Moana is a Disney film that opened in 2016 to critical acclaim. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, it features an adventurous teenager named Moana living on a Polynesian island in ancient times. The plot follows the track of self-discovery and self-realization, as Moana finds her true leadership qualities through her perils.
The story starts with grandmother Tala telling a tale about Te Fiti, the mother island. The mother island can bring islands to life through her heart. The shapeshifting demigod Maui steals the heart of Te Fiti as a stunt to get attention from his parents. The mother island starts to deteriorate, and issues forth a demon named Te Ka. Te Ka eventually knocks away Maui and the heart of Te Fiti is lost. The story ends by Tala telling children that Te Ka and his army are still looking for the heart of Te Fiti, and that one day someone will have to find the heart to restore peace in the world.
After the story is told, Moana goes down to the beach. She notices that a baby turtle is being attacked by birds, and protects it. She takes the baby turtle to the water, and many beautiful seashells are revealed as a wave ripples back. As she starts collecting the seashells, a wave rises up and starts to play with her. She sees a green stone coming towards her and she takes it in her hand. However, her father, Chief Tui, calls her to come and she drops the stone. Before she can pick it up again, her father takes her back to the village.
A fast forward starts to happen in that we are shown Moana learning more about how to be a chief from her father, and her grandmother Tala teaching her about her spiritual side. Moana is conflicted, as she wants to be near the ocean at all times, but she has many duties as a chief’s daughter. When finally Moana is shown to be a teenager, her father takes her up to a sacred mountain where a pile a stones symbolize each chief. Her father tells her that she will one day place her stone there.
Moana is shown to help out around the village with chiefly duties. Soon, a low amount of fish are being hauled in, though. Moana suggests to her father they should fish beyond the reef, but her father does not agree with this idea and gets angry over the suggestion. Her father wants her to stay as close as possible to the island in order to not be harmed by evil forces. Moana’s mother, Sina, tells Moana that her father does not want her to go beyond the reef, as her father once got caught in a terrible storm while sailing and people drowned. Sina instructs Moana to do what her heart feels, despite the protest of her father.
Moana tries to go out beyond the reef with her pet pig. A huge wave eventually turns over the canoe and she barely makes it back alive. After this experience, Moana feels like quitting her ideas of fishing beyond the reef, but is intrigued by grandmother Tala’s diffidence. Tala shows Moana a small passageway that leads to a big room with canoes, boats, and a waterfall. Moana is then instructed by Tala to beat a drum, and when she does, images of her ancestors appear on a sail of a ship. Moana learns that her people were once voyagers, but stopped sailing when they knew the forces of evil were around. Tala then shows Moana a place on the island that is now desolate, and hands Moana the green stone she saw in her childhood. Tala tells Moana that she must restore the heart of Te Fiti, and then the ocean starts playing Moana as it once did when she was a child. In addition, Tala shows a constellation where Maui is, and tells her to go there to meet him.
Inspired, Moana goes to her father and collective of elders of the village. She tells them that she will go out and restore the heart of Te Fiti in order to save her people from hunger. Her father gets angry and throws the green stone in the bushes, but Moans retrieves it. However, she finds out that Tala is now lying in bed sick. She once again tells Moana to take the heart to Te Fiti, and hands her a special necklace to insert the green stone in. Tala’s last words are that she will always be with her. Sina helps her daughter pack for the trip, while Moana gets a canoe from the secret cavern. She sets out, and successfully makes it out of the reef, following Tala’s spirit acting as a guide, in the shape of a manta ray.
Moana sails safely for a while, but at night, a storm comes and knocks her boat over. She is washed ashore on a rocky island, and wakes up the next morning there. She realizes that the ocean brought her to the right island, and she meets Maui. At first she is afraid of him, but they start to talk and Maui sings a song about how great he is. Maui then tricks Moana by walking to his cavern and locking her in there, while he speeds away on her canoe. Moana finds a way out of the cavern and start swimming towards Maui on the canoe. The ocean picks Moana up and puts her on the boat. Maui is frustrated by this, and throws her overboard many times—but the ocean keep putting her back on the boat. Moana then demands Maui to aid her in restoring the heart of Te Fiti.
