Moana (left) sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder. Along the way, she meets once-mighty demi-god Maui (right).
Disney
September 12, 2016 7:29 AM EDT

Partway through Moana, an animated musical due out Nov. 23, the titular character’s traveling companion, a tattooed demigod named Maui (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), refers to her as a princess. “I am not a princess,” Moana says. “If you wear a dress and you have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess,” he counters. But Disney’s latest heroine, a 16-year-old Polynesian voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, puts an end to this mansplaining–not with a witty retort but by navigating the ocean, defeating a pissed-off lava monster and saving the world with a dim-witted pet rooster in tow.

The newest Disney heroine to join the ranks of Belle and Ariel is, in fact, just what she says she is. That’s the point, say directors Ron Clements and John Musker, who helmed such classics of the genre as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. “We saw this as a hero’s journey, a coming-of-age story, in a different tradition than the princess stories,” says Clements. Adds Musker: “I don’t know that any other princesses we’ve been involved with we’d describe as badass.”

Unlike many of her predecessors, Moana has no love interest. Nor is she a strutting waif, since she must believably “hold her own in the demands of this physical environment,” Musker says. All of these departures from princesses past help turn Moana into a model for anyone who’s ever asked, as she does, “What’s wrong with me?” The answer? Absolutely nothing.

–E.B.

MOVIES CALENDAR

SEPT. 16

BRIDGET JONES’S BABY

The hapless Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is back, pregnant and embroiled in a paternity mystery.

SEPT. 23

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

In this reboot of the classic western, with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, outlaws unite to protect a town from a heartless industrialist.

SEPT. 30

AMERICAN HONEY

Shia LaBeouf and newcomer Sasha Lane take to the road with a crew of wayward youths.

SEPT. 30

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

A boy (Asa Butterfield) discovers a home for misfit kids and strives to protect them from evil.

OCT. 21

MOONLIGHT

Barry Jenkins’ film, told in three parts, tracks a young man exploring his sexuality.

NOV. 11

ARRIVAL

A linguist (Amy Adams) is a crucial translator in the wake of an extraterrestrial invasion.

NOV. 18

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Life for awkward high schooler Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) plunges into misery when her brother and best friend hook up.

NOV. 18

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

In this powerful Sundance hit, an uncle (Casey Affleck) steps in after his nephew’s father dies.

NOV. 18

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

The wizarding world descends into chaos in this 1920s-era Harry Potter spin-off, starring Eddie Redmayne as a magizoologist.

NOV. 23

RULES DON’T APPLY

In 1950s Hollywood, a starlet under contract with Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) gets secretly entangled with her driver.

This appears in the September 12, 2016 issue of TIME.

More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com.

Read More From TIME
Related Stories
EDIT POST