Disney animator Mark Henn believes that a Christian message can be well received by an audience, even if the audience is not Christian.
The 36-year veteran, whose films included “Frozen,” “The Little Mermaid,” and the just-released “Moana,” feels that moviegoers respond to a message of “sacrificial love” because “God has placed a desire for such love in all of us.”
“Clearly as a Christian our greatest example of sacrificial love is of course Christ himself,” Henn tells CNSNews.com. “It’s a very profound kind of love that you don’t see a lot in this world. You get glimmers of it and glimpses of it occasionally. It’s overlooked or pooh-pooh’ed in our culture and in our world today. But I think people, deep down, it’s in them. God has placed it in them to react to that kind of love, to where someone is willing to go to such an extreme to actually lay down their life for another human being.”
He continues, “Folding that into a storyline I think is a very real and very deep emotion that a lot of people, whether they realize it or not, really react to…you see it even back in a movie like “The Jungle Book,” at the end of the movie, with Baloo battling Shere Khan to protect Mowgli. As Bagheera is eulogizing him, he quotes ‘no greater love than to lay down his life.’ It goes around. It’s just that profound.”
“Moana" tells the story of Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho), a young girl who lives in the South Pacific and sets off on a sea voyage to discover why sailors have stopped coming to her island. In her quest she is aided by the demigod Maui, who is voiced by former wrestling star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“The two of them together go on this unique journey for their own personal growth,” Henn says, “with Moana finding what she is looking for and feeling drawn to despite her family wishes - she’s compelled to follow this path. It’s a very unique journey.”
Henn grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and decided to become an animator when he saw two films - “Cinderella" and “The Reluctant Dragon.” “The Reluctant Dragon” is a 1940 behind-the scenes short about how Disney made animated films. In one scene an animator takes a series of sketches of the character Goofy and flips them to make the character move.
“Goofy just comes to life and dances across the screen,” Henn says. “When I saw that, that’s when the bug really bit. That’s when I was really hooked.”
Reviewers have noted the beautiful depiction of the South Pacific in "Moana." “We’ve chosen to tell a story which is set in one of the prettiest places on the globe,” Henn says. “The technology allows us to recreate that world, which is very important to our storytelling. To me it’s the wonder of the creation that God has given us, on this little blue planet that he has given us.”
“When you see this film you’re going to want to take your shoes and socks off and wade in the water.”