While Maui and Moana argue over the green stone and its importance, a ship full of nasty, miniature pirates start attacking the canoe and them. The green stone comes out of the necklace during the battle, but Moana’s pet chicken gobbles up the stone. Maui and Moana almost get killed, but luckily two ships of these pirates crash into each other during the confusion and flurry of battle. They escape on the canoe through a cloud of blow darts.
When safe, Moana convinces Maui to help her, as she says Maui will become the demigod he used to be. Maui said first they need to get his hook, a magical weapon. Moana ask Maui for sailing lessons, but he refuses. However, the ocean shoots a leftover dart at Maui and paralyzes him—he then agrees to teach her how to sail. They go to a tall spire in the middle of ocean, and Maui says it is where the realm of the monsters is. He further explains that he thinks a certain monster has his magical hook there.
When they reach the lair of Tamatoa, a big creature who collects shiny things, Maui uses Moana as bait while Maui shapeshifts in order to elusively find his hook. However, Maui has not shapeshifted in a long time, and he cannot control it well. Tamatoa realizes what Maui is doing, and captures Moana, and goes after Maui. Moana takes iridescent algae and tells Tamatoa that it is the heart of Te Fiti, and the creature gets distracted. Maui and Moana escape through by the force of a geyser while Tamatoa is entranced by the fake heart of Te Fiti.
Back on the surface, Maui says that even with his hook, he believes he is no match for Te Ka, and describes how he became a demigod, despite being born human. Moana encourages him and Maui starts to practice shapeshifting again. In the course of practicing this art, Maui teaches Moana to sail even more, and they arrive to Te Fiti through his guidance.
As they approach Te Fiti, Te Ka rises up to confront them. Maui changes into a hawk and tries to bring the heart to Te Fiti. But Te Ka is too much for him and he smashes him down in the water. Maui gets back on the boat, and Te Ka attacks their boat. Maui blocks the attack, but the force from the confrontation sends them flying far away. After they land in a remote place, Maui notices that his hook is severely damaged, and in anger, he turns into a hawk and flies away.
Moana is sad about Maui leaving, and decides to drop the green stone in the water so that someone else can do this task. Tala’s spirit comes back and comforts her, stating that if she wants to go home, she will come with her. But Moana realizes that her village is in danger and she must try to help them. At this point, the spirits of her ancestors appear, and she dives into the ocean to retrieve the green stone. With renewed zest for the task at hand, she sails towards Te Fiti.
She sneaks around islands while trying to get to Te Fiti, and Te Ka gets enraged. Te Ka makes a huge wave and knocks over Moana’s canoe, and sends a fiery blast her way. In the nick of time, Maui appears and block the blast. While Maiu engages Te Ka, Moana goes to Te Fiti. Strangely, she finds that the island is no longer visible, and looks back at Te Ka, who has a spiral symbol on its chest that matches the green stone. Moana understands that the Goddess has transformed into Te Ka, and she raises the green stone, as it starts to shine. This catches the attention of Te Ka, and Moana asks the ocean to clear the way so she can reach Te Ka. The enraged goddess rushes towards Moana, but Moana stays calm and sings a song to calm Te Ka down. As Te Ka comes closer to the green stone, it relaxes and Moana inserts the heart of Te Fiti into the goddess. The goddess transforms in a lush green person, and restores the island in all of its beauty. After this, Maui apologizes for taking the heart, and the goddess gives him a new hook, and Moana a new canoe. Te Fiti lays down to rest after 1,000 years of struggle.
Moana offers Maui to teach her people sailing, but he says she already knows everything to teach her people and leaves. Moana returns to her island, now full of greenery and plentiful in food supplies. The ocean gives her a pink seashell and she places it on top of the mountain where tribal leaders are represented. The end scene is her sailing with her village people, with Tala’s spirit and Maui at her side.