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Lin-Manuel Miranda Interview for Disney's Moana

By November 22, 2016 , ,

Before screening Disney's Moana movie, I thought "We Know the Way" and "You’re Welcome" songs was very catchy. Then I saw Moana and heard each song during it's key scenes and was blown away.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Interview for Disney's Moana Movie

Note: Disney and ABC TV invited me on this all expense paid trip to Los Angeles for the Moana Event and ABC TV Event. While I will share different events and activities during the trip, any personal views expressed are always 100% my own.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Interview for Disney's Moana Movie

Thanks to the skills of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i and Mark Mancina, the music of Disney's Moana is woven so well in terms of storytelling lyrics and instruments.

During the #MoanaEvent press day in L.A., I joined a group interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda to learn more the music.

Inspiration when writing the songs and music for Moana

Lin-Manuel Miranda: A lot of the template was set by our creative team. I think the first thing they animated, that they showed us, was when baby Moana interacts with the water, and it's playing with her.

And to me, that taps-- one, that’s so reflective of Pacific culture, that really treats the ocean as a living thing. And two, I think it taps into a really primal chord of any little kid who goes to the beach. You’re talking to the water. It feels that individual. That’s a thing we forget, when we grow up, that we had this relationship with the water when we were kids. And that sequence is such a powerful reminder of it.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: So, I think to that end, when we were writing Moana's tunes, and that song in particular, it's a calling. It's a calling, the way I felt a calling to write music. It's a calling to see what’s on the other side of that horizon line. And looking around it, everyone content where they are, and being like, how are you content? Um, look what’s out there, and we don’t know what’s there.

I very much related to that. And so that’s sort of what I just tried to imbue Moana with.

Balancing writing for Moana and Hamilton at the same time

Lin-Manuel Miranda: It was a great oasis, during the writing of Hamilton, because any time I was sick of the founders, I'd go sail across the sea, over to Maui and Moana. And then, we just built it into my crazy schedule. Like, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I didn’t do any press, I didn’t do any meetings, I just wrote all day, ‘cause I'd meet, via Skype, with the creative team, at five p.m.

Then I'd have my seven o’clock curtain. I did a lot of writing in the theater. A lot of the early demos are Pippa Soo and Chris Jackson singing, Maui and Moana, ‘cause they were my in-house band.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: So I have a ton of Pippa demos and sort of calling on my friends. I think you’ll hear on the deluxe edition, when it comes out, Marcy Harriell singing a cut Moana song that was called "More". Marcy was my Vanessa, for in The Heights, for many years. So, it was sort of all hands on deck to help me demonstrate these songs.

So that was the process. But it was happening concurrently. And then weirdly, my work finished just about the time my run ended. So I was having Tuesday and Thursday meetings all the way up to my last show.

His favorite Disney movie or character, growing up

Lin-Manuel Miranda: The Little Mermaid is like, the number one. That movie came out when I was nine years old. I saw it when I on a play date with my friend. And you know, this crab starts singing a Caribbean calypso tune and I was never the same again.

I used to get up on my desk in fourth grade and sing it. I remember calling in sick from school, on March 19th, because that was the day it came out on VHS, and I didn’t want to wait ‘til school ended. I wanted to go to the drug store that morning, ‘cause I wanted to get it that day, and I wasn’t going to wait. So I was sick, and I had a stomach ache! And I saw Little Mermaid at ten a.m.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: And really, I think because of Sebastian the Crab, that song was unlike any other Disney tune I heard. I was like, that has a Caribbean rhythm to it. I'm from the Caribbean. And it just felt like, oh, you can go anywhere. I think, probably, my desire to sort of start writing stuff, began with that movie.

Now being part of the Disney family

Lin-Manuel Miranda: It's pretty dope. I mean, from the first moment, I think the most exciting part, for a Disney geek like me, was the story meetings. I’ve had a little Hollywood experience, and there’s nothing like the Disney story experience.

You sit at a table, a lot like this, except it's perfectly round, and the notes are not from execs, the notes are from Jen Lee, the co-director of Frozen, from Pete Docter, who’s working on Inside Out, and did Big Hero 6.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: Like, everyone who actually makes the thing, are the ones who are kicking the tires on your story, and making it better. And that was my favorite part of the process. And getting to meekly raise my hand, and being like, I think a song could do that better. That was my way into the room. So it's been a real joy.

And that joy in his work is what you'll hear in the music and songs of Moana. Get ready!


From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people.

During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho) meets the mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder.

Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.

Voice Cast: Auli‘i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Jemaine Clement, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk.

Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker, produced by Osnat Shurer, and featuring music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa‘i.

Learn more, visit - www.movies.disney.com/moana

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