NEW YORK – Lin-Manuel Miranda went song by song through some of the hits of “Encanto” in a recent interview, from the breakout smash “We Don't Talk About Bruno” to his self-described “’90s Rock en Español throwback” “What Else Can I Do?”
What I was trying to do — it’s much more commonplace in musical theater than it is in musical films. You have those great moments where everyone gets a little showpiece and then you smash them altogether. I think of “One Day More” from “Les Miserables” or “Non-Stop” in “Hamilton.” It’s always such a delightful moment when you get to crash all the themes into each other.
I wanted it to feel like an old folk song that had always existed, complete with a nature metaphor that hopefully tells us a little something about ourselves. It’s one of the only songs where a character is not singing it. You’re not seeing a character sing it, and I think it’s all the more powerful because of it.
I took my sister (who inspired the song) and her kids, my nephews, to the New York premiere. I sat next to her and I sort of watched her during the whole movie. She’s an easy crier. It’s really fun to make your older sister cry for a good reason. This is my favorite thing about the movie. I turned to my nephews and was like, 'You know, I thought of your mom as Luisa, the older sister who has a lot of responsibilities.’ Without missing a beat they were like, ‘No way. She’s Abuela. She runs our lives.’ That’s really one of the best outcomes of a family film. It gives you a vocabulary to talk about things in a different way. I remember seeing “Inside Out” with my kids and suddenly we could talk about joy and when anger was at the controls or when sadness was at the controls. It became an easy way to talk about these complex things. It’s been exciting to see that ‘Surface Pressure’ has allowed people to really talk about sibling burdens.
“What Else Can I Do?" was one of my favorite songs to write. The whole time, you’re trying to show off the diversity of Latin American music and Colombia music, specifically. A lot of my favorite rock songs in the ’90s were Spanish rock songs. I was thinking of Shakira and Robby Rosa. It’s weirdly a ’90s throwback for me, kind of the way that “Lost in the Woods” is like a great Peter Sitara throwback for ("Frozen 2" composer Jonathan) Groff. That was my ’90s Rock en Español throwback, it just happens to be in English."
“All of You" was me talking a big game throughout the production process and then having to back it up. We were all so excited by the notion of telling a story with a lot of characters within a family and holding all the complexity of that. Then I said, ‘At the end, if we’ve established enough themes with the different characters, I can kind of smash them together at the ending in interesting and surprising ways.’ They were like, ‘Alright, Lin. Here you go.’ Then I actually had to do it, which is a much taller order. You hear a bit of Luisa’s song, a bit of Isabela’s song, you hear a bit of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” It contains all the songs in it while still propelling the story forward. The original draft of that was like seven minutes long. They were like: ‘We’re just out of time. You have to cut this.’