Moana: A Stunning Representation of CG Animation



The film you watched with wide eyes, a smile and a heart full of nostalgia.


“Moana’s” innovative artistry is sewn together in a way that is ushering in a new era of animated films. Directors John Musker and Ron Clements have created masterpieces like “The Little Mermaid,”  “Aladdin,” “Hercules” and “The Princess and the Frog.” However, “Moana” is their very first time utilizing Computer Graphics (CG) in an animated film. Although other Disney directors have used CG, Musker and Clements excelled at this fresh challenge with an innovative perspective. Quite possibly, a quote from The Verge sums this new-venture up perfectly: “After 80 years of experiments, Disney has made the perfect movie.”


With stunning views of greenery, the ocean and detailed-renderings of Pacific-Islanders, “Moana” is perhaps the most realistic Disney-animated film yet. The film is making audiences everywhere feel as if they have been whisked away to a tropical destination.


Although the character of Maui has animated hand-drawn tattoos, the rest of the film was CG-animated. With that said, creating this film was no small feat. According to Variety, in traditional hand-drawn animation, you go through a very strategic, orderly process. That process entails the following:

1. Storyboards

2. Drawing the sets and figuring out camera angles

3. Character animation

4. Cleanup

5. Painting

6. Placing on a painted background

Director John Musker states that CG has a much more irregular process. “You’re shown scenes that are animated, but you say ‘Is that the real sky?’ And [the animators] say, ‘Forget about the sky. That’s not the real sky. We’ll put that in later.'” With that being said, Musker and Clements believe that the beginning 2D processes are easier in hand-drawn animation. However, once the process has really gone underway, it is much easier to modify CG animation than it is to redraw a character/scene.


In total, it took around five years to create “Moana.” However, the bulk of it was finished this year. This just reiterates the fact that the beginning CG process is long, but it speeds up to become easier in the end. One of the most significant parts of “Moana” is how life-like the ocean is. According to Movie Pilot, the “Moana” creators developed a new tool called “Splash.” This tool made it possible to make the ocean its own smooth, personality-filled character.


Overall, this film was a project full of passion, which involved a load of research and persistence to make it right. As a result, these two directors created one hour and 43 minutes of magic for everyone to enjoy for centuries to come. Here is the perfect quote from Variety to sum it all up:

“This is the world we found and the lessons we learned. They think of the ocean as alive and a real character. What better medium than animation to make the ocean live? We heard phrases like ‘You’ve got to know your mountain,’ that unless you know your lineage and where you came from, you don’t know where you are or who you are,” says Musker.


All image credit goes to the Walt Disney Company.

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Author: FIDM Staff

Whitney Sutherland recently graduated from FIDM's Merchandising & Marketing program. She’s an adventurer, a movie lover, a social media enthusiast, a health nut, a passionate writer, and a lover of life.

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