Will 'Moana' solidify Disney's rise out of box-office slump?

'Moana' will be released on Nov. 23. Disney has had several successes in a row, with films like 'Zootopia' and 'Big Hero 6' receiving good reviews and becoming box office hits.

Disney/AP
'Moana' stars Auli'i Cravalho (l.) and Dwayne Johnson (r.).

The upcoming Disney animated movie “Moana” is receiving very positive reviews, the newest animated film from the studio to be the subject of good notices following what many saw as a creative slump. 

“Moana” stars Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson in the story of a young girl from a Polynesian island who must attempt to rescue those she loves. Mr. Johnson portrays the demi-god Maui.

Alan Tudyk, Temuera Morrison, Nicole Scherzinger, and Jemaine Clement co-star and the film will be released on Nov. 23. 

The film is the newest by Disney to receive mostly positive reviews. The studio experienced tremendous success during the late 1980s and 1990s, with Disney releasing films including “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Lion King,” some of which have been said to be among the best animated films ever made. “Beauty” is still the only animated movie to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in a year when only five movies were able to earn that honor (films like Pixar’s “Up” have since done so when between five and 10 movies were nominated, allowing more movies to qualify).

But Disney experienced what was seen as a creative and financial slump in the early and mid-2000s. Films like 2003’s “Brother Bear” and 2005’s “Meet the Robinsons” not only grossed below what the studio was used to, but they were also largely poorly received by reviewers. 

By contrast, recent movies have become huge hits and have mostly received positive reviews. We’ll see how “Moana” does at the box office this week, but critics are largely won over. Disney’s “Zootopia,” which was released this past spring, became a big hit, with the movie currently ranked as the sixth-highest-grossing film of the year so far domestically and the subject of mostly positive reviews. 

The story was the same for 2014’s “Big Hero 6,” which also became a hit and received mostly good notices, and 2013’s “Frozen” was the subject of good reviews in addition to becoming the highest-grossing animated movie of all time worldwide without adjusting for inflation.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.