TikTok duo replaces Lin-Manuel Miranda on Moana 2

The trailer for Moana 2 was released on 9 February 2024. The sequel, a feature film hitting US theatres this November, was at first set to come back as an animated series. But the shift to the big screen is not the only twist in the announcement: While Moana is back, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda won’t return as the film’s songwriter. Instead, the sequel’s songs have been written by two newcomers who first emerged on TikTok.

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Abigail Barlow, 25, and Emily Bear, 22, are the impressive young women who, in 2021, broke the internet with their Bridgerton-inspired ballads. The videos were so popular, the women wrote an entire musical, then won the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for it. In addition to the award, they were also handed a lawsuit from Netflix over copyright infringement after the composers held a for-profit concert that included Bridgerton trademarks. The suit has since been settled – and clearly, it didn’t dim the songwriters’ enthusiasm.

Bear’s excitement couldn’t be contained as she made the Moana 2 announcement on social media. “I’m literally shaking writing this”, she began, explaining that she and her songwriting partner, Barlow, had been “secretly living a songwriter’s dream” writing each and every song for the film for the past two years.

Barlow and Bear have already been up against iconic composers such as Andrew Lloyd Weber at the Grammys, and won. Still, it’s an impressive role to compose music for Disney, and before this Moana hire, only 10 women had ever done so (compared to nearly 200 men). There has also never been a female composer duo in 87 years of Disney songs.

Deborah Luri has composed scores for Disney’s 2010 Alice and Wonderland, Dreamgirls, the Footloose reboot and more, and she tells BBC Culture that it’s massively important to celebrate accomplishments like the one Barlow and Bear have just achieved to inspire young girls “who may aspire to be composers themselves”. She recalls looking up to one of the few female composers she knew of as a child: “When I was in school, I wrote a fan letter to Rachel Portman (Chocolat, Emma and Cider House Rules) who kindly responded, and that had a huge impact on me and my belief that I could become a film composer too,” she says.

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