What busy times it has been in the cinema this year for Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The multi-hyphen’s very first Broadway musical – “In the Heights” – premiered on its big screen version last June. In November, the “Hamilton” creator made his feature film instructional debut with the semi-autobiographical Jonathan Larson musical “Tick. Tick.… Bom!”
Now the Thanksgiving weekend brings “Encanto”, Disney’s original animated musical, to which Miranda, 41, composed – in Spanish and English – eight songs.
His engagement with “Encanto” was unusual for a composer because Miranda was involved from the very beginning, with a trip in 2018 to Colombia, which he took with the co-directors, producer and his father, Luis.
“Being there from the beginning provided the opportunity to give and take more that I have ever experienced. I do not know if my father was invited by Disney or just showed up, “Miranda said at a Zoom press conference,” but what he brought to the table turned out to be invaluable.
“He told a story about his grandmother with many children and how they all stayed under the same roof. It ended up informing Abuela” – the matriarch of the Colombian family – “who loves his family dearly but holds it super tight.”
“We were blown away learning about Colombia, just the diversity of families and music and this crossroads between music and tradition,” said director Byron Howard (“Utopia”). “We played up the big contrasts.”
“Encanto” means a place of wonders, and the house here is truly an enchanted place – but it’s losing its magic. There are a dozen characters, and each has a story.
There is a definite plus to having “Encanto” for this holiday.
“It’s the family movie,” Miranda said. “We took the family as our specialty. It is the relationship between the families themselves. And the excitement of how you see yourself, and how your family sees you, and how you interact with everyone.
“I do not think there is a person who can go to this movie and not identify with one character. I can not wait for families to see themselves reflected on the screen.”
As for the task of composing the original songs: “The blank page becomes no less blank,” Miranda joked.
“What makes it fun, and what makes every experience different, are the people you’re in the room with and collaborating with. We met every Friday night and it became a place to bring new music in, that experiment, play, tell our own stories and make mistakes.
“It makes it fun and allows you to do something bigger than you could ever do alone.”
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