Lin-Manuel Miranda is ecstatic about the success of the animated feature “Encanto,” and for his second Oscar nomination for original song — this time, for the emotional number “Dos Oruguitas.” However, the movie’s soundtrack performance on the music charts has been getting all the headlines, specifically the hit song, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” Miranda doesn’t regret submitting “Dos Oruguitas” rather than “Bruno” for consideration for this year’s Academy Awards. The decision had to be made by Nov. 1, which the film had yet opened in theaters despite its performance on the charts.
“I’m still proud of ‘Dos Oruguitas’ as the submission,” Miranda says. “When those are the parameters, you have to pick the thing that best exemplifies the spirit of the movie, and it contains all of it inside this song – as opposed to a journey of a particular character. It’s the foundational story, but I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard [to choose].”
On this episode of Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, Miranda talks about the process of writing the original songs for the hit Disney animated feature “Encanto,” along with the difficult decision of choosing his Oscar-nominated song versus the chart-topping “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” He also talks about taking the 2022 year off to mentor younger composers and focusing on “refilling my cup this year.” Finally, the New York-born Latino teases what we can expect from the live-action version of “The Little Mermaid” and the original songs he wrote for it.
“Encanto” is directed by Jared Bush, Byron Howard and Charise Castro Smith (co-director) and tells the story of a Colombian teenage girl Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz). She has to face the frustration of being the only family member without magical powers.
The album for “Encanto” has spent fifth weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and is one of six soundtracks to have clocked at least five weeks in the top spot in the last three decades, and the most since “Frozen” (2013). In addition, the hit song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is topping the top 40 songs chart, along with other tracks appearing – “The Family Madrigal,” “Surface Pressure” and “What Else Can I Do?” and the Oscar-nominated “Dos Oruguitas.”
“Encanto” received three Oscar nominations: best animated feature (Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino and Clark Spencer), original score (Germaine Franco) and original song for “Dos Oruguitas” (music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda). Merino and Franco are the first Latinas to be nominated in their respective categories. Previously nominated for “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana” (2016), Miranda is the first Latino to be nominated for original song more than once.
Per Academy rules, no more than two songs from a film can be shortlisted. Further proving his point on the difficult decision, he compared it to his first submission process for the animated movie “Moana” (2016). The song “How Far I’ll Go,” for which he received his first Oscar nom for original song, was submitted instead of “You’re Welcome,” which is sung by Dwayne Johnson. Miranda shares: “If you’re lucky enough, The Rock could sing at the Oscars. But the guiding principle should be what exemplifies the movie, and ‘How Far I’ll Go’ does that. It’s Moana’s heart song.”
Meanwhile, Miranda says he’s also thrilled for Andrew Garfield, the Oscar-nominated leading man of his directorial debut “Tick, Tick … Boom!” — along with the editing team, Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum, who were also nominated. He credits Garfield for bringing awareness to the film because of his stacked year that included roles in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” In every interview, Miranda’s film would be included in the conversation. Asked about Garfield’s secret “Spider-Man” return, which the actor had to deny for months, Miranda quips, “well, he practiced his lie on me, and I watched him get better at it.”
One step closer to achieving EGOT status, Miranda — who has two Emmys, three Tonys and three Grammys — is just missing an Oscar statuette. Other notable EGOT recipients have included John Legend, Marvin Hamlisch and Robert Lopez. Coincidentally, composer Alan Menken was the most recent artist to achieve this in 2020. The two are collaborating on the live-action film version of “The Little Mermaid” from Oscar-nominated director Rob Marshall. The film is due out in 2023.
“Alan will tell you if he does not like something,” Miranda says. “He’s a heart and opinion on sleeve guy. He’s scoring it as well, along with the songs, as he did with the original. I won’t see a rough cut for another month or couple of months, but the fact that he’s excited has me excited. We wrote three or four original tunes, replacing none of the ones you like. All of those are in. There’s no bigger ‘Little Mermaid’ fan than me. We found a couple of opportunities for some other music that I can’t wait to see. I’m in the dark as anyone else, honestly.”
Regarding what characters would be singing original numbers, we shouldn’t expect one for Ursula, played by two-time Oscar-nominee Melissa McCarthy. Still, he doesn’t rule out a rap number for his “Hamilton” co-star Daveed Diggs, who voices the crab, Sebastian.
We’ll hear one for Ariel when she loses her voice and becomes a human in the second half of the story. Miranda says: “Rob found a creative way to hear from Ariel, even though she is sans voice for a little while. We wrote some music for her time on land. She experiences a lot of firsts, as someone with legs for the first time. We got to lean into all of that musically.”
Also, Miranda’s docket over the next few years includes producing the upcoming “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” an adaptation of the Benjamin Alire Sáenz book that tells the story of two Mexican-American teens trying to find their way in the world. He also confirms he’s no longer involved with the adaptation of “The Kingkiller Chronicle,” which was once planned for Showtime before Variety reported it was no longer moving forward. He also hopes to shoot “The Making Of” alongside Richard Gere, Blake Lively and Diane Keaton, which he says is “a fantastic script.”
Variety Awards Circuit podcast is hosted by Clayton Davis, Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Jenelle Riley and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in movies. Michael Schneider is the producer and Drew Griffith edits. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week.