Disney’s latest offering, Moana, is entirely original, making a change from their current penchant for remakes or reimaginings. The movie tells the story of the titular heroine from the island of Motunui who sets out to find the demigod Maui and restore the heart of Te Fiti, in order to save the island and people she will one day rule. Moana introduces newcomer Auli’i Cravalho as the voice of the young future chief, and stars Dwayne Johnson as Maui. With music from Lin-Manuel Miranda, and bright, vivid animation, Moana looks appealing enough, but it’s often hard to predict how an entirely original movie will perform at the box office.
Disney need not worry, though; The Wrap reports that in its Tuesday opening, Moana pulled in a very impressive $2.6 million at the domestic box office, smashing the previous Tuesday opening record which was held by Pixar’s A Good Dinosaur with $1.3 million. By comparison, Disney’s Zootopia opened to $1.7 million on a Thursday, while Frozen, which went on to gross nearly $400 million in the U.S. and Canada, took only $1.2 million on its opening night.
However, Frozen fever quickly took hold, and as word spread about the quality of the film, more and more families flocked to the movies. The same could well happen with Moana; reviews are strong, with particular praise for the soundtrack and its original narrative. With the Thanksgiving holiday being a prime time for movie theaters, Moana is expected to surpass $75 million this week, with some predicting takings of over $80 million. Disney is hedging its bets, slightly, with predictions of $70 million instead.
It is perhaps a sign that audiences do still appreciate this side of Disney; the original animated movies that rely upon a tried and tested formula with just enough tweaks and twists to make each one fresh and fun. Like Frozen, Moana introduces a strong female presence, this time in the form of young Moana, who has no love interest in the movie and is instead focusing on being the chosen leader of her island. She also, refreshingly, has a healthy and strong physique that is much more in keeping with a young explorer than the figures animators have traditionally given to their princesses.
It seems as though Disney have once again managed to deliver an animated movie that will capture the imaginations (and wallets) of many. Though Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Doctor Strange are both performing well at the box office, Moana is more inclusive than either of these, which both carry a PG-13 rating. Its PG certificate is more family friendly, and of course, if families with young children are going to see a movie over a holiday weekend, then they’re more likely to pick a Disney movie over any of the other films on offer this weekend.