Where Lin-Manuel Miranda Found Inspiration for the Songs in Moana

Lin-Manuel Miranda of Moana
Lin-Manuel Miranda of Moana

Lin-Manuel Miranda Reveals Inspiration for Moana Songs

About seven months before “Hamilton” opened off-Broadway, the musical’s creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, got a job offer and a plane ticket. He would be cowriting the songs for a Disney animated feature and heading to New Zealand for inspiration.

“We went to this amazing music conference where we heard choirs and bands from every single one of the Pacific Islands,” Miranda tells Made in Hollywood reporter Kylie Erica Mar. “And really our first responsibility was to make sure we represented this part of the world that doesn’t get to hear or see themselves on screen that much.”

From that conference, along with collaborations with Polynesian musicians like Opetaia Foa’I, came the music for “Moana,” with songs sung by Hawaiian newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, who voices the teenage Moana,  and action star Dwayne Johnson, who plays the fallen demigod Maui.

Lin-Manuel Miranda on Collaborating with Opetaia Foa’I in Moana

“Opetaia Foa’I … is an incredible musician and an incredible ambassador for this culture,” says Miranda. “So he really led the way in terms of the rhythms of the song and the harmonies that you would hear in this part of the world. And then we took the ball and ran with it. Every song was written in a different way depending on who was taking the lead. It was really collaborative and fun.”

“Hamilton” would go on to become a Broadway sensation. Now with “Moana’s” huge success at the box office, Miranda is enjoying the kind of career he had always yearned for growing up.

“I think the thing I share with Moana, the character, is that I feel like I had a voice in me being like: I want to make stuff,” he says. “I didn’t know whether it was cartoons or movies or musicals. But I wanted to make stuff. And when you’re 16 the gulf between what you want to do and where you are feels impossible. And I feel like Moana is in the same place at the start of the movie.”