If you’re a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Encanto, and his fantastic feature directorial debut, tick, tick...BOOM!, you’re about to be very happy. That’s because I recently got to speak with Miranda to talk about his Encanto Academy Award nomination for Best Song (he wrote the music and lyrics to “Dos Oruguitas” and seven other original songs), and the conversation covered a myriad of subjects.
For fans of tick, tick...BOOM!, while Miranda says he hasn’t spoken to Netflix about releasing a Blu-ray with extras, he did talk about how much he loved the past year of movie musicals, how different each one was, and his desire to make "more little musicals.” He said:COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
“I'd love to make more little musicals. I think we think of musicals as this binary thing. They're big splashy, Hollywood musicals, or they're not musicals like in the popular imagination. And one of the great gifts of this past year was the diversity of musicals on display. The musicals can be Annette, the musicals can be Cyrano. They can be tick, tick...BOOM!. They can be, Everybody's Talking About Jamie. Those are all really different movies and they're all musicals. So I would love to continue to kind of kick at the borders of what people think a musical film is and could be.”
I think we can all agree the Encanto soundtrack exploded since the movie was released on Disney+. Not only is it playing on loop in every household around the world with kids, but Encanto’s “We Don't Talk About Bruno” also became the first Disney song to top the Billboard 100 in almost 30 years. Not even Frozen’s “Let It Go” accomplished this feat.
During the interview, Miranda talked about the incredible success of the soundtrack, and how he was told they’d have to cut some characters and fought against it. He said:
“The fact that every song on the soundtrack is on the charts right now is mind-blowing to me. There were so many times when they were like, "You're going to have to cut some characters. That's a lot of characters for a Disney movie." That happens so much. You cut away anyone who isn't the main character, and their obstacles and their goals. At the outset, we said, "We want to tell an intergenerational Latino family story, and as much complexity as we can get into 90 minutes as we can." And the dynamics are the story. That is what the story is, is them seeing each other more fully. As a result of that, there's so many inroads for folks.”
If you’re not aware, Miranda fell in love with the Oscars as a kid because of The Little Mermaid. So, I asked him what it means to be nominated for a Disney animated movie. He told me:
“I literally fell in love with the Oscars because of Disney animated movies. I was ride or die for The Little Mermaid. That was my favorite movie in my young life. And I watched the Oscars for the first time that year, because if “Kiss the Girl” or “Under the Sea” didn't win, I was ready to riot as a nine-year-old. Then as a result you get to watch the Oscars. And Billy Crystal does this amazing job as the host, and it became my entry into a world of movies that just aren't offered to kids. I remember falling in love with Akira Kurosawa, because he got a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars. And then I went to the library to go take out the two cassette Seven Samurai from the New York Public Library, and falling in love with his work on my own terms. It became this kind of entry point into a wider world for me. So the fact that I'm here with the Disney song is wildly full circle for me, because that's the reason I tuned in in the first place.”
He went on to talk about how they picked “Dos Oruguitas” to be the song they submitted, Encanto Easter eggs, why they don’t have any deleted songs, which song was the most challenging to get right, and if he’s interested in doing an Encanto sequel or spinoff.
Something else I think every fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda wants to know is what is he working on. Because the only thing that’s confirmed is his contributions to Rob Marshall’s live-action version of The Little Mermaid. And while you might think Miranda is writing songs for another movie, or working on a few secret projects, that couldn’t be further from what he’s about to do.
Miranda told me how even though Stephen Sondheim’s passing left him heartbroken, he’s taking a lesson from the master on what he does next. He said:
“I'm inspired and heartbroken by Stephen Sondheim's passing as everyone else. One of the great lessons of his life was to go in the other direction when they're expecting this from you. In a lot of ways, Hamilton was a reaction to In the Heights. No one was expecting that from that. And I don't know what the new direction is yet. So I'm going to read some books and listen to music and try to learn from artists I admire.”
He went on to explain that it’s important for him to recharge and create a sound that isn’t like anything he’s done before.
