Gramma Tala (voice: Rachel House
) is telling a story to a group of children, with an animated tapa cloth illustrating her words. From the ocean sprang the island goddess Te Fiti. She lay on her side, with her curves becoming mountains and valleys. And in the center was her heart, a stone with a spiral shape on one side, giving out the force of life. Men began to covet her heart, wanting its life-giving power for themselves. A boat carrying the demigod Maui (voice: Dwayne Johnson
) sailed toward the island, and he jumped off and magically transformed into a hawk. He landed on the island and changed again into a lizard to make his way through the forest. Reaching a row of large rocks, he became a bug and squeezed between them. When he reached the heart, he turned back into a man, and he used his large fishing hook to pry out the heart.
Without her heart, the island of Te Fiti began to crumble. Maui ran to the edge of the island, jumped off a cliff and changed into a hawk in midair, then flew back to his boat. He tried to escape, but a lava monster named Te Ka, who also wanted the heart, arose from the sea into a volcano and started to erupt. Maui grabbed his hook and jumped at Te Ka. There was a blinding flash, and Maui was struck from the sky. Maui, the hook and the heart were lost at sea.
A thousand years later, Te Ka still lurks, draining fish from the ocean and swallowing up one island after another until there is no one left. But, Gramma Tala says, one day a hero will journey beyond the reef, find Maui and sail with him across the ocean to restore the heart and save everyone. One little girl is spellbound, but the other children are terrified. Before Tala can continue, Chief Tui (voice: Temuera Morrison
) reminds the children of the most important rule of the island, the one that keep them safe: nobody goes beyond the reef.
The spellbound girl, the toddler Moana (voice: Louise Bush
), slips away and walks to the beach. She sees a baby turtle being menaced by a group of seabirds, and she escorts it into the ocean, shading it with a leaf and shooing the birds away. When the turtle is safe, the ocean recedes, revealing a trail of beautiful seashells, which Moana gathers in her tiny arms. A wave forms over her head and magically stays in place. She pokes the wave with her finger, and water drips down on her. The wave comes down over her hair and gives her a silly hairstyle. Moana plays with the wave some more, and then the ocean parts, making a canyon that she walks through. She sees a shiny object, and the ocean brings it closer. It's a glowing green stone with an interesting spiral shape.
She picks up the stone, and just then, her father, Chief Tui, calls out to her. The ocean lifts her and deposits her back on the shore. Her father races over and picks her up, causing her to drop the stone. Before she can see where it went, her father pulls her close and tells her never to go into the ocean again. He takes her back to the village, where her mother, Sina (voice: Nicole Scherzinger
), is waiting for them. She tells Moana that she will do wondrous things as the next chief of the island, but Tui tells her that she must learn where she's meant to be.
Growing up, Moana learns everything about life on her island, Motunui (song: "Where You Are"). She finds herself drawn to the ocean, but every time she goes near it, her parents drag her back, away from the water. She never even learns to sail. Gramma Tala encourages Moana to follow her heart and listen to the voice inside, to figure out who she really is. One day, Chief Tui leads the now sixteen-year-old Moana (voice: Auli'i Cravalho
) up to the peak of the tallest mountain. He shows her a tall pile of stones, and tells her that one day, she will place her stone on the pile, just as he and the chiefs before him did. At a ceremony that night, Tui hands Moana the chief's battle axe.
Moana makes her rounds of the island, giving advice to everyone who asks. When a man points out the rooster Heihei (voice: Alan Tudyk
) dumbly pecking at a rock, Moana tells him that sometimes strength is hidden beneath the surface. A fisherman walks up to her and tells her that there are fewer fish every day. She suggests fishing in different areas, but they have already tried that. She tells him that they should try fishing beyond the reef, but Tui reminds her of the rule. The men walk away, leaving Moana alone. Venting her frustration, she grabs an oar and starts smashing coconuts into the sand. Sina walks up to her and explains that once Tui went sailing beyond the reef with a friend, and ran into giant waves. Tui was unable to save his friend, and he doesn't want to lose Moana the same way. Sina tells her she must make her own choices, however hard they are.
