EXCLUSIVE: “My songwriting process is really simple. I put myself in the character’s shoes, I talk to myself until what comes out feels honest and then I write it down,” says multi-Tony award winning Hamilton creator-actor-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda on breathing life into Disney’s Moana.
Of the seven songs he penned for the animated hit film ($565.2M), “How Far I’ll Go” is up for a best song Oscar nomination and should Miranda win, he’ll become the youngest EGOT winner ever. To date, he’s collected an Emmy for writing the Tony awards, as well as several Tonys and Grammys for his musicals In the Heights and Hamilton.
We hear Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) sing “How Far I’ll Go” toward the beginning of the movie, prior to her Pacific ocean quest to find Demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), whose previous wrongs have impacted her island. In this behind-the-scenes video, Miranda takes us inside his songwriting process for this tune. “It’s not that she needs to leave because there’s something wrong with the culture,” explains Miranda about the song, “It’s her trying to marry her passion with helping the village.”
Miranda began working on Moana seven-and-a-half months before rehearsals for Hamilton, having been one of several songwriters who interviewed for the job. After taking the offer, Miranda told Deadline’s Pete Hammond, “The next day I was on a plane to New Zealand, where the rest of the team was already doing research, and meeting with different choirs, and sort of really soaking up the music, the musical world of, the musical heritage of this part of the world.”
A big plus for the position: Miranda is a passionate Disney geek, and that’s not a line. Last August, the songsmith took over Disney’s Instagram account and belted out tunes from studio’s musical canon from popular tunes like like “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid to the most obscure like “Santa Fe” from Newsies and the “Rescue Rangers” theme song.
Come Sunday, Feb. 26, that warm-up will have morphed itself into a notable musical number as Miranda will take the stage at the Dolby Theatre alongside Cravalho to perform “How Far I’ll Go” as part of Oscar ceremony’s best song nominee sequence.
But before stepping on stage at the Dolby, Miranda is currently in London, shooting Mary Poppins Returns.