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Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(7), 113;

Time to Face the Music: Musical Colonization and Appropriation in Disney’s Moana

Music Department, McDaniel College, Westminster, MD 21157, USA
Received: 16 May 2018 / Revised: 7 July 2018 / Accepted: 10 July 2018 / Published: 13 July 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Full-Text   |   PDF [216 KB, uploaded 13 July 2018]


Despite Disney’s presentation of Moana as a culturally accurate portrayal of Polynesian culture, the film suffers from Western ethnocentrism, specifically in its music. This assertion is at odds with marketing of Moana that emphasized respect for and consultation with Polynesians whose expertise was heralded to validate the film’s music as culturally authentic. While the composers do, in fact, use Polynesian musical traits, they frame the sounds that are unfamiliar within those that are familiar by wrapping them with Western musical characteristics. When the audience does hear Polynesian music throughout the film, the first and last sounds they hear are Western music, not Polynesian. As such, the audience hears Polynesian sounds meld into and then become the music that defines a typical American film. Thus, regardless of Disney’s employment of Polynesian musicians, the music of Moana remains in the rigid control of non-Polynesian American composers. Rather than break new ground, Moana illustrates a musical recapitulation of white men’s control and marketing of the representations of marginalized people. Moana’s music is subject to appropriation, an echo of how colonial resources were exploited in ways that prioritize benefits to cultural outsiders. View Full-Text
Keywords: Moana; Disney; music; colonialism; imperialism; appropriation; Polynesia Moana; Disney; music; colonialism; imperialism; appropriation; Polynesia
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Armstrong, R. Time to Face the Music: Musical Colonization and Appropriation in Disney’s Moana. Soc. Sci. 2018, 7, 113.

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