The titular character in Moana has been one of Disney’s most exciting and original princesses since her debut in the 2016 movie, but it’s not clear to all viewers how old the character is supposed to be. Released to overwhelming critical praise, the Oscar-nominated feature chronicles the adventures of Moana and combines Disney animation with Polynesian culture for a unique cinematic experience. Besides its beautiful visuals and strong writing, it’s the title character who makes the movie stand out.


Characters have always been Disney’s strong suit, but the addition of Moana as one of their official princesses represented a change in the way that female heroes are presented. Where and when Moana takes place was important to its story, but the age of its main character is a detail that makes the movie all the more compelling to watch. Though Moana’s age is similar to that of Disney’s other princesses, it’s the way that her age factors into her character that makes the script much fresher and more realistic than other classic movies that showcase princess characters.

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Moana Is 16 Years Old

While the ages of Disney Princesses are rarely discussed in their respective movies, Moana’s age is given as 16, and the movie doesn’t try to hide the fact that she is still quite young. Being only 16 years old, Moana was shown to still be somewhat rambunctious and playful like the younger kids, but she was obviously drawn toward adulthood and adventure. Youthful characters in Disney films aren’t rare, but the approach taken for Moana‘s main character represented a modern turn for the studio, and Moana is a much richer hero as a result.

Being 16 makes Moana overly confident enough to believe that she can set out on her journey alone, but it becomes clear that her youth is also a source of insecurity once she encounters problems. In addition to Moana breaking a Disney Princess design rule, the movie also presents a character defined by her age in both good and bad ways. She behaves like a real 16-year-old would in her situation. She sought validation from the people around her, but the movie never passes judgment on her youth as a bad thing.

Related: Every Disney Princess Movie In Chronological Order

Moana’s Story Is A Positive Message To Young Girls

Moana staring at the sky and smiling on the ocean

Disney’s impact on their female audience has provided mixed results over the decades, but Moana is a character who certainly bucked trends compared to her fellow princesses. Moana entirely eschews a love story for its titular hero, and she’s led on by her desire for adventure and exploration, and not for the affections of a man. Disney Princess characters often find themselves married in their movie’s third act, but Moana accomplishes so much more when she confronts Te Kā and restores balance to nature.

As a role model for young girls, Moana is unrivaled among other female Disney heroes, and her adventure in the animated feature shows that young women can achieve so much more than being the prize for a prince. However, the message in the movie isn’t awkwardly presented to the audience; instead, it’s delivered through Moana as a subtle and multifaceted character. Moana changed the way that Walt Disney Studios told their stories, but most importantly it changed the way that the studio presented its young female heroes.

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