Given that Maui says the Ocean really likes when people voyage across it and The Reveal that returning the Heart of Te Fiti required neither defeating Te Kā nor venturing inland, the Ocean's motivations don't seem to be returning the heart and preventing the spread of darkness as much as it wanted to ensure a rebirth of the wayfinder traditions of Moana's people. After all, there's nothing to suggest the Ocean couldn't give the Heart to Te Kā the same way it gave it to Moana and even if it did need Moana's help, Maui was only a distraction, who turned out not to be needed when Moana realized the truth. Even so, the Ocean goes out of its way to bring her to him, then paralyzes him so he has no choice but to teach her how to sail. The quest itself ensures Moana will return to her people a hero whose new ideas wouldn't be rejected out of hand.
Things like tossing Moana overboard multiple times and attempting to strand her on a deserted island hardly seem very becoming of someone who was trying to be as heroic as possible for the humans. Was Maui as selfish during his past exploits as he is during the events of the film, or did he develop it during the time he spent on the island?
Angst? What Angst?: Moana is never shown mourning the loss of Gramma Tala as the film goes on, and even the appearance of Tala's ghost to give Moana a Heroic Second Wind fails to carry the weight of her actually coming back from the grave. Instead, it comes off as though Moana is just happy to see her after being away from home for so long.
Award Snub: While Moana got nominated for Best Animated Picture by the Oscars, the overall Score did not. And only one song - "How Far I'll Go" - picked up a nom leaving out "You're Welcome" (while La La Land received two song nominations). Ultimately, Moana lost both Oscars to fellow Disney movie Zootopia and La La Land song "City of Stars" respectively. Moana's loss in the Best Song category left a lot of Puerto Ricans extremely bitter- after Hamilton's historic success in theater, people really wanted — no, expected Lin-Manuel Miranda to win, and thereby making him one of the few people who can brag about being an EGOT.
Awesome Art: Everything about the hand-drawn animation in Maui's tattoos, which many people have thought almost steal the film. And the best part? It was all drawn on paper! No tradigital shots to speak of!
Maui. He may be an arrogant blowhard but he sure as heck is hilarious and entertaining. For instance, his "I Am" Song is entitled "You're Welcome", and it's as fun and energetic as it is egotistical—which is helped by the fact that all of his deeds were supposedly not exaggerated. Subverted when it's revealed he suffers from Inferiority Superiority Complex, and that it's merely the "superiority" part of the complex. All of those awesome deeds were only done to sustain his ego.
Base-Breaking Character: Heihei, for being an intentionally annoying character, reactions to him are really mixed. Some legitimately think he's a funny character, especially for the way he was used in the Kakamora scene. Others absolutely despise his existence, rooting for the older villager and Maui to grill and eat him because he's so useless and wishing that he actually was scrapped, like he was originally intended to be. And then there are plenty who forgot that he was in the movie at all.
The encounter with the Kakamora (read: demonic coconut pirates). The sequence added very little to the movie's plot, and they're never mentioned again.
Moana's dream sequence in which she sees her island being overtaken by darkness. It does underline the reason she's on this journey to begin with, but her island is never implied otherwise to be in any immediate danger, and the scene mostly only serves as a segue between Maui teaching her to sail and their arrival at the entrance to the Realm of Monsters.
Even before the movie came out, people on YouTube were already shipping Moana with Guy from The Croods.
People have also been shipping Moana with Ariel. Both are curious 16-year-old girls who love to explore, one comes from the ocean and wants to explore the land, the other wants to explore the ocean from her island. They also have strict but well-meaning fathers. That, and the idea is just generally cute.
Moana and Elsa, due to both pointedly lacking any kind of romantic interest, leaving the fans free to imagine any kind of sexuality they want.
Maui and Hercules. Not only do their origins seem like the opposite of one another, their personalities could also work well. Maui would be the snarky experienced hero to Hercules' naive but optimistic rookie. His sweet and innocent side could contrast well against Maui's more world-weary attitude. Plus, he could help him deal with his inferiority complex, much like how his love for Meg helped her deal with her own issues.
