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Disney’s MOANA: A Reflection of Fatherhood and Adventurous Daughters


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Presented in collaboration with Life of Dad and The Walt Disney Company.

Not long into the first act of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Moana, there’s a scene where the young Polynesian princess (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) flat-out disobeys her father. As the leader of the island of Motunui, Chief Tui Waialiki (Temuera Morrison) maintains a firm, yet humble demeanor – looking after the care of his people, though nothing is more important to him than the well-being of his daughter.

His instruction to her (and the other residents of the island) was very clear: “You are not to travel beyond the reef.” Still, Moana took it upon herself to take a small boat too far out into the water, passing the reef and narrowly avoiding her own death when realizing that she was ill-prepared for the adventure at hand. She washed ashore, shaken, but still in one piece.

Sitting next to our oldest daughter, Addie, while watching Moana for the very first time, I turned to her with a nudge. “See, she didn’t listen to her daddy, and she almost ended up getting hurt.”

Moana with her parents...

Addie disobeys me (and her mommy) all the time.  While she agreed with me, flashing a smile and a nod, in her eyes, I knew she was inspired by Moana, a kindred spirit if I’ve ever seen one. There’s an adventurous spirit there, but one often driven by a desire to do good for others – something that cannot be stifled.

For Chief Tui, the issue is his daughter taking a boat past the reef. For me, it’s my daughters taking their bikes beyond the fourth house. As fathers, our intention is not to be “mean” or “restrictive” – we simply don’t want our children to be hurt. That cautious approach is the result of experience… Chief Tui sinking a boat as a young man, and I wrecking a bike as a child – hitting the pavement far beyond where my parents’ boundary line ended. When you’ve experienced trauma, the last thing you want is to see your children experience the same.

The sea of conflicting emotions can be hard to navigate for both parent and child, because great things are seldom accomplished by being overly cautious. Calculated risk, unpredictable adventure, and at times, pure luck are the paths to greatness.

“You are your father’s daughter
Stubbornness and pride
Mind what he says but remember
You may hear a voice inside
And if the voice starts to whisper
To follow the farthest star
Moana, that voice inside is
Who you are”
–lyrics from “Where You Are”

The wide-open ocean before Moana is very much akin to the looming world at large. In some ways, I think that Chief Tui may have had it easy. After all, he had one Moana… I have two of them.

I know that one day, my daughters will venture out to an unknown horizon, destined for bigger things, and that, despite my best efforts, I will be unable to protect them 100% of the time. What I can do is nurture them while they’re here, instilling in them my own “stubbornness and pride,” preparing them to take on the world in search of new experiences while keeping the love and strength of our “island” (home) in mind wherever their journey may take them.

Moana - Action Figures

On the surface, Disney’s Moana appears to be a story of a brave young girl on a path of self-discovery, fueled by the desire to help the residents of her island… and it is. But surrounding her adventures alongside the famed Demigod, Maui (Dwayne Johnson), is a story that feels much closer to home… an unexpected tale that many fathers will find very familiar.

Disney’s Moana is available now on Blu-ray and Digital HD.

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