Since her days as a toddler, Moana was drawn to the sea. During one of her trips to the shore, she noticed a beautiful seashell and wanted to take it. Not far from the waters, however, a newly hatched sea turtle was having trouble getting to the sea, as a flock of birds threatened to eat it. The ocean challenged Moana's empathy by tempting her to choose between the shell and the sea turtle; she chose to save the latter. Moana's selfless act prompted the ocean to choose her as the world's "chosen one" and revealed itself as a sentient being. The ocean and Moana play together and form a bond, before the former gifts the latter with the heart of Te Fiti. Moana's father, Tui, calls out for his daughter, prompting the ocean to return her to shore and hide itself. As Moana is taken back to her village, she drops the heart, which is recovered by her grandmother, Tala.
As the years passed, Moana remembered her experience with the ocean, but assumed it was merely a dream. When Gramma Tala believed the time was right, she used her dying day to prepare Moana for her journey across the sea. Tala tells her granddaughter that she was chosen by the ocean. On queue, the ocean makes a dramatic return and playfully reunites with Moana. Shortly afterward, Tala passes away, but not before leaving instructions on how to find Maui and enlist him on the journey to find Te Fiti and restore the heart. Moana takes one of her ancestor's boats and sails off into the night. Accompanied by the stowaway rooster Heihei, Moana journeys to find Maui's island, but her boat flips over during the search. To assist Moana, the ocean creates a massive storm that shipwrecks her and Heihei to Maui's island.
Moana berates the ocean at first, but soon realizes where she and Heihei had ended up. They meet Maui, but he refuses to join the mission and instead steals Moana's boat. The ocean transports Moana to the stolen canoe in little time. Though Maui repeatedly throws Moana back into the sea, the ocean returns her each time. Eventually, Maui tries to leave himself, but the ocean prevents this as well. They soon reach an agreement to return the heart, and after recovering Maui's lost fish hook, they make their way to Te Fiti.
Maui battles Te Kā but is defeated. Moana nevertheless tries to bypass the lava demon, but this nearly gets them killed. Maui blocks Te Kā's blow with his hook, and this sends them into the blackness of the night and far from Te Fiti's shores. Maui's hook is severely damaged, and he blames Moana for the disaster. Turning into a hawk, Maui backs down from the mission and takes his leave. The ocean arrives to comfort Moana, who asks why she was chosen in the first place. Feeling she's failed, Moana tearfully requests that the ocean choose someone else to restore the heart. Respecting her decision, the ocean takes the heart back into the sea.
Moana is encountered by Gramma Tala and her ancestors following her decision, and their meeting reinvigorates the former, prompting her to dive into the sea to reclaim the heart. She and Heihei sail to Te Fiti and confront Te Kā. The lava demon nearly consumes Moana, but she is saved by Maui, who has had a change of heat. As Maui battles Te Kā, Moana heads for Te Fiti. Seeing Moana intrude, the lava monster throws a fireball to stop her. The ocean blocks its path and safely gets Moana to Te Fiti's shore. She cannot find the spiral in which the heart is to be placed, but looks into the distance and notices it to be on Te Kā's chest. Moana orders the ocean to part for Te Kā, and it responds immediately. Moana and Te Kā confront each other, but the former manages to tame the lava demon. The heart is then placed on Te Kā's chest, restoring her to the form of Te Fiti.
Te Fiti undoes the curse placed upon the world, and restores Moana's canoe. She and Heihei bid Maui farewell and return to Motunui. After they disembark, Heihei walks back towards the sea, though the ocean redirects him to the village. During the epilogue, the ocean gifts Moana with the seashell from their first meeting, which she places on Motunui's sacred mountain to signify her role as chief.
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