Heihei and Becky, due to them both being dimwitted bug-eyed birds that make bird sounds instead of talking.
Tamatoa only appears for one scene, but his catchy yet creepy Villain Song makes him quite memorable.
Pua. Is. Adorable. The cutest non-anthropomorphic Disney pig since Hen Wen. There's a number of fans who are disappointed the sweet little pig didn't follow Moana on her quest like Heihei did.
Some people really enjoy Mini Maui. Him actually being nice to Moana and being upset at Maui's jerkass actions might help. Also just how he was animated is a marvel in upon itself.
Evil Is Cool: Tamatoa, in fine Disney villain tradition, is a popular character with his cool design, endearing and whimsical personality, and catchy Villain Song. The fact that he's voiced by Jemaine Clement earns him extra points.
With Frozen. Seeing as how Frozen was the previous contemporary Disney Princess movie, and both are very well-received, fans of Moana tend to compare the movie to Frozen a lot.
It developed one with Zootopia when it turned out it would be competing with Moana for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award at the 2017 Academy Awards. This was unfortunate because it was the first time in over a decade that Disney Animation Studios had two films nominated for the award. At worst, you have the fans that decry Moana as "just another Disney Princess movie" that hardly deserves the Oscar over Zootopia. More reasonably, many other Zootopia fans say that, while respecting Moana as a good, if not great Disney movie, they feel that Zootopia deserves the Oscar better for having a much more emotion-driven and highly topical story. Since Zootopia ultimately won the Oscar over Moana, the rivalry seems to be dying back down save for those who feel that Moana should have won instead.
As "How Far I'll Go" lost to a song from La La Land, a lot of fans resented it for taking Lin-Manuel Miranda's chance to become the youngest EGOT, plus only the third person to ever get those awards plus a Pulitzer. Though it's kept tempered as he's still pretty young and will likely have more chances to get an Oscar. Ironically, the La La Land lyricists, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, had joined Disney shortly before Moana premiered, writing songs for a Live-Action Adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — and shortly after they beat Miranda at the Oscars, Disney also signed them on to the live-action Aladdin.
At the end of the movie, Moana is chief of her people, reignited the tradition of voyaging, and the heart has been restored. There's a ton of possibilities where they could sail to next, with the entire Pacific Ocean to explore. There's also many gods and monsters not depicted in the movie, and other mythologies that can be thrown into the mix.
What did Maui mean by not since I ripped off his leg(in response to Moana saying he must have gotten along with Tamatoa)? And how did Tamatoa know exactly how to hit him where it hurts? Many fans created backstories about a friendship between them that ended badly.
Moana fans and Hamilton fans are getting along nicely, thanks to sharing a composer and having racially-diverse casts. note The movie features Phillipa Soo (as additional voices), Christopher Jackson (the singing voice of Moana's father), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (who was one of the song writers and sung the English lyrics of "We Know The Way"), the actors who portrayed Elizabeth Schuyler, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton, respectively in Hamilton's original production. Hamilton's cast even gets a Special Thanks in the credits.
It's also extremely popular with fans of Lilo & Stitch, thanks to it being another Disney film that contains Polynesian characters. Some even theorize that Moana is an ancestor of Lilo and Nani.
Moana goading Maui by telling him no one thinks he's a hero anymore and obviously playing on his over-inflated ego to get him to join the quest hits a lot harder when we learn Maui bases his entire sense of self worth on how humans are grateful for his heroics.
Maui's hawk form greatly resembles a Haast's eagle, a very large species of extinct eagle that lived in New Zealand and made it into Polynesian legend in the form of a man-eating bird called Poukai.
Maui makes all sorts of reference to Polynesian myths in his "I Am" Song.
Maui at one point says that he is a hero to men and women, before correcting it to "all". Many Polynesian cultures, including the ones Maui comes from, have three genders.
Maui briefly being stuck with having a shark head and torso with his normal human legs makes him resemble Dakuwaqa, a notorious shark deity from Fijian mythology.
