Why I’m Excited Lin Manuel Miranda is Composing Moana (and You Should Be Too!)

Source: Broadway World
In the wake of the D23 convention over a week ago, there were a lot of great announcements made in regards to upcoming Disney movies and such.
 
But the one that got me really excited?
 
Lin-Manuel Miranda is composing the next Disney Princess movie.
 
 
The thing is, I don’t think much of the general population understands just how awesome this news is.
 

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?

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Moving Pictures: A Brief Reflection on the Oscars Opening

The annual Oscars have come and gone, and this year I actually saw more than a few of the nominees (probably because I wasn’t, y’know, studying my butt off as was the norm up until now).

There were a lot of really great moments at Sunday night’s ceremony. But of course, grabbing attention from the get go is important, and what would a Neil Patrick Harris-hosted event be without a dynamite opening number?

Penned by the composer and lyricist of Frozen, I found the song very intriguing given the cultural environment that surrounded this year’s Oscars. I won’t go into detail on all that, as there are others who have stated it better and more passionately than I could.

And also, it is interesting to reflect on the song after having seen the whole ceremony, because so many of this year’s acceptance speeches ended up talking about films as representative of issues that wouldn’t otherwise be talked about. That films even have a responsibility to be socially aware and advocate on behalf of others, and to do it right.  And on many levels, I so agree with all of that! All kinds of storytelling invite us to empathize with people in situations unfamiliar to us, and that is part of what makes them so important.

But… what about when we realize that a story we love is problematic? 

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Three Musical Christmas Carols: Muppets, Magoo, and Scrooge

When it comes to musicals, songs are utilized to dramatize moments of high emotion – the characters are so emotional they have to sing about it. Thus, when adapting a pre-existing story to musical form, the creators look at the story for the emotional high points and parts that lend themselves to a musical number (think Legally Blonde‘s “Bend and Snap”) before creating the songs. In this way the addition of music does not feel superfluous, but feels like an expansion of the existing plot and characters.

With Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, we have a unique opportunity to look at multiple adaptations of the same, well-known story. There have been a number of musical versions, but I will be concentrating on my two favorites: The Muppet Christmas Carol and Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol. 

Like many people in my generation, I am quite fond of The Muppet Christmas Carol. The addition of the Muppets, though hilarious, does not intrude much on this retelling of the plot, and the songs are quite splendid.

Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, on the other hand, was a classic from the previous generation, introduced to me by my parents. It’s actually considered the first animated Christmas special, beating out A Charlie Brown Christmas by three years, so that’s a pretty big deal. Other than the framing device of having Mister Magoo acting in the show on Broadway, this is a pretty straightforward retelling, actually. 

“Use the force, Scrooge!”

However, since these were both comedic adaptations with characters from other media, I’m also bringing in the musical film Scrooge starring Albert Finney and featuring Alec Guinness (before he was Obi-Wan) which was a more straightforward adaptation, for comparison. I don’t know this version as well, but I have listened to the songs, so I hope you’ll bear with me on this. 

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The Art of the Fan Musical: Supernatural and Starkid

 

So, I watched Supernatural‘s 200th episode last week.

For the record, I don’t really watch the show. However, I figured I had enough of a working knowledge from tumblr to be able to appreciate the anniversary musical episode.

I always find musical episodes on otherwise nonmusical shows interesting, even if I don’t know the show that well, because, unlike on stage, there has to be a reason the characters are bursting into song. Whether it be a feverish hallucination, a Chicago-style daydream, or even a demon who kills by getting emotionally supressed people to sing and dance their feelings. These musical episodes also often provide anthems for long-standing themes and relationships in the show (see: “Guy Love” from the Scrubs episode “My Musical”).

But, Supernatural‘s musical episode, entitled “Fan Fiction,” is unique in that the characters from the show don’t actually sing about their feelings. Actually, the main supernatural-hunting brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, balk at the idea of musical theater (though Sam apparently ran tech for Our Town and Oklahoma in high school). But because Supernatural has a book series in-universe that is based on the lives of the characters, with a fanbase not dissimilar to Supernatural‘s real life fans, they were able to create a meta musical commentary not just on the Supernatural universe, but on how its fans enjoy it.

In short, the musical episode was created in the style of a fan adaptation. And when I think of fan adaptations, I can’t help but compare to the marvellous works of Team Starkid.

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Character Comparisons: Ursula & Audrey II

  

Ursula the Sea Witch and the Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors were both villains featured on my “31 Days of Villains” Pinterest board that I completed throughout the month of October. Posting these two back-to-back got me thinking about certain similarities they shared.

First, a little history. In 1982, Little Shop of Horrors, a musical based on a 1960 B-movie, premiered Off-Off-Broadway, later transferring Off-Broadway for an award-winning and successful 5-year run (which my parents and grandparents actually saw, for the record).

The musical, for those who don’t know, concerned hapless florist Seymour Krelbourne who, upon finding a “strange and interesting plant,” finds his luck changing as the plant, named “Audrey II” after the lovely co-worker he has a crush on, gains fame for its peculiarity. The catch: It can only grow by feeding on blood. As the plant gets bigger (and starts talking), Seymour finds he can no longer feed it on his own, and is prompted by the plant to start killing people to keep it, and his fortunes, alive.

The plant is eventually revealed to have plans to spread, feast on blood, and take over the world. And, based on the ending of the original show, it does! *

Seven years later, Disney released The Little Mermaid, a film which jet-launched the company out of its animation slump and into the Disney Renaissance, which later lead to the establishment of the Disney Princess line. It won an Oscar for “Under the Sea,” the first of Disney wins in the Best Original Song category throughout the ’90s. (I think we all know the plot well enough that I don’t have to reiterate it here).

A trash-talking show about a bloodthirsty plant, and a quintessential, squeaky-clean Disney Princess film. What could these musicals possibly have in common?

Well, for one, their music teams.

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