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‘Moana’ Is Basically ‘The Little Mermaid’ In Reverse

moana theory

Time for another Moana theory.

A while back, someone on Tumblr wrote a fan theory about Disney movies (shocker), and it’s actually worth consideration (other shocker). The idea is that Disney’s Moana is almost a perfect inverse of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and let’s not forget that both films were directed by the same duo: Ron Clements and John Musker.

What do we mean by these two movies being the same, but also not at all? Well, it’s not a perfect theory in practice, but it does say something interesting about how creative teams can recycle old ideas in ways that still feel new. You can watch this entire Little Mermaid / Moana theory as a video on Screen Junkies News, or keep reading to get my personal take.

From the video:

Tumblr user Intergalactic-Ashkenazi noticed something strange about Moana. Basically, it’s the same story as The Little Mermaid, except every detail is flipped.

Now it’s certainly not every detail, but you can easily cherry pick a few compelling examples. And there are enough of them to argue that this Moana theory is at least somewhat intentional.

Moana and Ariel are both daughters of overbearing, powerful leaders.

I almost reacted, “Well, aren’t most Disney princess movies?” But that’s actually not the case when you think about it. Pocahontas comes close, but most other Disney “father characters” that are even around range in personalities from silly (Aladdin) to wise (The Lion King).

The video doesn’t directly mention this, but the immediate “reverse” for King Triton and Chief Tui is that one fears the land and the other fears the sea. Also, one is mortal and the other has a wicked trident.

But where Ariel is a sea-bound princess longing to venture onto land, Moana is a landlocked princess longing to venture on the sea.

Counterpoint: the directors copied their own homework but made enough changes to keep it from looking obvious.

Ariel goes to a “big scary ocean lady” who turns out to be evil.

Turns out? I don’t think anyone expected Ursula to be good, but I guess the point is that to Ariel, she seemed good, which only makes Ariel continue to look like an outright moron. The best inverse is probably how Moana turns out to be a way better protagonist.

While Moana goes to a “big scary land lady” who turns out to be good.

At first, I thought the idea was that Maui is the inverse of Ursula, but instead it’s saying that Te Kā fits the bill, which I think is correct. If you go further with this, you can say that Moana seeks out a man for help finding the female villain, while Ariel seeks out the female villain for help finding a man. Or something.

Both movies have a magical necklace with a spiral engraved on it. In The Little Mermaid it belongs to the villain, while in Moana it belongs to the hero.

This one’s slightly more of a stretch because the whole “reverse” thing seems selective at this point. On the one hand, the spirals on both objects actually seem to be the reverse of each other (different placement and one’s a shell while the other resembles a wave). And one’s a macguffin while the other is more of a “power.” On the other hand…was the “heart” in Moana ever a necklace? And is green the inverse of…yellow?

I’m officially overthinking this.

The Little Mermaid has a “small good crab,” where Moana has a “big evil crab.”

The video of course shows Sebastian from The Little Mermaid side-by-side with Tamatoa, the crab who sings “Shiny.” This matches up perfectly. Moana theory saved.

In [The Little Mermaid] a human sings about eating the crab. While in [Moana] the crab sings about eating a human.

You could also argue that Clements and Musker are big fans of dramatic irony that spans across their movies. Both theories are probably correct, and some good evidence for this one in particular is the fact that Tamatoa actually makes a joke about how a crab described like Sebastian is more likable than him in a scene after the end credits.

Moana returns to her people and leads them to a new life on the sea. Where Ariel leaves her ocean family for a new life on land.

Also, Moana has no love interest. In fact, you can read this easily as a shuffling of tropes just as easily as you would some big conspiracy. Moana’s mentor, Maui, is a god, while Ariel’s mentor, Sebastian, is the crab. Ariel’s father is the god, the Kakamora are…things…and so on.

But perhaps the most important detail…

What? What is it? What is this clincher?!

The Little Mermaid sings on a rock, while in Moana the Rock sings to her.

I’ll admit, I laughed out loud at this, but only after having a miniature personal crisis of faith. And that’s the Little Mermaid is basically the reverse of Moana theory. Chime in with your own examples of how this theory holds up (or doesn’t) in the suggestion box below.


Thanks for reading this. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my Mailing List.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni


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Top 7 Movies of 2012

Image Courtesy of Fanart.tv

This was a fantastic year for movies, so I just had to make a list. Keep in mind that these are the movies I personally enjoyed the most and may not be for everyone. I did leave out some great movies on this list, so I will be doing honorable mentions at the very bottom.

7. Rise of the Guardians (PG)

Image courtesy of catholicexchange.com

What? Pixar didn’t make my favorite animated movie list? Honestly, Brave didn’t even beat out Hotel Transylvania for me. I found it bland, boring, and ultimately underwhelming, especially for a Pixar film. No, Rise of the Guardians makes this list because it simply was the most enjoyable animated film I saw this year. It could have easily been a contrived mess, cashing in on the exciting premise of seeing Santa, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost and the Tooth Fairy fighting the Boogeyman. Thankfully, the movie has some great storytelling behind it thanks to the series of books it’s based upon, making it an action-packed kid’s movie with some interesting, sometimes deep themes. Plus, it was great to see The Sandman actually being the “strongest” of the guardians. Definitely glad I went out and saw this one.

