2016 Awards Profile: ‘Moana’ from Ron Clements and Jon Musker



Welcome to the 2016 Awards Profiles series, where we talk about high and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year. We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next eight weeks, we will bring you a film every weekday to talk about their potential. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

Director: Ron Clements and Jon Musker

Writer: Ron Clements, John Musker, and Taika Waititi

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk and Auli’i Cravalho

Synopsis: A young woman uses her navigational talents to set sail for a fabled island. Joining her on the adventure is her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui.

Why It Might Succeed: There’s a lot riding on Moana, Disney’s first princess-centric story after the juggernaut that was Frozen. The word out of last year’s D23 Expo was that the early animation looked exquisite, and it should be considering the island setting, and the music – written, in part, by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda – was also said to be incredibly catchy. Miranda’s name, no matter how little his contributions, will automatically have the Academy looking at the score for nomiations.

Disney has all but dominated the Best Animated Feature category over the last ten years with their various subsidiaries, with Frozen and Big Hero 6, winning the awards for the Walt Disney Animation Studios banner. Musker and Clements have been creating Disney magic for nearly thirty years, starting with The Great Mouse Detective in 1986. Though their films haven’t always yielded Oscar gold, many have become legendary including The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Princess and the Frog.

Why It Might Fail: Despite prime placement Thanksgiving weekend, Disney might have competition with itself through this month’s release of Zootopia. Number one at the box office for three weekends straight, the anthropomorphic film noir has received fantastic reviews with many calling it the studio’s best. That right there could split the Academy into deciding whether both or one can enter Best Animated Feature.

Already yielding comparisons to Brave and Mulan – possibly because of the female on a mission narrative – the studio might also lose some of its “girl power” initiative if, despite the title being Moana, this becomes a Maui movie. Dwayne Johnson is the film’s biggest name, so far, and the synopsis and D23 really played up his character. Despite Disney’s talk of creating more well-rounded women, they haven’t given up on promoting male sidekicks and putting them as equals or overbearing co-leads in these movies.

Oscar Potential:

  • Best Animated Feature
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Original Song (s)

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advanced Oscar Predictions
and see where Moana ranks!