It’s not very often a movie’s soundtrack gets stuck in my head like Moana’s does. As I discussed in a previous article, music in film is rarely praised enough even though its presence can be felt throughout the entire movie. Which means that when a film places music at the forefront of its storytelling, and does it well, I feel the need to bring attention to it.
While it might be made by Disney, I’d advise against dismissing Moana as a simple kids’ film. Not only is it a showcase of musical talent made by the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda of critically acclaimed musical Hamilton fame, but it’s also helping to preserve the idea that stories on film can still be told through music.
Similar to others films of its ilk like Sing, another animated movie released this year using songs to tell its narrative, I’m surprised by my realisation that it seems to be largely kids’ movies preserving a decades old style of storytelling that has largely been abandoned by modern day filmmakers. Hardly anyone utilises the format of a musical in film anymore and that to me is disappointing.
Music is one of the most unabashed ways of expressing emotion and interweaving it into a film’s narrative seems like a natural extension of emotional expression. All we have to do is look back to the 1920s-30s to see how filmmakers capitalised on this idea and how prolific musical films became as a result. And this genre of film led to the creation of some of the most famous movies of all time such as Grease and Footloose.
While the evolution of technology has allowed directors to tell stories far beyond the scope of musical set pieces, we seemed to have gone in the opposite direction and decided instead to never again connect with an audience through open displays of songs and music.
And while yes, musicals in theatres do exist for those truly seeking that type of entertainment it’s sad that we can no longer experience it like we used to be able to through the use of films. Which is why I’m happy that Disney is still carrying that torch for a genre of film I love. And Moana isn’t even the only musical film to be released this year with La La Land also receiving good reviews in the USA after its release.
This doesn’t mean I’m expecting a sudden resurgence of musicals though, not by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s promising that they haven’t been completely abandoned, at least not yet anyway. So if Disney will keep that torch burning then I’ll continue to hope that maybe one day we’ll see some sort of comeback from the musical genre. All it takes is films like Moana to let people know that there’s still an audience for the films of yester year.
Photo Credit: Theme Park Tourist