Everyone gets excited about new attractions, especially when they come to their home park. I am no different. Whenever Hong Kong Disneyland gets anything new, whether it is an attraction, a show or even a new food location I get beyond excited to experience it for the first time. So, you can imagine my excitement this weekend when I got to see Moana: A Homecoming Celebration, Hong Kong Disneyland’s brand new show.
Moana: A Homecoming Celebration is the first of many new attractions coming to Hong Kong Disneyland in the next five years (other things to be announced are an Ant-Man and The Wasp attraction scheduled for 2019, a new Castle scheduled for 2020 and a Frozen land, complete with a new toboggan ride scheduled for 2021) so there was quite a lot of fanfare and hype surrounding Moana: A Homecoming Celebration. The question is, did Moana come home with much joy? Or was it a drab return?
History and Backstory
The clue is really in the title for Moana: A Homecoming Celebration, Moana has come home to Adventureland for a big celebration. As part of the festivities, she has come to tell the villagers, and anybody passing by wanting to listen, all about her journey.
A simple backstory, but I think it’s really cool that a new character like Moana is being showcased in the park. It is also the first major Moana attraction in any Disney Park across the world, which adds an even more special edge to the new show, thus, for me, Moana: A Homecoming Celebration does not need a more complex back story. She’s here and ready to celebrate and that’s good enough for me.
Moana: A Homecoming Celebration is situated at the newly built Jungle Junction Stage at the entrance of Adventureland next to The Jungle Cruise and the Tahitian Terrace. The Jungle Junction looks like it could be repurposed for different shows in the near and distant future, but right now it’s the home of Moana.
What a nice home it is! The stage colorfully protrudes throughout the surrounding foliage in Adventureland acting as effective ‘weenie’ beckoning guests into Adventureland. Although it might turn into something else in a few years time, you would not be able to tell. Right now ,the Jungle Junction stage is completely in the theme and color scheme of Moana.
The stage itself is plenty big enough, but the surrounding area is a little small. Well, the area isn’t a little small; the seating area is a little small. Just three rows of seating sit at the front of the stage, and these seats are mainly for adults with children, with the spare seats used for adults, if there is any room left. Meaning if you’re a grown up (in size, not mentality) the likelihood is that you will have to stand.
The stage itself is beautiful, but I do think there were a few mistakes when it came to the planning of the seating area. Not so much the lack of seats, the show is short enough to stand, but it gets hot and there is very little to no shade depending on what show you see during the day.
Moana- A Homecoming Celebration is a typical play – within a play. Storytellers come out to introduce Moana who then proceeds to use her fellow storytellers and a litany of props to tell everyone her story.
However, before the start of the show, two drummers come out to entertain the crowd and get them warmed up. These drummers used to be pre-show entertainment in Festival of the Lion King and now have moved over to welcome Moana. They’re a great piece of pre-show entertainment and make it really easy to get the crowd going. Not only that, just before the show begins, the drummers take their seats at the side of the stage and provide Foley sound throughout the show.
Throughout Moana: A Homecoming Celebration, there are interactive elements primarily intended for children’s participation. Drums are handed out to the children in the first row of the audience. Furthering that, Moana asks the audience to participate throughout, whether it’s making Hei Hei noises or cheering for her as she goes on her adventure.
This is a great touch, but what really stood out for me was the use of props throughout. The Imagineers responsible for designing the show spared no expense and a plethora of different props have been crafted to really add to the story of Moana. Although the cast is small, the props add to everything and really do bring the story of Moana to life. A real highlight is the Kakamora scene that really left me impressed.
The show is in both Cantonese and English, meaning that although you do miss a little of the narration, Moana helps tell the story herself.
Although the story is simple in premise, Moana: A Homecoming Celebration is a lot of fun. It is just a retelling of the Moana story with an old school medieval ‘cast of players’ feel, but it’s charming, well-crafted and full of personality. In the performance I saw, Moana was by far the star of the show. As soon as she was on stage, she acted every second with great facial reactions throughout, not an easy task considering how hot it was.
That note leads me to the elements of the show that could be improved upon. Mainly, the heat. This might not be a problem that can be resolved easily, but I sure hope it is. This is an outside show, with both the stage and the audience area, outside. The stage has a covering, but depending what time of day you watch Moana: A Homecoming Celebration, you will get little to no shade at all. There are some fans and air conditioning units dotted around the area, but not enough to make much of an impact. This provides a hot and restless experience for anybody watching, not to mention the poor performers who must have been really struggling in the heat.
Another slight gripe about the show is its lack of music. Moana has a host of excellent songs, yet in this show, none are sung live. I’m not sure why this decision was made, but I would have liked to hear a couple of the classics.
I’m not sure what the general consensus of the show is going to be. I, personally, think it is very good (it would be better if it was completely shaded). However, I worry that others don’t feel the same. I think the problem that Moana: A Homecoming Celebration has is that there was a lot of fanfare surrounding the show. Meaning that expectations were high. It’s a great little show, but it is only 20 minutes long in a smaller area than people may have expected, meaning that some people anticipating all-out-greatness, may be a little disappointed.
What do you think? Have you watched the Moana: A Homecoming Celebration online or seen it live? Do you like Moana or would you have preferred to see a new show focused on a different IP?
(All photos are from the personal collection of Daniel Morris.)
To learn more about Daniel and read his recent posts for WDW Radio, visit his author page by clicking the link on his name at the top of this post.