Watch: Encanto behind the scenes details on Lin-Manuel Miranda lyrics
Encanto has come to dominate the lives of just about anybody who has seen it in recent months. Disney's latest animated musical was unveiled in cinemas last year, but landed on Disney+ over Christmas and has really caught fire as a bona fide phenomenon.
In recognition of the movie's popularity, several members of the cast and crew — including director Jared Bush and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda — gathered for a watch-along on Twitter yesterday, in which they shared numerous Encanto behind the scenes details.
So let's dive under the hood of Disney's latest animated sensation. Just as you've finally managed to let go of Let It Go, you now have to talk about Bruno...
Bruno nearly wasn't Bruno
There's no denying that John Leguizamo's future-seeing black sheep Bruno has been the breakout star of Encanto, thanks to Leguizamo's entertaining performance as well as the astonishing popularity and chart success of the song that introduces him. But the character originally didn't have such a lyrically friendly moniker, with Bush sharing the list of potential names he sent to Miranda. Thankfully, the songwriter picked Bruno and a phenomenon was born.
Bush, meanwhile, provided a fascinating video look at the real world inspiration for Bruno's tower room — the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. The stunning location, which bears a striking resemblance to the animated hideaway depicted in Encanto, is a Catholic church built more than 650 feet underground within the tunnels of a salt mine.
Stephanie Beatriz sang a Moana song at her audition
Stephanie Beatriz rejoins the Lin-Manuel Miranda universe in Encanto, having memorably portrayed beauty salon worker Carla in last year's adaptation of In the Heights. She provides the voice for protagonist Mirabel Madrigal — the only non-magical member of the family.
Director Jared Bush revealed that her audition saw her perform an adorable scene in which she comforts her cousin Antonio, as well as singing another Miranda-penned Disney hit — You're Welcome from Moana. It looks like The Rock has some competition on his hands.
Abuela's back-story was originally in the opening song
The movie's opening number is the upbeat The Family Madrigal, in which Mirabel recounts the story of her relatives and their various magical gifts. It's a track inspired by 'Belle' from Beauty and the Beast, and is as typically wordy as you'd expect from a Miranda composition.
Miranda revealed during the watch-along that it originally carried the weight of even more exposition, telling the story of Abuela's struggle and the birth of their home — the casita. This element of the song lasted long enough through the writing process that Beatriz learned it, and the star said she still retains a fondness for it when she's singing in the shower.
Stephanie Beatriz was very pregnant when she recorded Waiting on a Miracle
One of the great staples of Disney musicals is the "I want" song, in which the protagonist gets the chance to sing a heartfelt ballad about their desires. In Encanto, that song is Waiting on a Miracle, which Beatriz describes as "an expression of hope and fear, all wrapped in teen angst".
According to Jared Bush, Beatriz completed recording while she was nine months pregnant. In fact, the actor gave birth to her first child with husband Brad Hoss — a daughter named Rosaline — just two days after wrapping her vocal work on the song.
You can hear Lin-Manuel Miranda on Surface Pressure
Despite his soaring fame — and the fact he's been a part of seemingly every major film of the last 12 months — Lin-Manuel Miranda is very much a behind the scenes presence on Encanto. However, it turns out that his voice does make it into the movie in a subtle way.
One of the film's standout songs is Surface Pressure, in which Mirabel's supernaturally strong sister Luisa reveals her struggles with the weight of expectations imposed by her family. Bush revealed that a "tick tock" sound heard during the song was recorded initially as a temporary vocal by Miranda, only to then make it into the finished track.
Alan Tudyk really knows his bird noises
Alan Tudyk has become a bizarre lucky charm for Disney, appearing in a large majority of the studio's most recent animated films. His most obvious roles are as the villainous King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph and the Duke of Weselton in Frozen, but he has also contributed animal noises in abundance. In Moana, he was the hapless chicken Heihei and, in Encanto, he brings real personality to the role of a toucan named Pico.
For an actor as devoted as Tudyk, simply making generic bird noises is not enough. As Bush explained, Tudyk really did his homework to the extent that, when he got to the recording booth, he told the filmmakers that their initial demo recordings for Pico were not reflective of a toucan at all and sounded like a completely different bird. That's dedication.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's neighbour played a crucial lyrical role
Mirabel's utterly perfect sister Isabela gets her chance to take centre stage in the movie's second half with the track What Else Can I Do?, in which she expands her ability to make flowers bloom by moving away from traditionally beautiful creations.
During the writing process, Miranda sought advice from his New York City neighbour — a botanist — for advice on exotic Colombian plant life he could include in the lyrics. You can thank him for the "hurricane of Jacarandas" that features in the song, as well as the "Palma de cera" mentioned in the lyrics.
Dos Oruguitas was Lin-Manuel Miranda's first fully Spanish song
The emotional core of the Encanto finale is communicated by the song Dos Oruguitas, which translates into English as "two caterpillars". The track is performed by Colombian singer-songwriter Sebastián Yatra and digs further into Abuela's backstory and the reasons for her desperation around the family magic, bringing her and Mirabel closer together. For Miranda, this composition was his first song written entirely in Spanish and he shared the original lyrics — complete with a translation — during the watch-along.
We'll all be hearing a lot of Dos Oruguitas in the next few months as it's the only Encanto track to make the shortlist for Best Original Song at the Oscars.
The final song was much longer
There's a lot of narrative lifting at play in All of You — the climactic track of Encanto, in which the casita is rebuilt and the Madrigal magic restored. On the soundtrack, the song runs to four and a half minutes, but Miranda revealed that his original version would have been considerably longer at seven minutes. He shared a series of discarded lyrics from the longer iteration of the track, including Abuela's entrance, the arrival of the townspeople and a tender moment between Mirabel's mother and father.
There was almost a post-credits gag
Thanks to the impact of Marvel, movie audiences are accustomed to the addition of an end credits tag, whether it's a crucial bit of story detail for an upcoming sequel or a simple gag to reward the most dedicated viewers. Encanto doesn't have anything after its credits, but Bush revealed that they considered a fun little joke involving a capybara — a South American critter and the largest member of the rodent family.
Fortunately for all of us, Disney animator Darrin Butters made a version of the scene, which Bush shared as he concluded the watch-along and said thank you to all of the fans who had taken part.
Watch: Trailer for Encanto