Thanks to recent hits like Frozen, fans have no doubt we’re well into the second Disney Renaissance. And 2016 was perhaps the best proof of that. That year, Disney released two instant animated classics, the Oscar-winning Zootopia and Moana.
Although Zootopia performed better at the box office, Moana has arguably had a bigger cultural impact. The movie’s music — including star Dwayne Johnson’s iconic “You’re Welcome” — is a big part of why. And Johnson’s wrestling past actually played a huge role in making Moana.
Here’s how, according to songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda.
‘Hamilton’ star Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote music for Disney’s ‘Moana’
To give Moana a signature sound, Disney turned to Miranda. The award-winning Hamilton star wrote or co-wrote all the songs for the movie. These include the Oscar-nominated tune “How Far I’ll Go,” performed by newcomer Auliʻi Cravalho.
Cravalho’s big solo is yet another example of a classic Disney trope. Frequently, characters who long for freedom or adventure will burst into song. And the combination of Miranda’s lyrics and music with Cravalho’s soaring vocals makes the song a powerful standout.
Miranda even turned to his own childhood for inspiration in crafting the song. And if it wasn’t for Johnson’s insanely catchy “You’re Welcome,” then Cravalho’s song would be the easy choice for the movie’s most memorable tune.
RELATED: How Old Are the Disney Princesses?
Dwayne Johnson’s WWE career affected his song, ‘You’re Welcome’
As it stands, Johnson’s larger-than-life anthem arguably makes the biggest impression. And fans have the actor’s former career as a WWE wrestler to thank for Maui’s fan favorite. During a recent airing of Moana on ABC, Miranda offered a peek behind his process.
According to his Twitter account, Miranda did his research before handing Johnson his own song. To prepare, he watched YouTube videos of Johnson singing throughout his WWE career. So Miranda had a lot of footage he could reference to get a sense for Johnson’s vocal range.
“[Johnson is] the only person who could pull off THIS chorus and still have you love him,” Miranda tweeted. Truly, “You’re Welcome” features the same bravado and lack of humility as Johnson’s wrestling persona. Perhaps that’s why the song and its performer feel like such a natural fit.
‘Moana’ remains one of Disney’s most beloved recent hits
Johnson’s widespread appeal and Miranda’s music are only part of why Moana is such a significant addition to the Disney library. The movie is the latest from directors John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin). And it presents one of the few Disney princesses of color.
In fact, the movie is the kind of culturally sensitive depiction the world needs more of. Disney has made some very problematic decisions in the past. But the studio is taking greater steps toward representation and diversity. Moana is one of the best examples of that approach done right.