Among the most difficult aspects of parenting is the matter of simply filling the hours in a day. Kids become bored after approximately twenty unstimulating minutes, so moms and dads have to constantly plan out diversions to keep their offspring occupied. Disney just did the parents of America a real solid, however. Animated movies have long been a go-to option for parents hoping to run out the clock, and they’ll be able to go back to Moana for seconds later this month, when the film re-enters theaters for a one-day sing-along engagement.
Consider this the calm before the storm. Next weekend, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will open and dominate both the box office and every headline, drowning out each and every other movie currently screening in theaters. In the meantime, Moana took advantage of this quiet window to win one more strong weekend while Office Christmas Party got off to a pretty good start.
The box office success of Moana feels like destiny: an old school Disney formula plus 21st century polish plus great songs plus the mere presence of Dwayne Johnson and near-universal critical notices is a surefire recipe for success...
It seems to me that Moana brought in two very different audiences this holiday weekend. For some, Moana was the newest entry in a long line of Disney princess movies and a step in the right direction for the studio in terms of inclusiveness and empowering young women. For others, it was a chance to cure their Lin-Manuel Miranda withdrawals after the turnover of the Hamilton cast and the end of the regular Ham4Ham sidewalk performances. That probably explains the odd mix of millennials and children at the recent matinee you attended.
Like many of the shorts that play before Disney and Pixar’s latest animated films, the one attached to Moana — Inner Workings — shares some similarities with the feature it precedes. Both are stories that explore the familiar conflict between head and heart; between pursuing one’s passions and begrudgingly submitting to practicality. Oh, and they both feature the ocean. Moana also shares a few similarities with other Disney films (like Finding Dory, it also has a hilariously stupid bird), but it could benefit from having a little more in common with Frozen.