Vaiana on M6: why has the character of Maui been controversial?  - Cinema News

Vaiana, the legend of the end of the world is broadcast tonight on M6. Directed by famous director duo John Musker and Ron Clements, the character of Maui sparked controversy when the film was released.

Released in our theaters in November 2016, Vaiana, the legend of the end of the world has enchanted more than 5.6 million French spectators and brought in 643 million dollars worldwide. A real success for this film which transports us to the heart of the Pacific.

There, 3,000 years ago, the world’s greatest sailors set out to discover the countless islands of Oceania. But for the next millennium, they stop traveling. And no one knows why …

Vaiana, the legend at the end of the world, tells the story of a reckless young woman who embarks on a great journey to save her people. During her crossing, Vaiana will meet Maui, a demigod. Together, they will take an epic journey.


The film is directed by the famous director duo Ron Clements and John Musker, to whom we already owe The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and more recently The Princess and the Frog.

Vaiana marks the very last collaboration of the two men since in March 2018, at the age of 64 and after 41 years spent in Disney studios, John Musker announced his retirement. Fans will have noticed the many nods to previous works by filmmakers in Vaiana.

The Walt Disney Company France


In the original version, the heroine is named Moana, which means Ocean in Polynesian. But the name, and therefore the title, had to be changed in much of Europe, especially in France and Italy.

Moana is indeed the first name of a famous Italian actress of adult films. After making his debut in Federico Fellini’s Ginger and Fred, Moana Pozzi changes careers and goes to pornographic cinema. She shoots more than thirty feature films.

In 1991, the actress created the “Party of Love” with her friend, the actress Ilona Staller, nicknamed “la Cicciolina”. This party campaigned for the legalization of brothels and the promotion of better sex education. Moana Pozzi died in 1994 in Lyon from liver cancer.

Many brands of exotic products also registered the name Moana, so it was difficult for the studio to keep this title in Europe. Disney decided to rename its heroine Vaiana, which means “rock water” in Tahitian.

The Walt Disney Company France


In order to bring the world of Vaiana, the legend at the end of the world, as close as possible to reality, Ron Clements, John Musker and the artists from Disney have traveled twice to the south of Oceania to discover the islands of the Pacific. and their inhabitants.

The team was thus able to discover Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti, as well as New Zealand. They sailed aboard traditional boats and were able to confront the history of these places, thanks to historians and experts who presented them all that makes the richness of Polynesian culture.

The music team also went to a New Zealand festival to soak up Polynesian music and dances.

The Walt Disney Company France


In the feature film, the inhabitants are not allowed to cross the reef but the island is dying, the reckless Vaiana decides to break the rules and go beyond to save her family. This story is inspired by a real mystery in Oceania.

Indeed, after two thousand years of explorations, Polynesian navigators suddenly stopped traveling, for nearly a millennium, without even today being able to know the reason. There are many theories, which have aroused the imaginations of screenwriters and directors to come up with their story.

The character of Maui is also inspired by the eponymous hero of Polynesian oral tradition. He is a demigod whose exploits are very popular in Polynesia. In the film, it’s Dwayne Johnson, who has Samoan roots, who lends him his voice in the original version (in France it’s Anthony Kavanagh who doubles as the hero).

The Walt Disney Company France


The first images of Vaiana, the legend from the end of the world, sparked a lively controversy in Polynesia. In question, the character of Maui, considered obese.

A representative of the Pacific Islands also expressed his dissatisfaction: “This representation of Maui as obese is a reflection of a typical American stereotype“. Former rugby player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, for his part, said he was indignant to see Maui portrayed by Disney as”half pig, half hippopotamus“.

A sensitive subject in the region, where more than a third of Polynesians are overweight. This depiction of Maui was taken as a real insult. A contradictory appearance with the usual representations of demigods in the cinema.

Same character, another controversy. As usual, Disney has put on sale the products derived from the feature film. Among them, the Maui costume, a full body suit that featured the demigod’s tattoos on copper skin.

For Polynesians, tattoos tell a personal story. To reproduce them is therefore a lack of respect. The American giant was also accused of “brownface”, since the costume reproduced brown skin.

Disney responded quickly by removing the costumes from the shelves and apologizing in a statement: “Moana’s team took special care to respect the Pacific Island cultures that the film was inspired by, and we regret that the Maui costume may have offended some. We sincerely apologize and remove the costume from our site and shops“.

By Chief Editor

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