Disney’s “Moana” Stirs Controversy Over The Portrayal Of “Maui”

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Pretty sure no one saw this coming but according to Jenny Salesa, a member of New Zealand’s Parliment, the character Maui is too fat and portrays Polynesians in a negative light.

From Jenny Salesa’s Facebook page:

“When we look at photos of Polynesian men and 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. The environment our kids grow up in and what they are exposed to have a role to play. Disney movies are very influential on our children. It is great that Moana is the lead. However, it is disappointing that Maui, one of our beloved historical ancestors from hundreds of years ago, who was a very strong man [and] a skilled navigator, is depicted to be so overweight in this kids’ movie.”

“Maui” as potrayed is Disney’s “Moana”.


People are taking sides after Salesa’s comments and some are defending her while others think she is overreacting. Here are some Twitter reactions:




“Maui The Demigod”


I did some research into Maui and above is you traditional portrayal of the demigod Maui from Polynesian mythology. These depictions do show Maui to be incredibly strong (Maui lassoed the sun and pulled it down from the sky! For crying out loud!), he is very cut and he is in really good shape. So maybe for some Polynesians, that is how they always imagined him to be and I can see it being a bit of a shock to them.

“Maui” getting ready for action!


My personal opinion is that I dont think Disney is portraying the character Maui to be fat. In the above picture, he doesn’t look fat at all. He’s a big guy but he definitely is depicted with some big guns.

Some professional powerlifters. “Maui” says hi.


To me, Maui looks like a lot of guys at my gym and they are called “powerlifters”. A powerlifter is not looking to get cut or have killer abs but what they want to do is increase their strength and maximize how much they can lift. They focus on such routines as squats. deadlifts and bench pressing. A lot of linebackers in the NFL are powerlifters and have a similar physique.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson voices the demigod, “Maui”.


Also Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is portraying Maui and I am pretty sure if he was offended by Maui’s depiction, he would have spoken up and said something.

So what is your opinion? Do you think that Disney’s depiction of Maui is disrespectful to Polynesian culture or is this another case of someone making a big deal out of nothing?

Source: Yahoo News


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About the author

Joe Hogarty

Joe moved from New York to Florida back in 1997. He currently resides in St. Petersburg and visits the parks frequently. His first visit to the Magic Kingdom was when he was 8 years old back in 1974. Joe originally originally started as a photographer for WDWNT and is now the host of WDWNT: Nerd Alert, our movie reviewer and reports the news for WDWNT. You can contact Joe through email at [email protected]


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  • this makes no sense!!! hes not fat hes quite buff but he is wide but not long he is a great character and can we have one disney animated movie without contraversy please?

    • Unfortunately, some people go out of their way to be offended. This is sadly the new norm.

  • Everybody is a critic, especiallly if it gets them the limelight. Pushing THEIR agenda complaining about someone else’s work, entertainment at that. Thank God animals and fish can’t talk because they would be complaining about their portrayals too following these idiots logic.

  • I tried to keep it fair and showed both sides but originally hearing about this had me rolling my eyes. This politician really cant have much to do if she has to spend her time making a big deal out of this. And unfortunately we live in a world where if a few people say something is wrong, they expect the whole world to agree with them. That one picture I posted pf Maui shows he is muscular, not fat.

  • And when characters are too skinny some people think that is a negative portrayal as well. Disney can’t win sometimes. Come on, it’s an animated movie. No one really looks as they “should”!

    • I was thinking that too. Should now people with weight problems be labeled as outcasts? I just hope Disney doesn’t crumble to peer pressure by a small amount of people and change the look of the character.

  • I wish i was ripped liek Maui, i wouldnt wear a shirt either. I think people are looking to bash anything as contraversial, or to take offense at something. To me disney is an easy target for people.

  • I’m concerned that Jenny Salesa is portraying New Zealand politicians to be short-sighted fat-shaming complainers with too much time on their hands. Let’s see if she changes her work in response.

  • I agree that he looks a lot more like a power lifter or a linebacker than an obese person. His features are exaggerated to make him look huge in contrast with Moana, and because, well, it’s a cartoon! To me he looks powerful, not fat.

  • I am so sick and tired of such nonsense – we should simply *ignore* idiots seeking attention by posting ridiculous bull… Too white, too black, to tall, too skinny, too serious, too funny, and Cinderella is white again, that´s racist! — why report any of that crap at all?

  • What surprises me is Disney would portray an identifiably ethnic character in such a manner in the first place and not realize accusations of racism would necessarily follow as a matter of course. To depict anyone or group today who enjoys minority/victim status in a manner constituting less than fawning praise and idealized perfection is considered de facto racism. Shoulda seen it coming.

    • 1. There is no problem at all – just a few idiots who know nothing about movies, and animation in particular. Thanks to the internet, they can spread their nonsense – but that does not mean we have to listen to it…
      2. You simply cannot avoid those insipid comments – these commenters are not interested in anything but complaining, so they will *always* find sth to whine about. I *guarantee* you, had they portrayed him in a manner constituting fawning praise, the “critics” would complain about the “impossibly high standards that are set for your children” or some other bull. It is impossible, absolutely impossible to please those “critics”, and any attempt would be futile. THere is only one way to deal with them: ignore them.

  • I feel conflicted. To me, who knows a lot about the history of racism, I consider systematic oppression via laws far more important than your feelings being hurt by a caricature. I recommend you read Revolutionary Suicide, by Huey Newton. I did notice that he looked a bit large and wide, and I don’t think it’s a stereotype to be encouraged that they’re fat, which is just stupid and probably brought on by jealousy of how beautiful and nice it would be to live in the tropics. At the same time I don’t think that harmful stereotypes are as important as real racism. If people learn about each other, and get to know each other, they won’t think of each other in stereotypes but as people. I also think that in the end it will do more harm to white people, as a stereotype will develop that white people hate anyone who isn’t like them, and that’s not true of all white people. While you could argue with me, saying stereotypes were a major part of racism, I don’t want discussions of racism to center around hurt feelings, mainly because I don’t think regular people have those thoughts when they meet someone different, they aren’t afraid, they are curious, while stereotyping by the media might be a problem, I don’t know to what extent, amongst regular people, they just want to work together. And while the stereotyping, the systematic oppression via laws, still has an effect, could still be in effect with the drug laws which have that history, complaining about a caricature is nothing short of annoying. In fact, I’m beginning to think it’s a new form of racism, the oversensitive racist.

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