Moana climbs the peak, preparing to add her stone to the pile. She sees the sun reflect off the ocean, and she realizes that she can't ignore the call of the water any more (song: "How Far I'll Go"). She drops her stone and runs down to the sea. She takes her pet pig, Pua, on a boat and casts off. She feels excitement as a wave picks her up, but then the wind changes and the boom swings toward her and just misses her head. She feels relief, but another wave hits the boat, knocking Pua overboard. A third wave hits, knocking her off as well and breaking the boat. She hits the surface with Pua in her arms, but waves continue to hit the broken boat, driving it into her head and pushing her underwater. She gets her foot trapped in coral, unable to break free. She grabs a rock and smashes the coral, then swims back to the surface. The waves push her and Pua back to the shore. The boat comes back in pieces, and Moana knows she'll be in trouble for what she did. Gramma Tala walks up to her, and Moana says that Tui was right about going out there. She tells Tala that she's going to put her stone on the pile. Tala sees a school of manta rays swim up, and says that when she dies, she's going to come back as one of them. Desperate for advice, Moana asks Tala if there's anything she wants to tell her, and Tala asks her if there's anything she wants to hear. Tala walks off, and Moana decides to follow her, knowing that she would tell a good story.
Carrying a torch, Tala leads Moana into a cavern. Tala tells her to go inside and bang the drum to get the answers she's looking for. Moana carefully makes her way into the dark cavern, finding dozens of boats--outrigger sailing canoes. She jumps onto a canoe and sees a log drum. Picking up a pair of sticks next to it, she bangs on the drum, causing torches to magically light up, illuminating the tapa sail. She sees an image of her ancestors, voyagers who fearlessly sailed the ocean, finding new homes whenever they needed to (song: "We Know the Way"). She asks Tala why they ever stopped voyaging, and Tala tells her about Maui. After he stole the heart, the ships that sailed out never came back. And Te Ka has been chasing away the fish, draining life from one island after another. She repeats what she told Moana as a child, that one day someone will restore the heart and save everyone. Then, she presses a green stone into Moana's hand. Moana recognizes it as the same stone the ocean lead her to years before. Tala points to a hook-shaped constellation and tells her that Maui can be found at the bottom of his hook.
Tui is talking to the island council, trying to reassure them that they won't run out of food, when Moana bursts in and tells him that she can restore the heart of Te Fiti. Angrily, he grabs the green stone from her hand and throws it into the bushes. She runs to get it and finds Gramma Tala's walking stick as well. A warrior runs up and tells them that Tala is not well. Moana and Tui run toward her hut. Tala whispers in Moana's ear that she must leave now, and then hands her the necklace that her voyager ancestors wore. Moana puts the heart of Te Fiti in the necklace and makes up her mind to leave. Grabbing supplies, she heads to the cavern and boards one of the canoes. As she sails off, she sees the light in Tala's hut go out. She sees the glow of a manta ray passing by, illuminating a safe passage. It looks just like her grandmother's manta ray tattoo. Reaching the ocean, Moana sets a course for Maui.
Moana paddles the boat through the night and day. A clucking noise leads her to find Heihei in the cargo hold. As night falls, she starts to fall asleep, and when a wave shocks her awake, she looks at the sky, unable to find the hook constellation. She sees that it's now behind her and tries to turn the boat around, but the wind pushes it over, dumping her into the water. She swims back to the boat and tries to right it, but the waves get worse. A large wave crashes down on her, and everything goes black.
When she opens her eyes, she finds herself on a shore. Feeling for her necklace, she is relieved to find the heart is still there. She sees Heihei pecking at a rock and notices that it has a hook design on it. Following a set of footprints, she sees a camp, and realizes Maui must be inside. She ducks behind her boat to prepare herself and Maui comes out and sees the boat. Joyously, he picks it up with one hand, revealing Moana behind it. He thinks she's just a young fan of his, and he picks up Heihei and uses his beak to scratch a sort of autograph (a heart and a hook) into Moana's oar. He jokes that when you write with a bird, it's called tweeting.
