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In the depths of the Finnish winter, people dream of sunnier climes; a beach perhaps somewhere in the South Pacific, where exotic fruit hangs from sagging branches and the sun doesn’t dip below the horizon until well past 16:00.
Vaiana takes her audience to just such a place, a place where most people in the frigid Nordic countries would love to go. Set several thousand years ago, during an unexplained period in Polynesian culture where exploration abruptly stopped, Vaiana gently touches on this phenomenon, while focusing on the protagonist, Vaiana, the daughter of a chief of a tribe of settled hunter-gatherers.
Vaiana is the heir apparent to this village, which while lovingly nestled on a lush island, trouble is afoot as vegetation and fish stocks are beginning to dry up. Against her father’s wishes, but with the help of her Grandmother’s spirit, Vaiana seeks to change the fortune of her people by correcting a misdeed by a well-meaning demi-god done a thousand years ago. In order for this plan to work, Vaiana had to find this demi-god, played by Dwayne Johnson, and encourage him to join her on this epic of journeys.
The film is fast paced, but not at a break-neck speed. The jokes are gentle and appropriate for all audiences, as are the action scenes. As the action increases in intensity, it still keeps a lid on anything that small children might find especially frightening.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a much more engrossing watch than any episode of Dora the Explorer, all members of the family will enjoy it, regardless of age. As a born and bred Disney fan, I was delighted by the crew bringing along Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame to co-write the songs that were catchy, yet less memorable than those from the Frozen soundtrack.
However, like Frozen, it brought the concept of women in leadership roles to the forefront in a positive manner. Vaiana is a must see for fans of Disney animation and for those that want a trip to the tropics and only have the price of a movie ticket.