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Fun Facts About The Music Of Moana

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Has the music of Moana been on non-stop repeat at your house? Last month I had the chance to meet with two of the brilliant minds behind the music. Opetaia Foa’i brought the traditional music of Oceania, while Lin-Manuel Miranda shared his lyrical genius on the soundtrack.

He Had Two Jobs At Once

Lin-Manuel Miranda juggled Hamilton and Moana responsibilities at the same time. According to producer Osnat Shurer, they asked him what he was working on during the interview process. “He said, ‘You know, I’m working on a hip hop musical based on the founding fathers for the public.’ I’m like two months and I have him full time. It’s not going anywhere.” Hamilton surpassed everyone’s expectations, including Shurer’s. Miranda avoided scheduling meetings or press on Tuesdays and Thursdays to prepare for 5pm Skype calls with the Moana creative team. Then at 7pm it would be time for the Hamilton curtain.

The Cast Of Hamilton Helped Out

Phillipa Soo and Christopher Jackson helped out with recording early demos. Christopher Jackson was eventually cast as the singing voice for Chief Tui. The cast of Hamilton even received “special thanks” in the closing credits. Miranda also called on Marcy Harriell, one of the Vanessas from In The Heights, to record some early Moana demos. You can find several of her outtakes on the deluxe edition of the soundtrack


Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

He Was Excited To Write About Voyaging

The first track that Opetaia Foa’i wrote was We Know The Way. “When John [Musker] and Ron [Clements] and Osnat [Shurer] were explaining what they wanted-and of course voyaging is my thing-I was so excited that I wrote that.” During a later meeting, Miranda added additional lyrics to the song.

It WasA Family Affair.

Opetaia Foa’i’s daughter Olivia can be heard singing during the opening castle animation of Moana. His two sons are percussionist who also took part in performing the music of Moana.

He Went Method To Write His Favorite Song

Miranda is really proud of How Far I’ll Go. “I literally locked myself up in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house to write those lyrics. I wanted to get to my angstiest possible place.” It was a challenging song to write because Moana is conflicted by her desire to follow the sea and her love of the island. “Finding that notion of listening to that little voice inside you and that being who you are, once I wrote that lyric-it first appears when Gramma Tala tells it to her in the opening number-it then had huge story repercussions.”

The Rock Wanted To Rap

Dwayne Johnson was one of only two people cast when Moana’s songs were being written.  When he found out Lin-Manuel Miranda was writing songs for the movie he requested the rap. “I wasn’t planning to write a patter section, but, you know, I serve at the pleasure of the president,” says Miranda.

The Glam-Rock Shiny Was A Tribute To Bowie

Jemaine Clement paid tribute to David Bowie years ago on an episode of Flight of the Conchords. With the world mourning Bowie’s death, a shiny crab singing a Bowie-inspired tune was a given for Miranda.

For tons of Moana coverage-including exclusive interviews with the cast and filmmakers-check out my Moana archives!

As The Bunny Hops®