Skip to main content

Why Lin-Manuel Miranda Sees His Work With Disney Animation As ‘Musical Theater On Steroids’

Following the phenomenal success of Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of the most in-demand musical talents in entertainment. He wrote all the music for the new Walt Disney Animation Studios feature Encanto, his second go-round with the studio following Moana. He clearly enjoys working with Disney, but it sounds like working on a Disney movie is even more work than creating a hit Broadway musical because of the way the story and the music can change and evolve over time even more than Broadway.

Broadway musicals and Disney animated movies have a lot in common beyond the structure of the story and the music. Broadway musicals, like animated movies, are never really “done” until the first performance hits the stage. Songs can be added or removed and scenes can change even right up until the very last minute. The same is true with Disney animation, but Lin-Manuel Miranda says that, because there are so many additional elements dictating the story it, it's like "musical theater on steroids." As Miranda told CinemaBlend...

In turn, the way in which they would write characters informed how I wrote the music. It’s like working in musical theater on steroids because then, the animators also add a layer to the process. When I saw the character design for Luisa and how amazing and badass she is, I was like ‘Oh, I know exactly the pulse of what I’m writing her. I’m going to write her the coolest reggaton song I possibly can because she deserves it.

Most Broadway shows go through a preview period where an otherwise completed musical is performed for an audience just like any other show. But even at that point, if it’s found that a certain song or scene doesn’t work, it can be changed before the play officially opens. There’s clearly a lot of plate spinning that’s happening as the writer and actors are working to put all the pieces together in the best way, and the same thing happens when an animated movie is being created. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda says that influence on the music can come from all sides. On the one hand, the writing decides what a character is like, but then the animators come in and decide what a character will look like, and both elements can inform the music. Miranda was involved in Encanto from the beginning, so he was also able to influence the story with his music. Somehow all of this comes together into a story that works with songs that fit. 

For the record, Luisa is the member of the Madrigal family that has gained super strength from the family magic. She’s voiced by Jessica Darrow, and the song she sings “Surface Pressure,” is absolutely one of the best pieces in Encanto. The character and the music fit together absolutely perfectly. Encanto opens in theaters November 24. 

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.