6. Dark Knight Rises (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of Gawker

What a great way to conclude a trilogy. I have to admit that I wasn’t as impressed as everyone else with The Dark Knight, but I more than appreciated how well they crafted such a phenomenon. I had my doubts that DKR would even manage to come close to meeting expectations fans had for this film, but I was pleasantly surprised. Put simply, the movie did it for me. It had plenty of flaws and gaping plot-holes, but it was still an enjoyable ride from start to finish, and they managed to end the trilogy in a way that pleases pretty much everyone. I call that a win.

5. Les Miserables (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of aceshowbiz.com

What more can I say besides the fact that Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman were so good at their roles that absolutely everything else I disliked about the movie pretty much meant nothing because, holy crap, I got to see some of the best acting of the year done to a musical. See this in theaters while you can.

4. Chronicle (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of Best Movies Ever News

What a fantastic movie this turned out to be. At a time when we’re getting bombarded with the “handheld camera” style of filmmaking (Paranormal Activity 4 anyone?), I was relieved to see a studio really nail it with Chronicle. The movie already wins points on not being an adaptation or sequel. It was just an ambitious project that was filmed extremely well and ended up being one of my favorite movies of the year. It worked because it was simple and well-executed with believable characters and, of course, the powers these kids used evolved from entertaining to epic, making the final battle scene one of the best superhero finales I can say I’ve seen.

3. Ted (R)

Image Courtesy of filmofilia.comI hate Family Guy these days. Ever since the end of season 6, I have been extremely disappointed with the show and have completely given up on it. Sure, I watch episodes every so often to “check-in” and see if the show has managed to fix whatever it is that they broke. Hasn’t happened yet, but maybe that’s why I enjoyed Ted so much. Seth McFarlane, the mastermind (and pretty much every voice) behind Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show produced this movie, and it really was like the spirit and humor of past Family Guy were revived. Ted was easily the most funny movie I saw this year, and the reasons it worked go beyond the humor. Just look at how they handled Mila Kunis, who we probably should have hated but ended up empathizing with. The casting was the most well-done aspect of this film, with Ted becoming one of this year’s biggest new stars. Not bad for a teddy bear.

2. Skyfall (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of Collider

I’ve been an avid fan of the James Bond franchise since I was old enough to watch them back when Goldeneye came out. To be honest, however, I haven’t enjoyed a Bond film (with the exception of Casino Royale, though even that was disappointing in part) since The World is Not Enough back when I was just 9 years old. The charm and mind-splitting plot of James Bond just hasn’t been there until we received Skyfall, a Bond movie that finally took some serious risks. They say that Bond films are most successful when they reflect the taste of the times. This is why Cold-War, macho villainy, and gadget hi-jinks were so popular back in the baby boomer days. Now, we’ve finally received a Bond film that adapts to the audiences of today. It was a fantastic action film that utilized the gritty realism and introspection we have come to expect thanks to Christopher Nolan. The villain ended up being the best movie villain of the year, I’d say, thanks to a brilliant performance by Sam Mendes. Just the fact that Skyfall actually took the risk of showing us a more emotional Bond without polarizing what makes him iconic is a testament to how well this film was made. 

1. The Avengers (PG-13)

I just enjoyed this film the most, okay? It wasn’t the most well-made film that came out this year. It wasn’t the best story. It didn’t have the best special effects. It didn’t have the best characters. Still, this was the most fun, escapism movie I saw this year. I lost myself in watching some of my favorite movie heroes fighting alongside each other against my favorite villain from their string of movies. I laughed and cheered alongside hundreds of people watching this movie, which is an experience I’ll never forget. When I think back, I waited four years for this movie, starting with Iron Man, so I easily could have been disappointed if just one of the characters fell flat. Not the case. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk lived up to my expectations perfectly. Thank you Marvel Studios.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Argo
  • Lincoln
  • Django Unchained
  • The Hobbit
  • Cabin in the Woods
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Wreck-it Ralph
  • Looper
  • Life of Pi

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

Why Being “All Over The Place” Is Forgiveable

Portlandia "Mind-Fi"

Correction: can be forgivable.

The above image is an excerpt from one of my favorite sketches on the show, Portlandia, which you can watch for free here, or watch the whole series on Netflix (which you should.)

In the sketch, Fred Armisen’s character overloads from literally being all over the place with his gadgets, being unable to focus on just one thing.

A common line of wisdom is that a jack of everything is a master of none. I submit to that thinking, but as always,

There are exceptions to every rule. 

Friends and colleagues routinely approach me about starting their own blogs looking for tips on building and sustaining a large audience. One of the first things I say is that they need to zero in on a niche topic, which is popular advice. More people are willing to subscribe to your work if they know what they’re getting into.

Tech expert? Done. Poetry? Done. Movie critic? Why not.

When I give that advice, however, I am sometimes pointed out to the fact that my blog is, in fact, all over the place. I blog about almost anything and am unapologetic about it. So, why don’t I follow my own rule?

To be honest, I did at first and try to have a basic foundation for everything I write. Typically, my topics have to do with branding, social media, PR, and writing. That’s still a little all over the place, but at least they have some things in common. I then have all of my posts, such as this, that are completely random, but I manage to get away with it, leaving others asking why and how.

It’s simple. If your goal is not to build an audience, you are pretty much free to write about whatever you want. Maybe it will catch on. Maybe it won’t. My own goal has always been to help people by sharing my own thoughts and insights into things that interest me.

This is riskier, because chances are people won’t like you enough to keep coming back. It happens. You just have to make sure that your fantastic personality is shining through at all times, and just hope for the best that people like what they read. If nothing else, here is one big takeaway:

If something honestly interests you, it’s far more easier for you to make it interesting to other people.

That seems like a no-brainer, but it’s a healthy reminder.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

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