I Am Moana

Disney Moana Movie Movie Review Pacific Island


Photo Credit: Slant Magazine

When I was a teenager, my favourite cartoon was Pocahontas.  I watched it at the movies, I bought the video and the CD, which I listened to regularly and sat in my room singing along to the lyrics.  I may or may not still sit and have a Pocahontas sing along once a year.  I felt such a strong connection to Pocahontas at that time.  I have no Native American heritage, so there was no direct correlation for this bond.  I didn’t have a forbidden love or a pet raccoon, so the connection wasn’t because I could relate to what Pocahontas was experiencing.  My connection was based solely on the fact that she looked like me.  Yes, there is the slight difference in height, weight and hair type, but we shared the same skin tone and at that time in my life that was almost unheard of.

At that time the world offered me movies and television featuring white people or stereotypical African American gang bangers and kung fu fighters.  There were no shortish women with thick thighs, curly hair and honey brown skin that I could relate to, but Pocahontas was the next best thing.

Movie Ticket

I recently watched Moana with my family.  By family I mean my mum, my adult siblings and partners and all our children.  We took up two rows and even had a special ticket because our group was so big.  My connection to Moana was more than sharing similar physical qualities; we are both very beautiful.  As a Pacific Islander Moana shared similar legends, the island life, family relations, food, pets, a love of the ocean and a history of voyaging ancestors.  When I watched the cartoon, I was Moana not just the girl who saw a pretty brown face on the screen and thought aww cool. 

When we returned home the children sang the songs they heard and recited the movie lines.  Then they asked questions about the legends of the Pacific, how they sailed without a GPS and if we were related to the Rock.  Not only did they relate to Moana, but the movie was a catalyst to them wanting to learn more about who they are and where they came from.

Whether we are Samoan, Tongan, Tokelauan, Maori or Hawaiian we should all be proud of our Pacific heritage and strive to use the Moana movie as a starting point for learning and teaching opportunities to ensure our cultures continue in whichever land we have voyaged to. 

Morwenna Petaia

I am Morwenna of Samoa and I am the future of our island, are you?


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  • Jo Ioane on

    I’m a palagi married to a Samoan. I loved Moana, but especially loved seeing my girls’ reaction to it. Yes, they are also Moana. Finally a Disney princess that looks like and is them! I loved that Moana showed a strong, brave girl who did something significant to help her people. WIthout needing a boyfriend. My girls have always identified proudly as Samoan, but now they are prouder than ever. And more curious than ever to learn more. Love it!

  • Ruby on

    I liked reading your perspective! Bringing up Pocahontas as the next best thing for seeing yourself at that time highlighted a lot of our islander experience in media in that many of us esp in childhood had to grasp for anything that vaguely resembled us. Also, I had a sense of pride too when I finally saw Moana bc for a change I did not see a vague similarity – I saw my reflection. As u stated, Moana is a great starting point for us to discuss our Oceania culture. In answer to your question posed at the end, Yes me too :)

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