Disney's latest animated film, Moana, will heavily feature South Pacific myths and culture, something rarely explored on film. The film centers on Moana, a born navigator who sets sail in search of a fabled island and teams up with the heroic demigod Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson. We've seen some posters and promotional images and recently got a teaser trailer giving us our first footage of the movie. While the trailer received lots of positive buzz, there is a group of people who has claimed that the film portrays negative stereotypes, specifically with the character Maui. These activists believe that Disney is misrepresenting their culture by making Maui severely overweight.


Maui in Polynesian mythology is a demigod who is responsible for many heroic feats, which include slowing down the sun and raising up the Hawaiian Islands from the ocean floor. That aspect of the character is represented in Moana, but several activists are taking issue with the way Maui looks. They believe that the character is too fat and that it portrays a negative stereotype about Polynesians. People collected a few statements from prominent figures in the South Pacific and why they had an issue with Disney's Maui. Jenny Salesa from the New Zealand Parliament had this to say:

When we look at photos of Polynesian men and women from the last 100 to 200 years, most of our people were not overweight, and this negative stereotype of Maui is just not acceptable.

Disney's version of Maui is certainly heavyset and it's understandable that people are speaking out to make sure their culture, which isn't represented often, is shown respectfully. Claims that Maui is "obese" like from that of Will Ilolahia from the Pacific Media Association may be a step too far, though, and it might be best to wait until more footage from the film is released. Maui in mythology is strong enough to stop the sun and the stockiness of the Disney version does convey that power. He looks both physically strong and confident.

Many people have come out to defend Disney on the appearance of Moana. Designer Louie Mantia pointed out that several Disney characters are portrayed as overweight like the Genie from Aladdin or Phil from Hercules. Samoan comic book artist Michel Mulipola also brought up that animation design is a big factor in conveying personality. He goes on to argue that Maui's "thick, solid build conveys power and strength."

We'll see how faithfully Disney will represent Polynesian culture when the film is released in the fall on November 23. Moana is directed by Disney veterans Ron Clements and John Musker and stars Dwayne Johnson and newcomer Auli'i Cravalho as Moana.

Of course, this isn't the first time Disney has dealt with controversy. The Mouse House is filled with seasoned veterans who have learned to handle outrage by now. In fact, they even dealt with some anger recently when the complaints about one of Star Wars' most famous pieces of memorabilia started to get louder and louder until Disney quietly made a big decision. Click over to the next page to get the full story...

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