Moana Blu-ray Review
"If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you're a princess."
Moana is a gorgeous, hilarious, exciting, song-filled and action-packed adventure.Taking a hard anti-princess line, Moana imbues Polynesian mythology with animated vitality, delivering a strong contender for one of their best productions of 2016, and one of the best animated offerings in recent times. With measured balance between songs and spectacle, comedy and conflict, Moana excels in all departments, remaining a visually opulent wonder wrapped around a strong story and witty script, with a lovingly crafted heart and soul at its centre.With Dwayne Johnson offering arguably a career-high performance (and not just in terms of his surprisingly good singing) as demi-god Maui, it's newcomer Auli'i Cravalho who steals the show as the title character, although they both have great unlikely-partner chemistry, setting off on a journey that nods to everything from Mad Max: Fury Road (by way of Waterworld) to Lethal Weapon, and will win the hearts of audiences young and old. Tremendous.
Picture QualityDisney deliver Moana to UK shores on Region Free Blu-ray both in 2D and 2D/3D forms. Unfortunately only the 2D title was available at the time of review, although the full 2D/3D Steelbook package is on its way.
Visually, Moana is astounding, the bright blue sky and deep blue ocean providing a stunning backdrop to the colourful events, but the real surprise comes in the characters themselves, who are so well-realised that it's hard to actually believe that they are not rendered in physically real life. For example, there's one scene where Moana wakes up in close-up on the boat, which has hit an island that is out of focus in the background, and she looks like a real (albeit, admittedly, likely claymation) object rather than a 2D computer visualisation.
1080p Blu-ray perfection
Disney's striking 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation comes framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen, and is perfect. It's demo and reference through and through, the perfect material for showing off your screen, and impossible to fault. Close-ups on facial details and - perhaps most impressively - tangibly real hair, mark just the start of the treasures to be found here, but the presentation truly benefits from the vibrantly colourful setting, both in terms of the idyllic islands and also the neon-drenched underwater antics.
Indeed, after seeing some of the striking sunsets, flourescent fish, gorgeous blue sea and lush green tree backdrops in all their glory here it's truly hard to see how 4K could improve on this, but, by the same token, there's plenty here for HDR and WCG to work it's magic with and this is likely, in the fullness of time, to prove one of the absolute best-looking Disney titles when they eventually adopt the format. In the meantime, it's 1080p Blu-ray perfection.
Sound QualityThe DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is almost as impressive, providing a stonking aural accompaniment which further fuels your utter enjoyment of the piece.
Dialogue comes firmly prioritised across the frontal array, dominating the centre channel where necessary, and effects are wondrous, from the electric snap of Maui's hook to the thunderous lava monster, the crashing ocean waves, and the beat of the drums in the village. Surround usage is excellent, with a dynamic sound design that sees the coconut warriors flinging harpoons across your living room, and right at you, and LFE input is welcome.
Utterly immersive aural accompaniment
Of course it's the rousing score - peppered with just enough song tracks to win the hearts of the musical crowd, but nowhere near enough to put off the anti-musical crowd - that really drives the emotional weight and absolute passion behind the piece, sweeping you up in the wondrous adventure and helping engulf you in what is an utterly immersive aural offering. Again, it will be nice to see what difference immersive audio makes if Disney ever get on that train but, in the meantime, it's a superb demo track.
ExtrasDisney have gone over and above in the extras department, with a comprehensive package headlined by not one but two short movies, the distinctly European 'Inner Workings', which played before the film theatrically, and also a Maui mini-movie, Gone Fishing. There's a Deleted Song, Warrior Face, as well as almost half an hour of Deleted Scenes, although not all of this additional footage has complete effects work (the song is set to very simple animation). There's also the inferior Alessia Cara version of the How Far I'll Go song in music video form, and a more interesting medley of the song done in a variety of different languages.
A truly comprehensive package
The actual behind the scenes material is headed up by a strong Audio Commentary by the co-directors; a half-hour Documentary - Voice of the Islands - which looks at the impact the setting and culture had on the story; a short 2-part Featurette into the two leads and the musicians, dipping into their likes and dislikes; a 5 minute look at the costume design for the island villagers; a 4-part Featurette looking at the design of several key elements, including mini-Maui, the water, lava and hair; a Making-of the Music; and a Fishing for Easter Eggs Featurette with Auli'i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson themselves talking about a few little nods to other Disney/Pixar properties, in case you'd missed them.
Blu-ray VerdictMoana excels in all departments, a visually opulent wonder wrapped around a strong, witty script with a warm heart at its core
Disney's Moana Blu-ray release also excels in all departments, even before looking at its 3D guise, with a stunning 2D presentation, fabulous audio and a massive selection of tremendous extras, leaving this an absolute must-have for... EVERYBODY.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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