Girl-Show Ghetto: Seems to have broken it, by becoming Disney's most successful animated movie since Mulan to have a feminine-sounding title. Its domestic grosses (both unadjusted and adjusted for inflation) and unadjusted worldwide totals even surpassed that of Tangled, the movie that kicked off Disney's "Let's make more money off of female-centric films by not including the heroine's name or royal title in the picture's name" tactics.
The opening song contains a lyric by Moana's father: "In time you'll learn, just as I did, you must find happiness right where you are." This takes on a significant new meaning when we later learn that his best friend drowned as a direct result of their attempt to leave the island.
In his song "You're Welcome", Maui has a line "Cause Maui can do anything but float!". At the time, it seems a funny Badass Boast about him being able to do almost anything because he is a demi-god. Later, when we find out his parents tried to drown him (which was the reason he was turned into a demi-god to begin with), this line becomes more painful to hear.
"He Really Can Sing" in this case; Dwayne Johnson's been given many praises for his ability to sing "You're Welcome".
For that matter, Maui as he explains the tattoo depicting his parents tossing him into the ocean and talks about how he feels like nothing without his hook. The Rock-as-Maui sounds genuinely heartbroken.
With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, another Disney-owned movie studio, Marvel Studios, seemed to pick up the slack caused by Moana becoming the DAC's first movie in years to avoid a certain twist.note Specifically, the twist in which someone earns the hero's trust, then betrays him/her during the third act; Ego the Living Planet provides hospitality to the Guardians, until it becomes revealed that he only wants to use his long-lost son, Star-Lord, to help conquer the galaxy.
Jerkass Woobie: Maui; he's egocentric and rather selfish, but it's later revealed that his parents abandoned him at birth, giving rise to a serious case of Inferiority Superiority Complex, and he sees himself as totally worthless without the fish hook.
Consider the Coconut!(The What?) Explanation A line from the movie's first song Where You Are said by Moana's father that is very memetic among listeners due to how excitedly the line is delivered.
BIONICLE fans had a field day when they learned that Moana's home island was "Mata Nui". note Actually spelled Motunui. A case of "Weird Al" Effect, since most of Bionicle's early names came from Maori words.
"WELL TAMATOA HASN'T ALWAYS BEEN THIS GLAM..."
"You're Welcome" and "Shiny" became popular subjects for word replacement "X but Y" videos. Eventually, the former song completely became a meme beyond just that, with the phrase "you're welcome" becoming synonymous with the song and Maui in general.
What can I say except... Explanation Another meme from "You're Welcome", where this line from the song is edited into a caption below Maui, and the punchline is whatever ends the sentence. Sometimes it's used for Unwanted Assistance, and other times it can have a completely different conclusion.
You will find no shortage of jokes that compare Maui with his voice actor, Dwayne Johnson. With these beingstandoutexamples.
"...in SONG FORM!" Explanation Tamatoa's line that leads into his Villain Song (and occasionally the line preceeding it: "Are you just trying to get me to talk about myself? Because if you are... I will gladly do so!") has become very popular with various musicals fandoms for obvious reasons.
Moana recycles a lot of old Disney movie formulas and plays them entirely straight, including the third act Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure where the co-protagonists have a big fight and split up before the climax (usually right after they were getting really chummy with each other). The dialogue in this scene can get so rote and cliched, so forced, and so obviously designed to Kick the Dog as hard as possible for drama, that it can come off as unintentionally funny.
After the movie's uplifting ending and Polynesian chanting, the credits immediately segue into an electronica cover of "How Far I'll Go" with an obnoxious use of autoTune. After the film went out of its way to make the singing sound natural and used authentic instruments and chanting, it really takes you out of the atmosphere.
Narm Charm: Invoked - Maui at one point attempts to have a serious conversation with Moana, only he has a shark head and doesn't notice. Naturally, Moana finds this funny for the same reason the audience does.
Nightmare Retardant: The anemone-faced creature in the Realm of Monsters becomes a lot less terrifying when you learn it's a recycled character model of Flash the Sloth from Zootopia.
