Lin-Manuel Miranda has been making himself comfy at Disney. What started as a small performance role in 2012’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green quickly turned into composing/songwriting credits at the House of Mouse. Encanto marks Miranda’s third collaboration with Walt Disney Studios as songwriter, following his work on Moana and soon to be followed by 2023’s live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid, which he’ll be working on with Alan Menken. Miranda’s music in Encanto is another win for the artist and Disney, delivering songs that are not only fun and poppy, but also poignant, this time with a Latin American twist.
At the official Encanto press conference, Miranda got to talk a lot about the songwriting process for the film. Miranda was involved with Encanto very early on, much earlier than is typical of your average movie. On having this head start, Miranda said: “I think that being there from the beginning really allowed for more of a give and take than I’ve ever experienced on an animated film. There were songs where I sort of put points on the board and was like, ‘All right, here’s our opening number. Here’s how everyone’s related, and what they can do.’ I wrote that opening number before we had a second act or a third act to our film, because we needed it for ourselves to keep track of everybody. And these names may change and the powers may change, but we know the audience is gonna need a guide, and Mirabel’s gonna be our guide, so let’s write that song early.”
On the inspiration behind the song ‘Dos Oruguitas’, Miranda stated: “Dos Oruguitas was really inspired by some of the visuals coming out of the incredible animation department. And I loved the way they embodied the miracle by having this flame from a candle turn into a cascade of butterflies. And in approaching this moment, without spoilers, it’s a moment where we reveal a really kind of personal part of the Madrigal family history, and it didn’t feel right to have a character sing in real time. So I thought, ‘I think we need a folk song. I think we need a song that feels like it’s always existed.’ And riffing off of the butterfly imagery, I thought, ‘Well, you know, butterflies have to go through a miracle to even become butterflies.’ So I wrote this song about two caterpillars who are in love, and are scared of letting each other go, but of course have to let each other go to become their next selves. It was a nature metaphor that was already baked into the visuals of the film, but speaks so specifically to what this family is going through in terms of trying to see each other more fully. You have to change to get to the next level and you have to allow yourselves to change. And then Sebastian Yatra takes it to a whole other level with his beautiful vocal performance of the song.”
When asked about the “I Want” songs featured in many Disney classics and the song that services that in Encanto, Miranda said: “That is the hardest to pin down because it takes making your entire movie to understand the journey you’re going on in the first place. By the time I wrote ‘Waiting on a Miracle’, time was of the essence, not only with the production of the movie, but with Stephanie Beatriz ’cause she was eight and a half months pregnant. And it was like, ‘We really gotta finish this song. Like, we are on a real ticking clock.’ And the joy of Steph’s vocals on that tune, with her child sitting on her lungs while she has to hit these notes, and the fact that she is singing ‘Waiting on a Miracle’ while she is literally waiting on a miracle, I will never forget that. Like, those two experiences of seeing her singing, this moment in her life, they’re inextricably bound up together for me, and I’ll always cherish that.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work really shows in Encanto, the songs are fun and memorable but very personal. Miranda’s on a hot streak at the moment, and at this rate, it looks like he’s gonna keep delivering.