The Problem With Pua
By now, hopefully you?ve seen Disney Animation?s newest feature film, Moana, the story of a girl who wants to leave her island and explore the open sea. If not?
It?s a solid film, one of Disney?s best in years, but it does leave a few questions unanswered. What?s up with that giant singing crab? Why have coconut pirates? How does Grandma so easily conquer the art of reincarnation?
But the biggest question that the audience is left with is this:
Why did the pig stay behind?
Pua the Pig
In the film we are introduced to Heihei the rooster and Pua the pig early on. Much like the animal sidekicks in Pocahontas & Pinocchio, these animals don?t talk. When Moana, on her boat, hears a noise from below deck, I leaned to my friend and said ?it?s the pig.? But to my utter shock and amazement ? it was Heihei. Pua was nowhere to be seen.
This is blasphemous to anyone who?s knows the Disney Sidekick Pattern. There?s the smart/serious animal & the dumb/silly animal.
Timon & Pumba. Cogsworth & Lumire. Sebastian & Flounder. Gus & Jaq. Abu & Magic Carpet. Mushu & Cricket. Miko & Flit. The list goes on. The pattern even goes back to the early days of Disney ? see Figaro the cat & Cleo the goldfish in 1943?s Pinocchio.
All signs pointed to Moana?s pig Pua & rooster Heihei being the newest team-up of animal sidekicks.
Literally ? all the signs pointed to that.
Look! There?s the pig on the boat in the poster!
Pua looks happy if not slightly terrified as he joins the adventure.
And again in this ad!
The Brave Little Pig ventures out onto the outermost edge of the boat.
As you can see in these promotional images for Moana, the title character stands on her boat along with her uneasy ally Maui, unwanted stowaway Heihei and Pua the pet pig. But these are scenes that do not happen in the movie. How could the advertising team make such a huge error?
Some rumors claim that Pua was originally supposed to have a bigger role but was cut last minute. Surely he would have been a source of comfort to Moana during her low points (unlike Heihei, who is an annoyance throughout). Pua would have played the smart/serious animal to the dumb/silly antics of Heihei and the Ocean. He?s also a perfect character for marketing ? he even looks like a plush doll in the movie. So why have him in less than 20% of the film? After countless sleepless nights full of intense research, chocolate-covered espresso beans and pin-and-string maps across all the walls of my apartment, I?ve determined that there is a deeper meaning to this seemingly bizarre decision. Here are 9 theories:
Nothing grows in that spot because Moana keeps dumping coconut water on it.
1. The Pig Doesn?t Exist & Never Did
I don?t think any character ever acknowledges Pua besides Moana. This strikes me as odd. Pua seems to be the only pet pig running around the island. The pig acts more like a dog and seems to be a friendly animal. I?d imagine the other islanders would love to play with him or at least give him a nice pat on the head as he goes by. But instead, Pua is largely ignored by the people of Motonui. Moana doesn?t seem to have any real friends on her island, and certainly not a significant other, so maybe Pua is her imaginary friend. Look at this screenshot. You probably think the girl on the left is watching the cute scene of a pig drinking coconut water. But take your hand and cover up Moana and Pua for a second. Now the girl is looking at Right Girl, who is wolfing down coconut water. So what?s Moana actually doing in this scenario? That?s right. Pouring coconut water onto the ground.
Pink outfits a coincidence? Unlikely.
2. The Pig is a Symbol for Moana?s Want ? her Parents? Approval.
This is my film school theory. The only time we ever see Pua is on land. Once she goes on her adventure, he disappears. Think about it ? she tries to go on her journey?but brings her pig ? her crutch. But after that short-lived journey results in a near-death experience, Moana realizes that she can?t have both her parents? approval and go on her journey. So she leaves the embodiment of what?s holding her back behind & is able to go on her way. When she returns to the island, all seems to be forgiven between her and her parents & so she is able to reunite with the pig, finally able to get both her want (approval) & need (ability to explore the world). And look what color they?re wearing?PINK!
3. The Pig Drowned in the First Act & Died
A morbid thought, I know. Early on in the film, Moana and her pig get swept up by a dangerous current and almost die. But what if poor Pua didn?t actually make it? Pigs can swim, but that was a dangerous ocean and even Moana, who has Moses-like superpowers, almost drowned. It seems unlikely she?d be able to save herself and a pig. ?But would they really kill an animal character?? you ask. People tend to think of Disney animated features as very light and happy, but there are some brutal deaths in its history ? and not just of bad guys falling off ledges (which I will address in a future post). Lion King, Bambi & The Princess and the Frog immediately come to mind as examples of Disney films where a major animal character is killed off. But what about Pua?s appearance for the final number? We?ve seen characters reappear after dying in this film, so why can?t Pua do it? Can a pig be reincarnated as an identical pig? Why not?
