Moana defies her father’s warnings not to swim the seas by venturing off on her journey to save her island, guided by a glowing greenstone amulet known as Te Fiti’s heart and restored in order to bring balance back into both ocean and world. At first the ocean is reluctant to part with this precious object but when Moana takes up this challenge she accepts eagerly.
This film contains many Polynesian references, such as using stars to navigate the sea – an act known as wayfinding that was practiced by ancient Polynesian explorers from Hawaii, Samoa and Tonga sailing around the globe, according to movie screenwriters Ron Clements and John Musker.
Moana sails throughout her story aboard an outrigger canoe inspired by Polynesian double-hulled voyaging crafts and on an outrigger canoe that recalls Armstrong Sperry’s historic 1928 journey across the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, she uses an outrigger canoe that was inspired by traditional Hawaiian double-hulled sailing vessels for passage across waters he encountered along his voyage.
Maui in Moana portrays himself like an arrogant demigod, raising his eyebrows often in a confident manner that nods toward Dwayne Johnson and his celebrity alter ego “The Rock”. The design team researched athletes with massive physiques for his character (Jemaine Clement voices him), yet his big ego leads him down an unfortunate path; Moana helps Maui realize his achievements over the years were due to his own strength and courage–not supernatural means.