“What I kind of want to do for this next little bit is just refill my cup. Put myself in a situation where I'm a student again. I've been reaching out to songwriters I admire, just saying, "Can I hang while you're writing?" I think I've developed a style from having written so much for so long, and people can identify what I sound like at the piano. My next goal is to just totally get out of that and learn from other songwriters, attack it from a new direction. So, the next piece you go, "He wrote that? That doesn't sound anything like him."”
When was the last time you heard from someone at the top of their game saying I want to sit on the sidelines and watch other people so they can get better? This is why Lin-Manuel Miranda is a once-in-a-generation talent and won so many awards.
Since some of you enjoy watching video, while others prefer reading an interview, my conversation with Miranda is being offered two ways: you can either watch it in the player above or read the conversation below.
Encanto is now streaming on Disney+ and if you’re one of the few that haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend checking it out. You’ll quickly understand why it’s the first Disney animated soundtrack in decades to hit the top of the charts.
COLLIDER: So it's kind of a joke, but I have to bring it up. At what age did you decide you wanted to be the youngest EGOT winner?
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: EGOT wasn't even a thing until 30 Rock popularized it in the early aughts. And to chase something that Tracy Morgan is chasing is nuts. But for me, it's again, I think about stats. I was just watching the Australian Open and it was amazing to watch Rafael Nadal get the 21st Open, but he wasn't thinking about that. He was thinking, this guy half my age is hitting a ball at me very fast. So a lot of what you're doing is just making stuff, because you're making it for the sake of making it, and you hope it connects. But the stats that come out, they're interesting and they're cool, but they're never what you're chasing.
I understand. By the way, if I could vote for you, I would stuff the ballot box with 1,000 votes.
MIRANDA: That's very kind.
... just to help that along. What does it mean to you for the DGA to be talking about giving you, I believe it's called, the Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director?
MIRANDA: First of all, the company I'm in is just incredible, because Rebecca made such a beautiful movie, Maggie Gyllenhaal made such an incredible movie. So it's just really cool company to be in. But also, this was my first love. I used to say I wanted to be Steven Spielberg when I grew up before I even understood what he did. I just knew his names were on the movies I liked. And he was synonymous with directing, and that's what I wanted to do. So it just feels like a really lovely vote of confidence from these people I really admire.
RELATED: Lin-Manuel Miranda on an ‘Encanto’ Sequel or Spinoff: “I Think There’s an Appetite to Further Explore the Madrigal Family”
I know that generally, Netflix doesn't release their stuff on Blu-ray. Have you guys talked about releasing tick, tick...BOOM! on Blu-ray and including a whole bunch of extras that perhaps aren't seen, because Netflix doesn't really offer extras online?
MIRANDA: We haven't talked about Blu-ray specifically, but we have talked about releasing the stuff. So to that end, we've released a lot of our VFX passes. The internet was very adamant that we release Sextet, which is a montage sequence in our movie. Again, I just thought, well, this is not a whole song, it's really a phrase that we kind of keep introducing, but the internet wanted to have it. So we gave it to them. I think eventually it will all be released online, but we haven't had Blu-ray conversations about it.
I would imagine after you demonstrating what you can do with tick, tick...BOOM! that a lot of people wanted to meet with you to talk about directing other things. What has it been like having people want to talk to you about directing other movies, because I would imagine that, as someone who grew up wanting to direct, it has to be amazing?
MIRANDA: It's really thrilling. The other thing I learned in this experience is, you have to care so much about it because it's your entire life. You dream decisions when you're directing a movie, because there are more decisions…you're the last person to make them across all departments. So it has to be something you're really passionate about. I was so lucky that Julie Oh had the idea to make tick, tick... BOOM! into a film, because as soon as she said it to me, I was like, I understand how to make that. And I don't know that that's the case with everything. I think you have to understand that you can bring something to it. Because I am a musical theater songwriter, because Jonathan Larson is one of the people who inspired me to write in the first place. I felt like I innately understood how to unlock this.