One-Scene Wonder: The antagonists in general, due to the wayfaring nature of the adventure:
Tamatoa only shows up for a single scene, but is one of the film's most memorable moments. Unless you stay for The Stinger.
The Kakamora only appear early in the film, but their Mad Max-esque scene is another one of the memorable moments.
Though she is the Big Bad and heavily built up throughout the story, Te Kā only appears in two brief scenes near the end. But it certainly makes the best of those scenes.
Shipping: Unlike other co-ed buddy Disney films such as Finding Nemo and Zootopia, the film is good at keeping the chemistry between the two leads strictly platonic from beginning to end with no intended teasing subtext or anything suggestive. Raise your hand if you knew there would be Moana/Maui fics anyway. On the other hand, you can find plenty of Moana/Te Fiti fan-arts and fan-fics.
Strawman Has a Point: Maui may have stolen the Heart, but he had never seen the negative consequences this caused for Moana's people, having been trapped on an island for a thousand years. Given the All Polynesian and Pacific Islander Myths Are True setting, his showboating when Moana arrives is perfectly appropriate: he is personally responsible for every aspect of her people's life, from the island they live on to the coconuts they eat to the sun that grows their plants to the tide that brings the fish. Without firsthand knowledge that his action one thousand years ago caused bad things to happen, he has no reason to be humble, or to assume anything but gratitude from a person to whom he gave her entire way of life.
Te Kā, the actual Big Bad, has an awesome design, intimidating presence and a tragic explanation for its villainy. She's a life giving goddess turned into a monster by Maui's theft of her heart. Unfortunately, the movie never spends any time focusing on its past and motivation; it has only three, brief scenes, and the character never even speaks.
Heck, this extends to the film's Non Human Sidekicks. Show of hands here: how many would have rather seen Pua accompany Moana on her ocean voyage over Heihei? Or even seen both of them accompany her?
Moana's father Chief Tui. Despite being a sympathetic character with a tragic and chilling backstory, Tui didn't play a very big role in the movie's events and his Character Development in regards to his fear of the ocean is barely explored. We also don't really get to understand why he refuses to believe in the supernatural.
Moana's mouth opens just a little too wide when she strikes the last note on the first iteration of "How Far I'll Go."
Maui's face can fall into this quite often, due to having a very small face in proportion to his head, which itself appears as if he got hit from above with an anvil.
Tamatoa can come across this way with his human-like face on a giant coconut crab body like a bizarre genetic experiment. It doesn't help that he tries to eat the protagonists.
Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Maui. While not a bad person by any means, it's hard for some to feel attached to him when he has to be arm-twisted into fixing his mistakes and it takes him forever to bother showing the slightest bit of concern for Moana's well-being (when the two of them go into the Realm of Monsters and Moana falls from a ledge, Maui just gives a deadpan 'She's dead' and moves on without trying to help). He Would Hurt A Young Woman, since leaving her on an island without food or water (and worse, sealed in a cave at first) was basically murder. "You'll love the island" was a vicious thing to say.
The Un-Twist: Anyone familiar with fairy tales and mythology will assume that Heihei is some kind of powerful entity in disguise or under a curse. He really is just a very stupid cockerel.
Values Dissonance: Families who live in coastal areas such as South Florida may have more sympathy for Moana's father keeping her from going past the shallows, starting from when she's a toddler. It's meant to be Parents Are Wrong, but a baby running towards deep waves is every parent's worst nightmare with how many drown in pools during the summer, especially since Moana hasn't even been taught how to swim.
Par for the course with Disney, but even by Disney standards this film is VERY well-animated. The hair movements and water are almost photorealistic thanks to the fact that Disney's animators developed two separate graphics engines just for them.
Maui's tattoos, which are animated in 2D on a 3D CGI model.
The movie also experiments a lot with animating light. Special mention goes to the scene in Tamatoa's cave where the cave turns dark and lights up with glowing neon colours. Unsettling yet gorgeous.
The movie's experiments with water and light extend to experimenting with light on water, which it uses to great effect with the spectral manta ray and the ghosts of Moana's ancestors.