Is Maui's Intro In 'Moana' Trailer Accurate? Disney Really Did Their Research
Disney has an unfortunate tendency to change a bit of history or fairy tales to make their stories more magic and rainbows and Disney-themed splendor. So, when it comes to the first Moana trailer that was dropped Sunday June 13, and their interpretation of a Hawaiian mythological character, Maui, it's not strange for fans to have more than a few questions about whether or not his intro in the trailer was 100 percent accurate. The clip opens with Maui telling tales of his exploits to Moana, who seems more bewildered than impressed, and it is, of course, incredibly entertaining. But the one thing to notice about the Moana trailer is that it's actually very educational, too.
When one does a search of Maui, there are multiple options of cultural backgrounds for the guy: He's in Samoan mythology, not to mention Tahitian, Tongan, and more. But, presumably, Disney is sticking specifically with Hawaiian mythology, since this is a children's movie and all the different versions of Maui across all these different cultures might get confusing.
So, let's start with the basics. Is Maui a demi-god? Yes. According to Kumukahi, Maui is one of the Kupua, a "a dual-formed person." He is a trickster, with superhuman abilities, who uses his powers to benefit his family. So at least this part is correct. But what about Maui's declarations of all the crazy magic stuff he to do with that giant fish hook thing he's toting? Are those stories just fish tales (tails?) like the ones old fishermen tell about catching giant eels or whatever?
The first story Maui tells is that he, as "only the greatest demi-god in all of the Pacific Islands," pulled down the sun with his magic fish hook. According to Sacred Texts , in some legends, Maui and his brothers work together to lasso the sun, but, in others, he goes the way solo and does it all by himself though with ropes or hair, not fish hooks. This sun lassoing is meant to explain Hawaii's dry season Kau, when the days are longer, and hoʻoilo, the wet season, when the days are shorter.
Maui also name drops creating islands, the Hawaiian ones to be exact. A PBS short video by Hawaiian storyteller Kealoha Kelekolio describes how Maui went fishing but ended up turning the body of fish he was attempting to hook into the eight Hawaiian islands. Other legends, according to Sacred Texts, outline that, while fishing, he reached down to the ocean floor with his hook and the pressure from his pull cause the islands. So this fact is also mythologically accurate.
Maui next claims to have battle monsters, and this too seems true to Hawaiian tradition. Sacred Texts outlines that when Tuna, the long eel, started getting frisky with Maui's wife and/or mother (depending on the text), Hina. Maui wasn't having it, found that eel, and killed it. Check, battles monsters.
The final item to consider is how Maui turned into a bird at the end of the trailer. While there doesn't appear to be any specific instances of Maui turning himself into a bird, Kumukahi tells us that the Kupua (demi-gods like Maui) had supernatural powers, and Maui had a relationship with birds, having stolen the secret of fire from them. It only stands to reason he could turn himself into a bird if desired.
Oddly enough, Hawaiian folklore doesn't cover if Maui had tattoos, or if said tattoos were able to move, but it sure does look cool. And besides, it's based on mythology anyway, so a demi-god having moving tattoos isn't too far-fetched.
Moana comes out in theaters Thanksgiving 2016, and, from all of this, it appears that Disney really did their research. Plus, we get to hang out with The Rock for a little over an hour, and really that's all any of us should need.
Images: Walt Disney Pictures (4)