddess
. Maui: [Excited] Cheeeeee-Hoooo
!... [Humbled] Thank you.
Your kind gesture is greatly appreciated. Chee-Hoo! [Shapeshifts into a flying animal and gets out of there.]
- What makes Maui's apology to Te Fiti all the more admirable is how he doesn't try to explain to Te Fiti why he felt that he had to steal her heart. Though he had his misguided reasons, he knows that there's no justifying his actions at the end of the day, and so he owes up to his actions without sugarcoating it.
- It's implied that Moana will be the first female chief of Motonui. Only implied, because her gender is never even brought up, only her competence is treated as worth commenting on. And from what leadership we see her partake in—especially her suggestions for dealing with the famine—her competence is top-notch; one villager even comments to Tui that she's really good at the job.
- There are several islander cultures that are egalitarian in real life, so of COURSE it wouldn't be a big deal to have a female chief.
- Moana's parents coming out of the film alive. Both of them. Usually, being a parent is the most hazardous occupation in a Disney film, and it's rare that both of a character's parents make it to the end without some horrible fate befalling them, or one of them being a horrible ass (like Jim Hawkins' father).
- The scene where Moana breaks out of Maui's cave... by pushing over Maui's statue. A statue that is several times her height and with a very wide base. Moana evidently doesn't skip her leg days.
- Something must be said for the wayfinders of Moana's flashback. These bold people who set off into the uncharted ocean, not sure what they'd find, or if they'd find anything at all, blown by the wind and navigating by the stars, singing as they went. Each and every one a Bold Explorer that would gave Ferdinand Magellan an inferiority complex.
- "We Know The Way" can be read as their Badass Creed. Traveling across open ocean, for days, weeks, months at a time, without any navigation aids beyond their own knowledge? No problem; they're wayfinders. This is their way of life and they excel at it. "We know the way".
- When Moana leaves Motunui on her little boat, she has to go on the most basic knowledge of sailing possible (it seems unlikely her father even let her learn how to steer a fishing boat), and she has trouble just keeping her balance on the craft. At the end of the movie, Moana's parents watch her return to the island, cutting across the sea as though her boat is an extension of her own body. The music and the hero shot◊ of her show that the movie knows exactly how incredible she has become. And then? She teaches her people how to sail, and they begin exploring the islands as their ancestors did.
- For sailing reference, Moana is surfing the canoe in on a wave, which is a ridiculously difficult and dangerous technique. In pre-colonial Hawaii, canoe surfing was a technique reserved only for the ali'i or royalty.
- Moana's Rotten Tomatoes score is sitting at 96%! In Clements and Musker's long and successful career at Disney, this still stands as by far their most critically-acclaimed picture. note Looking at the box office numbers, it's displaced Aladdin as their top-grosser, at least when not adjusting for inflation.
- During her and Lin-Manuel Miranda's performance of "How Far I'll Go" at the 2017 Oscars, Auli'I Cravalho is actually accidentally bumped on the head by one of the flag-holders behind her. Despite this, she continues singing without missing a beat, as though it never hit her, which is nothing short of impressive. Way to hold it together, Auli'I!
- This article talks about how an officially Disney-sanctioned Maori dub of the film managed to help a dying language thrive once again.
- The success of the dub has started talks of creating a Hawaiian version, with Auli'i Cravalho reprising her role.