And what it also gave me was a flavor for what kind of stuff I would want to direct. I'd love to make more little musicals. I think we think of musicals as this binary thing. They're big splashy, Hollywood musicals, or they're not musicals like in the popular imagination. And one of the great gifts of this past year was the diversity of musicals on display. The musicals can be Annette, the musicals can be Cyrano. They can be tick, tick...BOOM!. They can be, Everybody's Talking About Jamie. Those are all really different movies, and they're all musicals. So I would love to continue to kind of kick at the borders of what people think a musical film is and could be.
I would love to see you doing this. So, I would imagine every day of your life, someone wants to talk to you about Hamilton, and that must be awesome, but what is it like to all of a sudden try transition to every single day people want to talk to you about Encanto?
MIRANDA: It's an absolute gift. I think that you cannot control the success of a thing. It's like, you throw it out into the world, and it lands on the wave, or it doesn't, or it gets rediscovered many years later. And the fact that Encanto opened, and it was fine, and it did well. Then people just kind of kept going back to Bruno, and then rediscovering the entire soundtrack. The fact that every song on the soundtrack is on the charts right now is mind-blowing to me. But it also, what's so funny is, the thing that... How do I put this the right way?
The thing that is the trickiest is the reason for it. There were so many times when they were like, "You're going to have to cut some characters. That's a lot of characters for a Disney movie." That happens so much. You cut away anyone who isn't the main character, and their obstacles and their goals. At the outset, we said, "We want to tell an intergenerational Latino family story, and as much complexity as we can get into 90 minutes as we can." And the dynamics are the story. That is what the story is, is them seeing each other more fully. As a result of that, there's so many inroads for folks.
There's people feeling seen by Luisa's song in “Surface Pressure.” There's people who feel like Bruno, who they're the family member everyone talks around instead of to, directly. And it's given folks a vocabulary for talking about their family dynamic in a way that is safe and healing, because it's not about them. It's like, "You see that? That's how I feel." In the same way Inside Out did. Who's at the wheel, is it anger, is it hunger, is it joy? That's really thrilling because that was the trickiest obstacle for us. I think it's also a part of what keeps folks coming back to it because they notice Bruno jamming in the corner during Dolores's verse.
I know you love Disney animated movies. I know that they really impacted your life. What does it mean to be nominated for an Oscar for your work in a Disney animated movie?
MIRANDA: I literally fell in love with the Oscars because of Disney animated movies. I was ride or die for The Little Mermaid. That was my favorite movie in my young life. And I watched the Oscars for the first time that year, because if “Kiss the Girl” or “Under the Sea” didn't win, I was ready to riot as a nine-year-old. Then as a result you get to watch the Oscars. And Billy Crystal does this amazing job as the host, and it became my entry into a world of movies that just aren't offered to kids. I remember falling in love with Akira Kurosawa, because he got a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars. And then I went to the library to go take out the two-cassette Seven Samurai from the New York Public Library, and falling in love with his work on my own terms. It became this kind of entry point into a wider world for me. So the fact that I'm here with the Disney song is wildly full circle for me, because that's the reason I tuned in in the first place.
RELATED: Wildest Theories About Encanto, According to Reddit
I think I'm right about this, I just want to make sure. I believe that the studio can only submit one song, or how does it work in terms of deciding what song would be submitted? Can you submit multiple songs? Can you explain?
MIRANDA: Ironically, it's an Alan Menken rule. Alan Menken was running the table so hardcore when he ushered in the second age of animation at Disney with Howard Ashman, that I think for Beauty and the Beast, three of the five nominees were from Beauty and the Beast. I think, they capped it at two thanks to Ashman and Menken, and then most folks submit one song so you're not competing with yourself. The logic for us submitting “Dos Oruguitas” is, you don't know what the success or failure of a soundtrack's going to be, and we had the luxury of, we like all our songs. So the goal is what's the song that encapsulates the spirit of the movie? And for me, “Dos Oruguitas” does that beautifully. So that's what we submitted. But God, I remember with Moana, it was like, “How Far I'll Go” and “You're Welcome.” It's like, well, if we get nominated The Rock might sing on the Oscars, but “How Far I'll Go” really is what Moana is all about. So that's what you submit.
