I saw Moana over the weekend. It’s a thoroughly entertaining, quality kids movie with minimal pee jokes, though it did not move me like either Inside Out or Zootopia. That’s probably because—as was expressed on many platforms when the film was first announced—it sits in the canon of always much-discussed Disney Princess movies, which are generally plagued with the trappings of their genre. In this regard, the most important thing about Moana, for all its faults, is that even animated it’s very nice to see a confident girl of color having an adventure. Also, it works as a beautifully animated allegory about climate change.
All this is to say that regardless of the lessons Disney films may or may not send new generations, they are a particular kind of commodity, with octopus arms that spread far past the singular entity. A key part of their machine is the music, and in Moana, many of the songs are performed by lead actress Auli’i Cravalho, most notably, the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned single “How Far I’ll Go,” which—given how successful Moana has been in just the week it’s been in theaters—is set to be the breakout hit of the movie. You realize immediately that it has all the hallmarks of “Let It Go,” the inescapable track from Modern Disney Princess movie Frozen: the swelling sound, the fact that both were written by songwriters with musical theater backgrounds, the empowering lyrics (“One day I’ll knowww, how far I’ll gooo.”)
Like “Let It Go,” “How Far I’ll Go” has been released as a single, though its predecessor had a bit of a leg up on the charts, since it was sung by Idina Menzel, not an unknown. Both songs also got pop versions released—“How Far I’ll Go” was recorded by Alessia Cara, while Demi Lovato recorded “Let It Go.”
Menzel’s “Let It Go” became one of the top singles of 2015, and while Moana was just released, Cravalho’s “How Far I’ll Go” has already made it to #6 on the iTunes charts (Cara’s has not had as much success). This is all to say that while it seems unlikely that “How Far I’ll Go” will reach the ubiquity of “Let It Go”—will anything, ever?—if the children in your life still can’t let it go, and they haven’t yet been turned onto this song, well, here it is.