Moana tries to give the speech she's been practicing, telling him who she is, that she knows he stole the heart of Te Fiti, and that she needs him to restore it. He isn't interested, but he distracts her by boasting about his exploits (song: "You're Welcome"). Moana gets a first glimpse of Maui's animated tattoos, which help him tell stories and sometimes serve as his conscience. Maui tosses her into a cave and rolls a boulder over the entrance. He takes her boat and sails off to get his magic hook. Inside the cave, Moana sees a statue that Maui made of himself. Finding a small opening, she climbs the statue, tips it over and climbs out. Seeing Maui sailing away, she jumps into the ocean to swim after him, but she can't keep up. Suddenly the ocean pulls her along rapidly and deposits her on the boat. Maui throws her off, and the ocean puts her right back on. Maui throws away the heart, and the ocean throws it back at him. He jumps off himself, and the ocean puts him back on the boat. He tells her that the heart is a curse, and bad things will come for them if they keep it. Just then, a spear lands on the side of the boat. Looking into a bank of fog, they see a large silhouette moving toward them.
Maui tells Moana that they're under attack by the Kakamora, tiny coconut-shelled warriors. His first impulse is to flee, but when he urgently orders Moana to tighten the halyard and find the stays, she looks bewildered. "You can't sail?" he asks incredulously. "I'm self taught," she replies. Meanwhile, the Kakamora load spears tied to ropes into their catapults, launch them at the boat, and zip-line across to it. They knock Moana to the deck, dislodging the heart from the necklace. Heihei gobbles up the heart, and the Kakamora grab him and take him back to their ship. Moana tells Maui that they have to get Heihei back, and Maui sails close to the other ship. Moana jumps across and bats the Kakamora away with an oar. She runs past the Kakamora chief and grabs Heihei as they shoot blow darts at her. She uses a spear with a rope to zip-line herself back to her canoe. Heihei regurgitates the heart, which Moana triumphantly grabs, before realizing that they are surrounded by Kakamora boats.
Maui expertly sails through the swarm of boats, causing them to collide and sink. Maui tells Moana he won't help her return the heart, but she says he'd be the biggest hero ever if he did. He replies that he won't be able to defeat Te Ka without his magic hook, so she says they need to go and get it. Maui sails them to the lair of Tamatoa (voice: Jemaine Clement
), teaching Moana about sailing and way-finding (celestial navigation) as they go. He moors the ship at a tall spire, the entrance to Lalotai, the realm of monsters. He tells her to stay put as he climbs the spire, but she decides to follow him. They reach the plateau at the top, and Maui stomps the ground, making a face appear. The mouth opens, revealing a vortex below. He jumps in, and Moana follows him. They fall through the air and land in an ocean, still falling. They break into the underworld, and a frog monster grabs Moana with its tongue.
The monster is pulling Moana toward its mouth when another monster eats the first, and she falls to the ground still wrapped in the first monster's tongue. She looks around and sees Maui's hook inside a cave, surrounded by treasure. Maui pops up behind her and tells her that he's going to use her as a distraction. She bangs gold objects together, trying to make as much noise as possible. Maui tells her that when Tamatoa shows up, she should get him to talk about himself. The floor rumbles, and Tamatoa, a crab monster, greets her. He grabs her in a claw and asks her what she's doing there. As Maui sneaks toward the hook, Moana tells Tamatoa that she came to rob him, but now that she sees his splendor, she has to know how he became so beautiful. Smiling, Tamatoa tells her that he decorated himself and his cave with gold to lure in fish (song: "Shiny"). Then he lifts Moana in the air and draws her toward his mouth. Just then, Maui grabs his hook and pulls Moana free. He tries to transform into a hawk, but ends up turning into other animals, and then back to his demigod form. Tamatoa knocks Maui across the cave with a claw and continues hitting him. Moana begs him to stop, but he throws her into a bone cage and continues hitting Maui. Moana slips out of the cage, unseen, and notices a crack in the cave's wall that she can escape through. Looking back, she realizes she can't leave Maui behind.
Tamatoa grabs the hook back from Maui and knocks him across the cave again. As he's preparing to deliver a death blow, Moana holds up the green, glowing heart to get his attention. Tamatoa drops Maui and chases Moana, who loses her footing and drops the heart, and it falls into a crevice. Tamatoa tries to grab it, and Moana takes the hook and brings it to Maui, telling him they have to leave. He asks about the heart, and she shows him the necklace with the heart still inside. When Tamatoa reaches into the crevice, he pulls out a barnacle covered with glowing seaweed. Enraged, he pursues the pair, who run out of the cave. They reach a geyser that erupts and shoots them high in the air and back into the ocean above.
