The wait is over! It’s been almost a week since Moanahit theaters and we have a bunch of new Disney songs to memorize. After the enormous success of Frozen, with its Broadway-type songs written by the married duo of Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Disney decided to repeat the formula and go for the biggest Broadway star of the moment. The choice was obvious: Hamilton composer, lyricist, and star Lin Manuel Miranda.
Besides being one of the biggest stars of the moment, Miranda was the perfect choice because of his deep love of Disney music. He even said once that The Little Mermaid was the reason he got into musical theater:
“When Sebastian the crab began singing a Caribbean calypso number in the middle of a Disney movie, my life has sort of never been the same since.” – Lin Manuel Miranda
To make sure they respected and honored the culture they were representing, the entire Moana team did a ton of research, interviews, and trips to immerse themselves in the world they hoped to portray on screen. But not matter how much research you do, nothing compares to having someone who is authentically from that place, so Disney recruited Opetaia Foa’i, a Samoan musician, to help Miranda with the music.
The result, accompanied by the score by Mark Mancina, is absolutely delightful. It might take some people a while to get used to the new rhythms, since this is not as Broadway-ish as Frozen, but I firmly believe we will all be singing these tunes for years and years to come.
The standard soundtrack features plenty of new songs. There are many that prominently feature Polynesian vocal groups and choirs, while others are the more traditional Disney songs that advance the plot and character. Those include “Where You Are,” a song – featuring Christopher Jackson (Hamilton) and Nicole Scherzinger – Moana’s parents sing to her about the island they live on; “How Far I’ll Go,” the classical “I want” song performed by Auli’i Cravalho; “We Know The Way,”composed by Foa’i and featuring vocals from Miranda; “You’re Welcome,” performed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a fan favorite for sure; “Shiny,” a deliciously evil song by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Concords) that steals the show; and “I am Moana,” which made me cry even before seeing the movie.
The score by Mancina perfectly suits the movie and uses motifs from the songs to enhance the experience of watching it. Overall this is a fantastic soundtrack and absolutely worth your money. And for a few bucks more, you can get the Deluxe version, which includes some demo songs and, more interestingly, songs that didn’t make the movie. “More” (an early version of “How Far I’ll Go”) and “Unstoppable” (the proto “You’re Welcome”) are the standouts. If you’re obsessed with Disney music, and being a Rotoscoper reader chances are you are, this is definitely worth your money.
Pablo Ruiz is a Colombian filmmaker. Movies like Toy Story, The Lion King and Aladdin made him fall in love with the art form and now he hopes to dedicate his life to telling stories, hopefully for Pixar (if they go back to doing original films).
Some of his ambitions are making a movie as emotionally impacting as Toy Story 3, meeting JK Rowling, and petting a million dogs. Follow him on Twitter (@PabloRV7).