That’s why I’m here. 🙂
The movie in question, Moana is described as such by Disney: “Moana introduces a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. She meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage.”
With the film set in the South Pacific, Moana is being touted as the first Polynesian princess. So, what does Lin-Manuel Miranda, a composer-lyricist of Puerto Rican descent, bring to this project?
Miranda has since gone on to a, thus far, incredible and prolific career. He is probably most known for his rhyming and rapping, which he has utilized in many different areas: rapping in episodes of Sesame Street and How I Met Your Mother, composing the opening and closings numbers for the Tonys Awards, creating Spanish lyrics for a revised revival of West Side Story, and giving an awesome commencement speech at his alma mater. His current musical, Hamilton, about Alexander Hamilton (yes THAT one) recently transferred to Broadway, and has received rave reviews. Both In the Heights and Hamilton have been acclaimed for their inventive scores, their fresh stories, and their integration of modern immigrant perspective into american musical theater canon. Check out the videos for evidence of the man’s rhyming, musical, and lyrical awesomeness:
But, back to In the Heights, despite being best known for his rap-influenced score, my favorite songs from the musical are more traditional, sung by the character of Nina Rosario. A 19-year-old college freshman, she returns home to the Washington Heights barrio for the first time at the top of the play. Part of this preference is personal – I was just a few years from college myself at that time, and under a lot of pressure like her.
In this album there’s a pictureof Abuela in Havana.She is holding a rag dollunsmiling, black and white.I wonder what she’s thinking.Does she know that she’ll be leavingfor the city on a cold, dark night?And on the day they ran,did she dream of endless summer?Did her mother have a planor did they just go?Did her mother sit her down and say,‘Claudia, get readyto leave behind everything you know’?Everything I know.What do I know?
Also, it makes me cry half the times I listen to it. No joke.
My point in talking about all this is to say that Lin-Manuel Miranda is an incredible artist. His lyrics are witty and well-crafted, and the characters he creates in those songs, particularly his female characters, are real, developed people. He is also very cognizant of the role cultural heritage plays in a character, which will be important in the portrayal of Polynesian culture Moana calls for. Thus I know Miranda, along with the rest of the creative team, is more than up to the challenge of giving the next musical Disney Princess her voice. And I hope, after this article, you all will know too.
To finish off this (uncharacteristically short) article, here’s Miranda’s post-D23 announcement, which is, of course, in verse:
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) August 14, 2015