Is Disney's portrayal of Maui, a Polynesian demigod, in 'Moana' culturally insensitive?
Is Disney’s portrayal of Maui, a Polynesian demigod, in ‘Moana’ culturally insensitive?

I had a feeling this was going to happen.

When the teaser trailer for Disney Animation’s big Thanksgiving release “Moana” (with Dwayne Johnson voicing the lead character of Maui) came out a few weeks ago, many people praised Disney for making another animated film in which the central characters are people of color, and not some blond haired. blue eyed princess.

However, not everyone is happy, as you might expect.

According to The Guardian, Jenny Salesa, a New Zealand MP who is of Tongan heritage, found what she saw objectionable. She shared a picture from the film on her Facebook account, with a caption that said Disney’s rendering of the Maui character “resembled a creature that was half pig, half hippo.”

Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne Johnson

She she went on further to say that, “when we look at photos of Polynesian men & women from the last 100-200 years, most of our people were not overweight, and this negative stereotype of Maui is just not acceptable – No thanks to Disney.”

However Salesa does state in her same comment that health is a problem among people in New Zealand: “Obesity levels in NZ are at epidemic levels. Childhood obesity in New Zealand is the 3rd highest in the OECD with 33% of children between the ages of 2-14 years being obese or overweight and this is a number that continues to increase.”

But Salesa is not the only person to criticize Maui.

Eliota Fuimanono Sapolu, a professional rugby player who currently plays for the Coca-Cola Red Sparks in the Japanese Top League, is not happy either: “Maui looking like after he fished up the Islands, he deep fried em and and ate em.”

Furthermore, Will Ilolahia, who is associated with the Pacific Island Media Association, was also quoted in a New Zealand paper as saying that he is not happy either with Johnson’s character: “He is depicted in the stories that’s been handed down, especially in my culture, as a person of strength, a person of magnitude and a person of a godly nature however. This depiction of Maui being obese is typical American stereotyping. Obesity is a new phenomena because of the first world food that’s been stuffed down our throat.”


Do you think they have a point, or is this much ado about nothing? Then again when was the last time you saw an obese white main character in an animated film?

What do you say?