Who among us hasn't been distracted by a baby sea turtle? Especially the adorable one in the opening scene of Disney's Moana, which has not only a tiny turtle but also baby Moana. It's all very distracting. But if you take a moment to rewatch it, the scene actually sets up the entire film.
Disney's "Script to Scene" series has provided some cool insight into films like Up, WALL-E, and Coco. Now the series tackles the very first scene of 2016's sea-based animated film Moana. Throughout the film, Moana struggles not only with her father's overprotectiveness but also the sacrifices she must make in her life. And upon rewatching it, the first scene of the film brings all of these issues to light, foreshadowing the themes of the film as a whole.
In the opening scene, Moana wanders off toward the ocean. It's really pretty, I don't blame her. There she sees a shell, but just as she reaches to grab it, she sees a baby sea turtle being harassed by some birds. So she must make the quick decision to either grab the shell or help the turtle. Ultimately, she decides to protect the turtle as it journeys back into the sea, leading her to a magical moment with the ocean before her father chastises her for the danger she's in.
Just take a look to refresh your memory.
The scene manages to distill the struggles Moana faces throughout the film into the first three minutes. Who does she save? Where do her loyalties lie? How does she make the tough choices? Even as a child it's obvious she's torn between her family and her connection to the ocean.
It's neat to see how writer Jared Bush was able to get the audience invested in the story of Moana from the first scene. And all with an adorable sea turtle moment thrown in.