Moana appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. As expected, this became an excellent presentation.
Sharpness worked well, as the movie boasted consistently detailed elements. No softness emerged in this tight, accurate presentation. I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. The flick also lacked any print flaws.
Given the tropical orientation, the film boasted a broad palette. and The movie showed these colors in a vivid manner and gave us lively tones. Blacks seemed dark and deep, while shadows appeared smooth and clear. Everything about the transfer pleased.
The movie’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack seemed less impressive, but it still worked well for the most part. The most prominent scenes involved segments on the ocean, so these opened up the spectrum nicely. Battles also broadened horizons in an exciting way and offered a strong impression of action, with calamity in all the various channels.
Other natural environments presented a good sense of place. Parts of the track seemed less then exciting, but a lot of it became vivid and compelling.
Audio quality seemed good, though the track lacked strong low-end. Even with scenes that should’ve boasted impressive bass, the mix sounded a little anemic.
While not devoid of low-end material, the track didn’t present the dynamic punch I expected – honestly, I started to wonder if my subwoofer was on the fritz. It wasn’t, but the movie’s soundtrack simply failed to present much oomph, so bass was acceptable but less impactful than anticipated.
Speech was distinctive and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music was perky, while effects appeared accurate, even without a lot of low-end material. The relative lack of bass became a minor disappointment, but the track was still reasonably good.
When we move to extras, we launch with an audio commentary from director John Musker and Ron Clements. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the project's development, story/characters/themes, cast and performances, score and songs, research, visual design and animation, and related domains.
Veterans of the format all the way back to the 1990s, Musker and Clements know their way around an audio commentary, and their ease with the structure shows. The directors give us a nice array of details and humor as they cover their film. This becomes an engaging and informative chat.
A short that ran before theatrical screenings of Moana, Inner Workings runs six minutes, 26 seconds. A man’s internal organs wage war as he debates various paths of action to take, with an emphasis on the battle between heart and brain. While semi-clever, this feels derivative and not tremendously entertaining.
A quick 48-second introduction appears prior to Workings. Director Leo Matsuda and producer Sean Lurie tell us a little about the cartoon in this brief lead-in.
Called Gone Fishing, a “Maui Mini-Movie” lasts two minutes, 29 seconds. In it, the demi-god pursues seafood. This short seems cute but not better than that.
Next comes a featurette called Voice of the Islands. It fills 31 minutes, 13 seconds with info from Clements, Musker, producer Osnat Shurer, anthropologist/filmmaker Dionne Fonoti, songwriter Opetaia Foa’i, traditional voyaging canoe captain Fealofani Bruun, master navigator Nainoa Thompson, head of animation Amy Lawson Smeed, Tahitian cultural practitioner Hinano Murphy, casting director Fiona Collins, choreographer Tiana Nonosina Liufau, Haka choreographer Layne Hannemann, master tattooist Su’a Peter Sulu’ape, natural historian Francis Murphy, and actors Dwayne Johnson and Aul’l Cravalho.
“Islands” looks at research, with an emphasis on visits to Pacific locations and how this information became incorporated into the film. Some of this becomes compelling, but a lot of “Islands” simply feels self-congratulatory. The show feels like it exists mainly to tell us how hard those involved worked to make the movie authentic.
Under Things You Didn’t Know About, we get two segments: “Ron, John, Auli’i and Dwayne” (2:02) and “Mark, Opetaia and Lin-Manuel” (1:58). In the first, we hear from Clements, Musker, Cravalho, and Johnson, while the second presents thoughts from Foa’i and composers Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
In these short clips, the participants answer various goofy questions about what they ate for breakfast, their favorite Disney songs and the like. “Know” seems trivial but short enough not to wear out its welcome.
Next comes the five-minute, 13-second Island Fashion. It delivers comments from costume designer Neysa Bove as she discusses – surprise! – the clothes used in the film. Bove brings us a quick but insightful look at the topic.
The Elements Of… breaks into four pieces: “Mini-Maui” (3:34), “Water” (4:39), “Lava” (2:56) and “Hair” (3:05). These present notes from Smeed, lead of characters and technical animation Carlos Cabral, visual effects supervisor Kyle Odermatt, hand-drawn animation supervisor Eric Goldberg, associate technical supervisors Sean Z. Palmer and Brett Achorn, co-head of effects animation Marlon West, effects leads Erin V. Ramos and Marc Henry Bryant, senior software engineer Alexey Dmitrievich Stomakhin, effects lead David Hutchins, animation supervisor Jennifer Hager, senior software engineers Brian Whited and Maryanne Simmons, simulation technology team’s Aleka McAdams and Toby Jones, and technical animation supervisor Mark Empey.
With these four clips, we get notes about various animation areas, with an emphasis on technological challenges. The featurettes offer informative thoughts about these issues.
After this, we find They Know The Way. It runs 12 minutes, 37 seconds and presents info from Mancina, Miranda, Foa’i, Shurer, and Pasifika Voices choir director Igelese Ete.
As expected, “Way” covers aspects of the music used in the film. Also as expected, it tends to be fluffy and full of praise, but it still delivers a reasonable number of insights.
Cut material appears next. We get a Deleted Song called “Warrior Face” (3:41) as well as seven Deleted Scenes (25:56). Note that the running times include a “Song” intro from Miranda and “Scenes” intros from Musker and Clements.
The song shows a piece where Maui and Moana practice their intimidating “warrior faces”. It’s not a very interesting sequence or song, so I’m glad it got the boot.
As for the scenes, they mostly focus on young Moana, so the majority of the sequences would’ve appeared in the film’s first act. A few offer intriguing details – such as what happened to Moana’s grandfather – and they can be mildly interesting, but most feel like unnecessary exposition.
Trivia tidbits pop up in the two-minute, 52-second Fishing for Easter Eggs. Hosted by Auli’i Cravalho, we get glimpses of little secrets hidden in the movie. I like this enjoyable feature.
We find two music videos for “How Far I’ll Go”. The first uses the version from the film by Alessia Cara, as it shows the singer while she wanders a beach and lip-synchs. It’s a decent song but a boring video, and what’s with all the Autotune?
Another option lets us see “’How Far I’ll Go’ Around the World”. This two-minute, 44-second reel lets us hear snippets of the song in a variety of languages. It becomes a fun addition.
The disc opens with an ad for Beauty and the Beast (2017). Sneak Peeks adds promos for Descendants 2, Elena of Avalor and Cars 3. No trailer for Moana appears here.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Moana. It includes the commentary, Inner Workings and the music video.
In the Disney pantheon, Moana seems perfectly, completely okay. With many elements that borrow from other films, it lacks much originality and it turns into a watchable but not especially inventive experience. The Blu-ray offers excellent visuals with acceptable audio and a pretty good set of supplements. While enjoyable, Moana lacks creative spark.