I believe “We Don't Talk About Bruno” is the first Disney song since Aladdin's “A Whole New World” to top the billboard 100, which is crazy.
What does that actually mean to you that it's permeated to, you know what I mean, everyone is listening to this?
MIRANDA: But it's straight-up crazy, because it's an ensemble number with characters that are not really the main character, each getting solos. They overlap, and you kind of have to have seen the movie to understand what's going on. So it's just the least likely candidate for breakout success possible. I couldn't have engineered a more unlikely success, but again, it gets back to the biggest obstacle in this movie was hanging onto as many of these characters as possible and revealing them to each other in interesting new ways. I pitched this song as a proof of concept that we could hold them all, because I said, if we do a gossip number, we can hear from the other characters who aren't going to get their own solos.
I can write a Dolores verse, I can write a Camilo verse, and we can hear what their musical voices sound like without devoting the real estate of an entire tune to them. That was literally the pitch. And the side result of that is you've got Camilo stans, and you've got Dolores stans, and it became actually this on-ramp for all these different folks, everyone has a different part. It's a karaoke number where everyone gets to, it becomes an all skate. I'm so thrilled and happily surprised by it, but it also, it makes people want to watch the movie so they can understand what the song's about.
There are a lot of Reddit threads on Encanto, a lot of people debating little Easter eggs and secret things in the movie. Have you heard or seen any wild theories about Encanto that you're like, "Oh, wow, that's true. I didn't even realize it"?
MIRANDA: Well, I mean, honestly, the detail of Bruno dancing in the background of Dolores's verse is not one I noticed until someone pointed it out to me on the internet, and now I can't unsee it. But yeah, again, it's really fun for me because I watched that development process. I was there when the powers were all swapped and Pepa was indestructible and Maribel's mom's mood controlled the weather. So I was kind of there as the mythology was being built and Jared and Charise and Byron were figuring out how to make the gifts the extensions of these characters, and how we were going to tell this story. And the delight in people having theories in, "Oh, well, Mirabel is going to take over. Her gift is going to be, she's going to be the head of the family in the same way that Abuela, who doesn't have a gift, is the head of the family." That's all fair game and it's all wonderful. It's all really, again, because we have so many characters, there's just a lot to unpack.
I would imagine, with the success of the soundtrack, that Disney has reached out to you and said, "Hey, do you want to release any alternate versions of the songs, or deleted songs?" Is that stuff that you don't want to have see the light of day, or is that stuff that you sort of want to share after a certain point?
MIRANDA: It's interesting, because there aren't that many…this was a pretty quick ascent up the mountain in terms of the development. The only cut songs I really have, they're all cut Mirabel "I want" songs, because the "I want" song is the hardest song to write in any movie. I struggled with it the most on Moana with “How Far I'll Go.” I struggled with it the most here for two reasons. One, you have to really understand what the journey is to be able to then go backwards and write what the main character really wants and needs. And those things really have to line up for us to feel satisfied. Then the other thing is, it's just intimidating, because Disney has the best, I want songs. You've got “Part of Your World,” and” Colors of the Wind,” and “Let It Go,” and “Into the Unknown,” and “Reflection.” It's just an intimidating legacy.
So it's not enough to get the assignment right of what does this character want. It has to soar in a really specific way. And if it doesn't pass the test of a kid singing with a hairbrush in the mirror, it doesn't win. Actually, that was a moment where I called Bobby and Kristen, and I'm very lucky to count them among my friends, and said, "Lyrically it's here, but I want it to do this. I don't have my..." And they were an incredible sounding board for me in that number. So the answer to your question is, there's not really much to share, because the songs that I wrote are essentially in the movie, with the exception of two or three cut Mirabel stabs.
I put on Twitter that I was going to talk to you, and something that came up with a number of people was: did you record demos yourself of all the songs, and would you ever consider sharing them so people can hear them?
MIRANDA: Yeah. That's how I write. I play piano, I work on this very computer, and I make myself demos. There's a kid on TikTok who does an incredible impression of me. He's basically done what this would sound like as a demo. He's Ursula, man. That kid stole my voice. He sounds just like me. So the answer's like, you kind of already have them, because that's what they sound like. So forgive me, I don't know the kid's name, but you got them. You don't need to hear mine. It's already out there. That kid's devastatingly accurate.
