Although it didn’t exactly clean up at the box office, Moana seems sure to take home an Oscar or two come February. The film fell far behind fellow 2016 Disney flicks Finding Dory and Zootopia in ticket sales, but it more than makes up for it with stunningly beautiful art, wonderful music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a story that respectfully leverages the previously unexplored Pacific Islander culture.
Every film ends up with some deleted scenes, and animated features are no exception. We can expect to see some pre-rendered test footage on the Moana digital release and Blu-Ray. In the meantime, the film’s soundtrack has given us some clear indications as to what we’ll see.
The Deluxe edition of the soundtrack, which is available for streaming on Amazon, includes an entire second disc of demos and cut tracks. These include Lin-Manuel Miranda (hilariously) singing new classics like “Shiny” and “You’re Welcome”, but he also throws in a few songs that didn’t quite make the cut.
Moana is a musical above all. More than even other Disney films, the songs advance the story and develop the characters. When Maui sings about his supernatural feats in “You’re Welcome”, he’s not just giving us an earworm. He’s also dazzling Moana so he can steal her boat. When Tamatoa the crab performs his Bowie style ballad “Shiny”, it’s the scene of a battle between him and Maui.
The songs “Unstoppable”, “More”, and “Warrior Face” point to entire deleted scenes that would have taken the story of Moana in new directions. So what happens in them?
Maui Really Is “Unstoppable”
This lively track would likely have taken place near the beginning of the film. The village storyteller sings to a crowd of Moana’s people about the wonders performed by Maui. It’s something of a precursor to Maui’s solo song “You’re Welcome”, in which he sings his own praises. Repeatedly.
It’s a shame that this sequence was cut from the film, as it would have given some much-needed background to Maui’s character. As it is, he tells us that he’s beloved, that he created many aspects of the world Moana loves, and that he’s a great hero. But he’s the only one who tells us this.
What we see is basically a washed-up strong man who knows a little too much for his own good. It’s not until Maui starts acting like the hero he is that we even really see his potential.
His arc isn’t quite complete without this song. As it is, we see Maui at his low, and then we see him climb out of it. We never see his past glory, when he really was beloved by humanity. This song is where we get that side of him.
Moana’s Bored of Home in “More”
“More” is something of an extended take on the themes of “Where You Are”, the song Moana’s father sings to her about their home. The song uses many of the same musical structures of that song, but focuses more on Moana’s dissatisfaction with her small island.
In the song, Moana runs afoul of her father and fellow islanders, getting in their way as they go about their daily routine. She sings about wanting to see more of the world, and wondering if there’s more to life.
The finished film instead shows Moana’s wanderlust through dialog, especially with her grandmother. “More” as it stands is a great song, but it’s understandable why it was cut. The plot points it gets across are made just fine in “Where You Are” and in the non-musical scenes of the film.
One thing that is interesting about “More” is a potential alternate version of the setting. Moana refers to her people having voyaged across the seas thousands of years before, which in the film she only finds out a very short time before sailing off.
It seems from “More” that originally, Moana’s people may have been fully aware that they were once voyagers, but consciously chose to reject that past and stay in the safety of the island.
Maui Teaches Moana to Make a “Warrior Face”
Ah, “Warrior Face”. If there’s one deleted scene I wish had made it into the finished Moana, it’s this one. In “Warrior Face”, Maui teaches Moana the art of the haka.
Like Maui himself, the haka is a near-universal facet of Pacific culture. It’s most famous among the Maori people of New Zealand, but it has analogs almost all the way to Hawaii.
In ancient days, warriors would contort their faces into the haka to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. It was used by soldiers to hype themselves up for battle, and to intimidate the enemy. The guttural shouts and unnatural expressions were meant to frighten even supernatural foes.
The haka is immortalized in countless pieces of Island art, and it does make an appearance in Moana. At the end of the film, when Maui’s hook has been broken, he’s certain to be killed the the lava monster. Rather that turn tail and run, he performs a haka at the beast, trying to taunt it to attack him rather than Moana. It’s the moment when we truly see Maui’s bravery, and understand that he really is a hero to the Pacific people.
In the song “Warrior Face”, Maui teaches Moana this forgotten piece of her past. In his typical style, he mocks and taunts her as she’s “not scary enough” or “not intense enough.” When she finally performs to his satisfaction, he grants her a grudging “Better.”
This would likely have taken place as the pair were on their way to fight the lava monster for the first time.