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Moana is a monster hit for Walt Disney Animation. The nautical adventure about Moana and Maui working together to return the heart of Tafiti has grossed an impressive $289 million in a little less than a month, meaning it’s on track to join the ranks of the contemporary Disney hits like Tangled, Zootopia and Frozen atop the box office charts. But Moana also contains a clever reference to one of composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s favorite Disney classics, The Little Mermaid. Did you catch it?

That thought never even crossed my mind. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who composed the impossibly catchy songs for Ron Clements and John Musker’s animated adventure, shared this Tweet after Disney dropped an official copy of “Shiny,” a song sung by a bedazzled crab monster who happened to be holding Maui’s staff. The song’s great, and not just because it rhymes “shiny” with “heiny.” It’s a fantastic tribute to being self-absorbed, and now that we know it’s also a subtle backwards reference to a classic song from The Little Mermaid, we love it even more.

Not that “Shiny” sounds anything life the Parisian café lilts of “Les Poissons,” during which Chef Louis dreams of all the ways he can prepare the crab, Sebastian, for a meal. But a young Lin-Manuel Miranda was moved enough by the sentiment to flip the script in time for Moana, which finds a killer crab towering over its human adversaries, yet still not prevailing. Here’s a pristine copy of “Shiny”:

As well as a copy of “Les Poissons,” from The Little Mermaid:

Moana has continued an unprecedented year for Walt Disney Animation, who delivered two movies in one calendar frame that actually are considered instant classics. Earlier in 2016, Walt Disney surprised audiences with the energetic, hilarious and socially relevant Zootopia, pairing an earnest bunny with an egotistical fox. Following Zootopia with Moana helped Walt Disney Animation soar ahead of its in-house rival, Pixar, who was content to crank out a charming sequel in Finding Dory (as they prepare to release yet another sequel next year in Cars 3).

We can only hope that Walt Disney Animation continues to push the envelope with challenging and rewarding animated features that look toward the future of storytelling, while also honoring the studio’s rich history.

December 23, 2016
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