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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Moana film and Guardian Masterclass

So on Saturday 19th November I made my way on the train to London for the Moana Guardian Masterclass at the Picturehouse Central Cinema. The film was shown in the morning followed by a buffet lunch and then a Masterclass with the directors and producer, ending with a question and answer session.

The film was in 3D so we wore the glasses - although thankfully I think it would be spectacular in 2D too which will be a relief to my kids who hate 3d films! It tells the story of Moana, the daughter of the tribal leader on the Polynesian Island of Motunui. The story is set 3000 years ago and through Moana's quest to save her community and island she goes on a voyage to meet the gods- this tale embraces different elements from the legends of the ancient gods of these islands. The film has a simple story, family humour, stunning visuals and songs with wide appeal. I particularly enjoyed the song of the crab, voiced by Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Concords fame, I couldn't help but remember their homage to Bowie - the directors also referred to the Bowie connection in the Masterclass afterwards! The other part of the film which really stood out for me was the transformation of the goddess towards the end of the film.  A theme throughout the film was the personification of the environment and this part was truly stunning- any fans of the Pixar short, Lava, will also love watching this.

Thankfully after the buffet lunch I wasn't ready for a nap as we returned to the cinema for a masterclass presented by the producer, Osnat Shurer, and Moana's directors, John Musker and Ron Clements. This was Shurer's first film as producer having produced a number of Pixar shorts. However the same can't be said of the directors- Musker and Clements are true veterans of the Disney animation business having directed many films for Disney including collaborating together on The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog- for them the big leap with this film was the move from their traditional hand drawn animation to CGI.

Producer, Osnat Shurer, and Moana's directors, John Musker and Ron Clements.

The Masterclass presented this process of film making alongside the careful research which had gone in to creating the island culture of Moana. Using video footage alongside clips from the animation process the speakers took us through the process of developing the film from the first inspiration when they pitched the stories of the Pacific Islands to John Lassiter through to their various trips to the Islands. They described how the 'Oceanic Story Trust' was formed and various local people from fishermen to anthropologists provided advice. I have read some criticism of the trust online as the Pacific Islands are so varied and some islanders feel the film has tried to take elements of the cultures of different islands and put them together. An example of this being the tattoos which islanders have which have special and significant meaning. I have also read some responses by islanders who appreciate a positive story based around the cultures of the islands despite these limitations.

Q and A presented by  radio 1 film critic Ali Plumb and  Osnat Shurer,  John Musker and Ron Clements.

Nine hundred artists contributed to the making of Moana. The story boarding involved both hand drawn and digital drawings but the film was mainly created using computers, new technology to directors who had previously made films with hand drawn animation. I found looking at how the drawings were created within the software fascinating and a new angle from the previous Disney Guardian Masterclasses- each Masterclass has truly had a unique take on describing the film development process. In this Masterclass the directors and producer presented the process from developing characters through to textures, lighting and effects such as smoke and lava. This is an exciting film which brings alive the ocean, mountains and fire, I can't wait to take the kids and see it again when it comes out on December 2nd!

P.S. This was the third Disney Guardian Masterclass I have attended this year. Sign up at the link at the bottom of this page if you would like to get updates about future Masterclasses.

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