Unlike many children, Lin-Manuel Miranda says he never dreamed of becoming president. “I was never that kid. I fell in love with musical storytelling because of ‘The Little Mermaid’ – he has the VHS handy – “and I wanted to know how those songs were written.
The ‘Hamilton’ creator got a taste of Disney musical storytelling when he crafted songs for ‘Moana,’ but with the Mouse House’s 60th animated feature, ‘Encanto,’ he stepped in early on. process to help blend Madrigal family history, magical realism and Colombian culture through the eight songs he wrote for the film.
What is the recipe for writing songs that serve and advance the story and integrate it into the narrative?
On “Encanto,” we talked about what music should do and what music shouldn’t do. It was really exciting when you have a song like “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” and we get to know different characters musically.
How did you manage to break the earworm, “We don’t talk about Bruno”, which is such a turning point for the family?
I brought this up because we put our arms around this whole family and we try to bring them all to the screen. I thought you had to have a gossip number because there are things you talk about at dinner, in the kitchen after people leave, and there are things you don’t talk about in front of Abuela because she doesn’t know these two people are dating. I pitched this tune, and it allowed me to create musical themes for characters who don’t necessarily have their own solo.
The first verse is with Tia Pepa and Felix, and it’s about who was telling the story – it’s my parents, it’s my dad, Luis Miranda, on screen.
What was the hardest song to write?
The song “I want” is always difficult. You have to do the whole movie to understand the trip Mirabel has to take and what the question will be, so you have to go backwards.
Disney has such a crazy legacy of good songs that you need to get rid of them. What finally unlocked “Waiting on a Miracle” was getting back to listening to the music we recorded on that research trip. There were so many Colombian waltzes that were three-quarters. In my head, I had to write a great Disney pop anthem. But once I committed to three-quarters of the time, the song wrote itself.
Talk about it and write “Dos Oruguitas” in Spanish. What were the pressures of this, your first Spanish song?
Inspired by the butterfly metaphor, I wrote the song about these two caterpillars who love each other and don’t want to let go, but of course they have to let go, because how the hell will the miracle happen if they don’t make room and make room for it? To me, it felt like a delightful metaphor for what the whole family is going through. I was very far from my comfort zone and I always had my thesaurus with me. Even after writing my first draft, I wondered if the Spanish I was using would translate and be at home in Colombia and Puerto Rico.
And how did you get into Luisa’s song? What was the story behind it?
I am the baby of the family. I have a sister who is six years older, and she had a bad case. This song is my love letter and my apologies to my sister for facilitating it. I saw my sister deal with the pressure of being the oldest and carrying burdens that I never had to carry. I remember my parents waking up my sister to put together a He-Man playset for Christmas before I woke up. They wanted it fully assembled when I woke up on Christmas morning. I put all that angst and all those moments into Luisa.