RELATED: ‘Encanto’s “We Don't Talk About Bruno” Becomes First Disney Song to Top Billboard 100 in Almost 30 Years
I think there's something to your name being on it, though. Not everyone is on TikTok. Just throwing that out there. I'm sure Disney would like it. But speaking of Disney, with the success of the movie, have you had a conversation with them where they're saying to you, “Do you have ideas for a spinoff for Disney plus? Is there something else we can explore in this universe that you're interested in?”
MIRANDA: Yeah. I do think there's an appetite to further explore the Madrigal family, given how many characters there are, and how many gifts there are. And also where we leave the story. Now there is sort of this more fully realized version of themselves. Which way can we go? I think it's a question of when and not if, and what form that will take. Is that another movie? Is that a series? Is that a stage adaptation where we have a little more time, because stage shows are generally an hour longer than movies? And we haven't had conversations as to what form that will take, but I mean, yeah, I'd be down to continue to explore that. I love writing for Dolores and Camilo. I'd love to write more for them. I'd love to write more for Isabela. So I'm not sure what the next form of that will be, but we haven't had specific conversations about it's this or it's this.
I didn't even think until you said it, the idea of an Encanto stage show on Broadway, but oh my God, people would love that.
MIRANDA: Yeah. Well, again, and I think part of that is the success of the film itself. Jamal and Kai did such incredible choreography on the characters in a way that we don't often see in an animated musical. They're doing moves that we can do. I think of Dolores's little shimmy in her verse, or the way they're setting the table and dancing at the same time. The animator is being inspired by their incredible work, and I think that fires people's imaginations up of like, oh, I could see this on stage. So if that's the way it goes, great. Again, right now we're just all enjoying. I have a group thread with the filmmakers, and we're just sending memes, and videos, and everything you guys are making, we are enjoying. The feedback loop of the way people have embraced this film.
Last question for you. You've been very prolific the last few years in terms of all these movies you've been working on, all these different things. What is the horizon looking like for you now that these projects have wrapped? Have you been sort of secretly working on all these other things that we don't know about, or is it sort of like, you're taking a little bit of looking at the horizon, deciding what do I next want to do?
MIRANDA: Yeah, it's interesting because I think the world experienced it as this prolificness, but In the Heights took 13 years from Broadway to the big screen. Vivo was 11, and tick, tick...BOOM! and Encanto were kind of my opposing muscle groups at five years each. So I have a really clear horizon line, honestly. What I kind of want to do for this next little bit is just refill my cup. Put myself in a situation where I'm a student again. I've been reaching out to songwriters I admire, just saying, "Can I hang while you're writing?" I think I've developed a style from having written so much for so long, and people can identify what I sound like at the piano. My next goal is to just totally get out of that and learn from other songwriters, attack it from a new direction. So the next piece you go, "He wrote that? That doesn't sound anything like him."
Again, I'm inspired and heartbroken by Stephen Sondheim's passing as everyone else. One of the great lessons of his life was to go in the other direction when they're expecting this from you. In a lot of ways, Hamilton was a reaction to In the Heights. No one was expecting that from that. And I don't know what the new direction is yet. So I'm going to read some books and listen to music and try to learn from artists I admire.
On that note, I really want to say a sincere, again, thank you for everything you're doing, and congrats on Encanto and the nomination, and I wish you nothing but the best.
MIRANDA: Thank you. Thank you. Always good to talk to you, Steven.'Encanto' Almost Had a Post-Credits Scene, and You Can Watch It Now Read NextShareTweetShareEmail Related TopicsAbout The AuthorSteve Weintraub(9749 Articles Published)
Steven Weintraub launched Collider in the summer of 2005. As Editor-in-chief, he has taken the site from a small bedroom operation to having millions of readers around the world. If you’d like to follow Steven on Twitter or Instagram, you can expect plenty of breaking news, exclusive interviews, and pictures of cats doing stupid things.MoreFrom Steve Weintraub
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