Arts & Entertainment | Opinion

Vicente Diaz: Disney trafficks in indigenous heritage once again






Hinano Murphy, at podium, the founder and director of the Te Pu Atiti‘a Center in French Polynesia, served as a consultant on the Disney animated film, Moana. The forthcoming film will be the first major motion picture to be translated into the Tahitian language. Photo by Disney

Professor Vicente Diaz takes a critical look at the creation and promotion of Moana, a Disney animated film whose story is based on indigenous Polynesian traditions:
Disney imagineers have just rolled out a powerful anecdote, connected to the November release of its latest animation, Moana, wherein an elder from Mo’orea, in French Polynesia, is depicted as having asked one of them, “For years, we have been swallowed by your culture …; this one time, can you be swallowed by ours?”

The image of one of our revered elders humbly petitioning agents of the gargantuan media and merchandising conglomerate for just one moment of cultural attention against a historical wave of western acculturative forces makes it sound as if Moana the film is a gift straight from Disney Inc.’s golden heart. But make no mistake about it, any altruism associated with this latest commercial ad-venture will always be trumped by the proverbial bottom line, but more depressingly, by an enduring colonial legacy in the Pacific islands that is further animated in the 21st century by neoliberal and postcolonial desires for selling and consuming native culture of a very specific type.

Indeed the anecdote appears to be part of Disney’s push back against a small but growing movement of Pacific Islanders who are expressing outcry, mostly in social media, against the company’s trafficking on indigenous cultural heritage.

Read More:
Vicente Diaz: Don’t Swallow (or be Swallowed by) Disney’s 'Culturally Authenticated Moana' (Indian Country Today 11/13)

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