6 REASONS WHY MOANA IS EVEN BETTER THAN YOU REMEMBER
If Disney is good at anything, it's creating movies that emotionally resonate with huge audiences. It's why so many of their stories pass the test of time and are classics to this day.
How do you create emotional resonance like this in your own stories? You stagger scenes with deliberately mirrored elements. For a lesson in how to do this, we’ll look at MOANA because its music perfectly illustrates how to use parallel elements to create emotional resonance.
The steps are easier than you'd believe, and once the light bulb turns on, you'll have a blast picking out mirrored elements in your other favorite stories.
Let's start by looking at MOANA's first All is Lost moment.
NOTE: Not familiar with all of these story structure terms? Check out The Glossary.
ALL IS LOST #1
Check out the first All is Lost moment, which is the first time we hear the chorus.
If you're watching the full movie, this happens at 16m:15s.
There's so much about the story, visuals, and song that make this scene powerful.
Before we go any deeper into this scene, let's first jump back to the final All is Lost moment to see how the story and music deliberately feature mirrored elements in both scenes.
NOTE: Did you notice we're skipping All is Lost moments 2-4? Don't worry. When we're done, you'll be able to identify those scenes and their mirrored elements all on your own.
ALL IS LOST #5
The fifth All is Lost Moment is the highest point of tension in your story. In MOANA, it's also the film's biggest chorus.
Moana has failed to overcome her flaw one final time, and it has cost her everything. But now she also goes through her Dark Night of the Soul and realizes oh! THIS is what she should have done all along. How do you lead up to this? How do you make this All is Lost moment carry intense emotional resonance?
Let’s watch Moana’s All is Lost Moment #5.
If you’re watching the full movie, go to 1h:17m.
Do you hear how similar it is to the chorus in the first All is Lost? It's almost as though they're the same song, but of course there are significant differences dependent on their placement in the story. For example, at the start of the story, the chorus’s function is to bring the character INTO conflict. But at the end of the story, the chorus/final all is lost moment brings the character OUT of conflict.
In other words, what will at first get the main character into trouble is later used to show Moana’s growth.
Pay particular attention to how this scene is an amplified version of All is Lost #1. These scenes create EMOTIONAL RESONANCE by mirroring key elements.
And here's what I've been dying to show you all along...
I promised you 6 reasons, right? Let's look at these examples to see just how closely these moments mirror each other.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
What you’ll notice as you compare these scenes is that the earlier parallel moment is a simplified version of the final All is Lost moment.
For example, if I told you only one or the other, you would be able to imagine what the All is Lost moment would look like at the beginning or end of the story, even if you don't know exactly what will happen.
If I told you All is Lost #1, you'd simply imagine the biggest possible version of that scene, and you'd have an idea of what will happen in the final All is Lost moment.
And, of course, vice versa, if I only gave you the final All is Lost moment, you'd imagine what a smaller, lower-energy version of that scene looks like in order to guess what happens in the first All is Lost moment.
To see what I mean, make an outline for me. At the top, write ALL IS LOST #1. And at the bottom, write ALL IS LOST #5.
Now as we rewatch MOANA's All is Lost moment #5, write down a brief description of what you see and hear.
Now you're going to literally copy/paste your description of All is Lost #5 into your slot for All is Lost #1. Of course, you're going to revise it so that it fits. What would that look like at that point in the story?
Keep in mind that because the energy at that point in the story is typically not as high as later (in fact, it usually shouldn't be), you want to simplify it. Take out elements. Make it smaller. Fewer instruments. Smaller version of the conflict. But it contains the same essence.
NOTE: It's okay to cheat a little and look back at the earlier gif comparisons :)
Experiencing the smallest All is Lost moment in a story or a song should make it possible for the reader/listener to already imagine what the biggest All is Lost moment will look/sound like. The sense of emotional resonance comes from us feeling a sense of surprise recognition due to the mirrored elements.
Resonance, after all, comes from the reverberation of an earlier event. Of course, the work isn’t done for you. You still need to determine what to mirror. What to mute. What to simplify.
When you watch these moments in MOANA again, you'll notice tons more mirrored elements that I didn't mention. But that's not all! Using this technique, you'll also have a blast noticing the same things in other movies, such as in my other article for BLACK PANTHER.
Now I want you to go back to your own story. Do you have a terrific beginning, but you're having trouble crafting a big climax? Do you have an exciting climax, but you're struggling with how to start the story? If you have one or the other, you're better positioned than you realize to finish your story and leave the reader stunned at the depth of your story's emotional resonance.
Enjoyed this article? Come back soon for the next entry in this series on Disney movies.
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