J'can animator brushes off 'Moana' criticism

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November 23, 2016
Actor Dwayne Johnson (Maui) and Auli'i Cravalho (who voices Moana) arrive at the 2016 AFI Fest where they attended the movie's world premiere at El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles recently. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
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Disney's latest animated film 'Moana', about a brave Polynesian teeanger, is expected to be another hit when it opens in Jamaica today.

But there has been criticism of how one of the characters, the demigod Maui, was portrayed. The character is depicted as being almost obese, a physical trait some consider a stereotype of people from the Pacific.

But Jamaica-born Ian Gooding, production designer for the movie, said the comments are coming from persons who have not seen the film.

"Anytime someone is trying to tell a story about something that's not their own, people are going to be a little bit wary of that," he said.

Gooding noted that Maui, voiced by wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson, is not a "real guy".

"He's a pan-Pacific character, so every island in the Pacific has some version of Maui, and they're all different. So we're not trying to be definitive," he said.

Gooding said Disney couldn't be 'real' because the actual Polynesian people of the time may not have been wearing clothes, unlike the ones in the film.

"But we can't really do a movie like that," he laughed.

He admitted that there were departures from what historians would consider 'the truth', including the design of the boats. He explained that the final look was the result of an amalgamation of different cultures.

"The fact is, nothing remains from 2,000 years ago. We have some artefacts that Captain Cook (of Pocahontas fame) brought back to England in the late 1800s. That's about as old as it gets as far any kind of real research, as far as costumes and things like that," Gooding explained.

He said much of the representation is conjecture, but the Disney team did its best projection of what they feel the time would have looked like, with the greatest respect shown to the culture.

"We had a group of people that we called the Pacific Trust, who are people from that region. We talked to a lot of people, and the people who were involved in the movie were all very happy with it."

Gooding admitted that while he would have liked if everyone loved the movie, he knows that's "impossible.

"I don't think there's anything done that didn't get some sort of naysayer involved somewhere."

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