There are spoilers for Moana in this article, so stop reading now if you haven't yet seen the Disney film. And go see it!
Disney has a bona fide hit on its hands with Moana, the exhilarating story of a young, headstrong island leader who embarks on a journey to restore a precious heart so that her people can thrive once again. The mission always focused on the female character of Moana (voiced by Auli'l Cravalho), and many -- including us -- have given the film a ton of credit for not saddling Moana with a traditional "love interest" or falling for many of the other Disney Princess clichés. Even though, as we are now learning, some of them almost affected a potential ending of the film.
Moana co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker were discussing changes that happened on the film during production, and they discussed an alternate ending with Yahoo Movies. In it, they said almost too much focus landed on Maui, the demi god voiced by The Rock, and it was the female staffers who set the co-directors back on the right track. They explained:
Ron Clements: We had versions where [Maui] was so moved by her, he lifted up an island where he had never lifted up an island. He did various things that seemed to turn the focus on him.
John Musker: We sort of got pushback from women on the staff, [who said] 'Wait a minute!'
Clements: A lot of the women [said], 'No, no.' And they were right, and we agreed.
What's interesting is that rewrites like this don't happen as frequently in animation, because animated movies can't pivot on a dime and reshoot to accommodate a rewrite the way a traditional film can. So Moana had to realize early on that an ending that tied her success to Maui was disingenuous, as the victory should fully belong TO Moana, the character. She does everything in the film to earn success, figuring out how to restore the heart of Tafiti and bring the adventurous spirit back to her island people. And she did it in song, too!
Major changes like this are, to me, fascinating because they show the different directions that feature-length stores (and instant classics) could have possibly gone down before reaching theaters. And Moana is reaching the heights of some of Disney's finest. Globally, the movie has banked $106 million so far, but it's really just getting started. Competition will get tough in the coming weeks, but I think that Moana will have a shelf life, thanks to positive word of mouth, for years to come.