What’s a Disney movie without a little controversy, right? Remember the good old days, when movies like “Herbie the Love Bug” and “The Apple Dumpling Gang” came out of Disney scandal-free? Ah, the good old days.
And so the sun-soaked “Moana,” Disney’s new story about an adventurous teenager on a daring journey to save her people, washes ashore — and not without some drama. Case in point: Some people feel that Disney’s interpretation of the legendary demigod named Maui in the film is offensive. Specifically, he’s too large.
It’s a hero kids can look up to.
Apparently, it’s a case of stereotypical fat-shaming.
Can this controversy stall the latest Disney product at the starting gate? With a soundtrack provided by the guy who gave us “Hamilton”? Not likely.
After the release of the trailer — way back when “Finding Dory” hit theaters — many were quick to point out just how big Maui (as voiced by People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” himself, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is, and how it seemed to be reinforcing a negative stereotype directed toward Polynesian men and women.
That stereotype is, evidently, that all men and women of Polynesian descent are naturally overweight or obese. Yep, the same vocal fringe who want a gay Disney lead character in an animated film so badly seem to believe that Polynesians in media are often portrayed as large, lazy, and unhealthy.
The chorus of “Like most stereotypes, this one is reductive, offensive, and an inaccurate portrayal of the majority of Polynesian people” began — but to mostly uninterested ears. No real takers. Least of all “The Rock,” who sees his latest film as an exciting opportunity for the world to see Polynesian culture up close, a culture he has proclaimed “few know about.”
The film also stars 15-year-old Auli’i Cravalho, a Hollywood newcomer, who got the gig after a massive casting call in her native Hawaii. She beat out known Hollywood commodities for the role and is ecstatic about the very same thing as Johnson: introducing the rest of the world to her upbringing.
Adding to it all is that pesky lore surrounding the Maui character — his description often changes depending on which mythology you’re looking at. However, he is usually depicted as a tall and muscular man, which would explain why some were not very happy with Disney’s version, which is more accurately described as big and round.
Defenders have emerged (on social media anyway), saying that Disney is merely seeking to inspire those “big-boned” fans, giving kids a hero they can look up to, which would be pandering basically, plus also give them much more credit than they are due.
Maui, because he is voiced by the enormous Dwayne Johnson, first has to sync up as a character to the actor who is voicing him — to “fit.” From there, animators typically strive for something comical, in this case the demigod’s self-awareness. Disney’s Maui is quite certain he is surrounded by people in awe of him at all times, a comedic feat the ever-popular “Rock” mastered eons ago.
In other words, a Gilbert Gottfried-voiced Maui would probably look decidedly different than the Dwayne Johnson one.