Returning to the shore, Maui tells Moana that since he can't control his transformations, they have no chance of beating Te Ka. She sees a tattoo on his back of a woman holding a baby, and asks him how he got it. He says that he was born a human, and his mother didn't want him, tossing him into the ocean as a baby. But the gods found him, raised him, and gave him the hook. She says that the gods saw something in him that was worth saving, and he starts practicing his transformations. He regains control, turns into a hawk, and flies her back to the boat. Maui lets Moana navigate this time, and in the morning, she sees a ring of islands surrounding Te Fiti. Maui tells her that she has successfully delivered him across the ocean.
Maui takes the heart from Moana, turns into a hawk, and flies over the islands. Te Ka roars to life and knocks him out of the sky. He hits the water below, and Moana sails up to him and pulls him onto the boat. She sails through a gap between the islands, with Te Ka chasing them. Te Ka raises a fist and swings it toward Moana, but Maui blocks it with his hook. The force of the impact causes the ocean to swell, pushing the boat away from the islands. When Moana comes to, she sees the canoe badly damaged, and Maui shows her the hook with a crack down the middle and a piece missing. He tells her that if the hook takes one more hit, it will be destroyed. He says he's done helping her, and he drops the heart into the water, turns into a hawk and flies off. Looking at the ocean, Moana sees a glowing manta ray swimming toward the canoe, and suddenly it disappears. A familiar voice greets her from the other side.
She tells Gramma Tala that she doesn't know what to do. Tala tells her to listen to the voice inside her. She envisions all of her ancestors encouraging her to continue the quest. Looking down into the water, she finds the glowing heart and dives in to grab it. When she resurfaces, Tala and the ancestors are gone, and she is alone, but she knows what she has to do.
She repairs the canoe and sails back to the islands, once again sailing up to the gap. Te Ka reappears and raises a fist to smash the canoe, but Moana steers toward another gap, just avoiding the blow. When Te Ka catches up to her, she sails back to the first gap. Te Ka sends a giant wave toward her, and the canoe capsizes. With boulders raining down around her, she tries to right the boat, but she isn't strong enough. Te Ka raises a fist toward her, but at the last second, a hawk appears and blocks the blow. Maui resumes his demigod form and uses his hook to flip the canoe back over. Turning back into a hawk, he flies over Te Ka as Moana sails. Te Ka knocks him out of the sky, and he lands on an island. He turns back into a demigod and throws his hook at Te Ka, smashing it and distracting him from Moana, who reaches the place where the island of Te Fiti should be. Moana realizes that Te Fiti is gone.
Maui continues to fight Te Ka, and Moana notices something on Te Ka's chest. Realizing what she has to do, she parts the sea and marches toward Te Ka. When Te Ka is about to kill Maui, Moana holds up the heart, which starts to glow. Seeing it, Te Ka turns toward Moana. She tells Te Ka to listen to the voice inside himself. He calms down, and Moana walks up to him and puts the heart in the center of the spiral on his chest. With the heart restored, Te Ka, who was dark with highlights of red lava, returns to his original form: the green island goddess Te Fiti. The ocean rises up and deposits Moana, Maui, and Heihei on the shore. Maui apologizes to Te Fiti for stealing her heart, and she opens her hand and reveals his hook, completely repaired. Te Fiti lifts up Moana and hugs her, then returns her to the beach. Te Fiti shows Moana the canoe, also repaired and decorated with flowers. Moana tells Maui that he could come with her back to the island, since her people need a master wayfinder, and he replies that they already have one (meaning Moana herself). He hugs her, then turns into a hawk and flies off.
Sailing back home, Moana sees that all the plants and fish have returned to Motunui. She jumps out of the canoe and runs to the shore, where Sina and Tui are waiting to hug her. Days later, they pull the canoes out of the cavern and put them in the water. The ocean recedes to reveal a pink shell. Moana takes it and climbs up the mountain, depositing it on the pile of stones. Later, Moana is sailing a canoe, with her parents sailing another one (song: "We Know the Way (Finale)"). She teaches others the skills of sailing and way-finding, passing along what Maui taught her. A glowing manta ray swims past her, and a hawk screeches and dives toward her. Moana realizes she's exactly where she is meant to be.