The Moana Soundtrack Hints At Some Major Changes To The Film

The following contains minor spoilers for Moana.

Animated feature films take years to make. While one idea might be the spark that begins the process, it's not uncommon for that idea to go through significant changes over time. Moana is no different. Disney's newest animated musical is now in theaters and the soundtrack is now available online. Included in the complete edition of the soundtrack are several demos and unused songs that show some significant differences in how some parts of Moana were originally going to play out.

We know that originally directors Ron Clements and John Musker were working on a film idea that was going to be solely about Maui, before they realized it needed to be a different story. But even once Moana was born, the movie still could have taken a very different path from beginning to end.


Moana's Motivation Was Completely Different

One of the classic moments in any Disney musical is the "I want" song. Every great musical has a song where the character sings about that thing their life is missing. In Moana that song is called "How Far I'll Go" but it was very nearly the much more simply titled, "More." It's common in these Disney princess films for the heroine to rebel against her family because they dream of something more for themselves than what fate has dictated. That's very much where "More" comes from. It's a catchy tune, but it doesn't show any of the internal conflict that Moana feels in "How Far I'll Go." In this version, Moana wants to leave the island simply for the sake of getting out and seeing something new.

This is reinforced in a demo version of the film's opening song "Where You Are." The final verse of the song, sung by Moana, in which she accepts her role as the new chief, is entirely missing from the demo version recorded by Lin-Manuel Miranda. One of the things that makes Moana a unique character is that she isn't simply some rebellious teenager, she understands and accepts her responsibilities, her adventure is a response to that. However, it almost wasn't.


We Almost Got Maui's Backstory Up Front

The song "Unstoppable" is pretty clearly meant to be a very early song, if not the first one in the film. It gives the entire backstory of Maui at the beginning, rather than sprinkling it throughout the movie. It also makes a direct tie between Maui being defeated, and the end of voyaging for Moana's people. The fact that they used to be voyagers isn't a secret, it appears that it's something that everybody knows, but the people on Moana's island also know that time is behind them. This changes the entire first act of the film as it makes Maui a more important character up front and this would also impact how Moana sees things growing up. We also know Maui's history as a human from the beginning, thanks to this song that's not in the movie.

Moana Concept Art

Moana Talks Herself Into Leaving The Island

In the final cut of Moana, we see Moana's grandmother urging her to go now, while everybody is distracted dealing with grandma dying (grandma is pretty hardcore). However, the reprise to "More" is a song that takes place after grandma (or somebody we assume is grandma) has already passed away. Moana sings about all the stories that she was told and some things she was taught, including basic wayfinding, another change, and she realizes that her grandmother would want her to go. And so she does. Her grandmother still pushes her to start the journey, but not in the same way.

Maui And Moana Once Bonded Much Faster

When Maui first meets Moana he wants nothing to do with her, and even after they agree to work together, it's a partnership of necessity, not common cause. However, there was almost a second a song for Maui in the film that took place on the boat where Maui has decided that he needs to get Moana ready to fight if they're going to do this. It's called "Warrior Face" and it shows that Maui is invested in working with Moana much earlier than he is in the final version. In fact, Moana co-director John Musker told our own Eric Eisenberg that the timing was part of the reason the song was taken out. They didn't want the two getting too close too quickly

It felt like it sort of duplicated some of the other songs and we wanted a different bonding moment, and the bonding almost came too early, because we wanted them to bond more after the underworld than before the underworld.

It's a good song, though it's got a significantly different tone than the rest of the music in the film. It will apparently be included in the Blu-Ray release of the film.


Maui Was Abandoned By The Gods?

There are only a couple of lines that are different between the version of "Shiny" that Jermaine Clement sings in Moana and the demo version sung by Lin-Manuel Miranda. However, one of those differences could be significant. The line sung by Clement in the final film is "far from the ones who abandoned you" but Miranda doesn't sing "ones" he sings "gods." We know that Maui spent 1,000 years on an island until Moana showed up. It's possible that in some early version of the script, Maui held something of a grudge against the gods for his being left that that was a bigger issue, which is what Tamatoa is referring to here.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.