4. The Pig is Moana?s father?s friend who drowned.
We?ve not only heard about reincarnation in this film, but have actually seen it happen. It?s likely her father Tui?s unlucky friend would want to be an animal who could stay near his island friends after death. Why not be his best friend?s daughter?s beloved pig? Yeah I guess that?s a little weird. But how about this ? he has already shown a desire to explore the ocean as a human, but after nearly drowning a second time, this time as a pig, he decides to finally give up that dream. He gets excited at the end of the film, because he is once again able to go sailing with Moana?s Dad, his best friend. It?s true that if the friend died as a young man and turned into a pig immediately, the pig would be a lot older now. But maybe Pua is actually 20-something years pygmy pig. (Pigmy?)
I know something you don?t know
5. The pig is Grandpa.
He?s not mentioned in the film, but he certainly must have existed at some point. If Grandma can turn into a stingray, then Grandpa could just as easily be a pig. Why wouldn?t he reveal his true identity to Moana though? Perhaps he was a pig-like person in real life, which explains his animal of choice, his lack of desire to be of any real help and Grandma?s desire to get away from him in the afterlife. Grandma also playfully tells Moana to blame Pua for the boating accident at the beginning of the film. Is she teasing her dead husband? (To be fair to Grandpa though, Grandma seems like a difficult person to be married to.)
6. The pig is Maui.
Besides on the cryptic poster, which can not be trusted, we never see the two characters together. Neither of them can swim. Both of them have a lot of energy. Both like hanging out with Moana. Oh ? and remember ? Maui can turn into animals. Why not a pig? Maui claims he was trapped on an island. But what if he was the pig at the beginning, turned into an eagle, flew to the island, turned into Maui, and stole Moana?s boat? We already know he?s a liar. This series of events is highly plausible.
What the hell is this? This never happens either!
7. Moana is a figment of the pig?s imagination.
In this theory, Pua is the protagonist of the film & Moana is his imaginary friend. After his first (solo) journey into the water went awry, he decided to retreat into a fantasy world where he could become an adventuring hero and enjoy all sorts of adventures on the open sea. It is an escape from his actual sad life, where he is certainly being raised for slaughter and consumption by hungry Hawaiians, who are probably tired of coconut by this point. The lava monster? That?s actually the island butcher who ends up butchering poor Pua. However, we are given a happy ending, as Pua?s imaginary daydream becomes his reality for all eternity. He is able to finally sail away with his imaginary friend into the Grey Havens.
When you turn on the front facing camera by accident.
8. The pig WAS there the whole time.
The right answer is often the simplest. After all, the poster confirms that the pig was on the boat. We know the pig has shown a desire to go on a boat. Maybe he stayed below deck, deathly seasick for the film?s entirety. Even if he wasn?t sick, it certainly would be easier than fighting coconut pirates or murderous crabs or lava monsters. Wouldn?t you stay down there?
9. Moana ate the pig.
Only a few minutes into the movie, we see Moana devour a piece of pork and vocalize how delicious she thinks it is. She then looks down at her pet pig, who seems to know exactly what is going on, and apologizes for her insensitivity. But what if the pork she was eating was Pua? Could Pua then be an illusion representing her own guilt at her omnivorous lifestyle? A ghostly presence that haunts her every time she returns to the scene of the crime? Perhaps, then, this film is about Moana?s vegetarian awakening. Think of all the references to meat. She eats pork. She encounters a crab. The island raises chickens. The opening song ?Where We Are? refers to the coconut as ?meat?. Finally she encounters Te Ka?s fury. Te Ka is a monster made out of overcooked steak. Also an anagram for ?Te-Ka?s?? ?Steak.? After she returns the ?heart?, a vital organ sometimes consumed by meat-eaters, she meets Te Fiti, a goddess made out of grass and flowers and vegetation. This is where she realizes that she needs to become a vegetarian. When she returns home, she is reunited with the ghost of Pua, who forgives her. Oh. And you know what ?Pua? means? It?s short for ?puaka.? Polynesian for ?pork?.
Which of these Pua theories do you think is the most likely? Any ideas that haven?t been explored?
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Want more conspiracy theories? Check out Where the heck is Hawkeye?
Is there another movie poster that?s bothering you? Let me know and I?ll investigate!