Meet the Man Behind the Music for ‘Encanto’

Born January 16, 1980, and raised in the Inward section of Manhattan in New York City, when Lin-Manuel was 11, he saw his first Broadway musical, Les Misérables, and it forever changed him.

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By 2021, Miranda was a Grammy, Emmy, Tony, and Pulitzer winner.

‘In the Heights’ and ‘Hamilton’ 

In 2008, the Puerto Rican actor, singer, songwriter, and playwright made his Broadway debut with In the Heights, which he originally began drafting in college.

[RELATED: Behind the Historical Meaning of ‘Hamilton’s’ “My Shot” by Lin-Manuel Miranda]

After graduating from Wesleyan University, where he studied theater, Miranda explored television and film and performed around New York City in a hip-hop improv group, Freestyle Love Supreme.

Working with fellow Wesleyan alum Thomas Kail, Miranda later revisited In the Heights, which was based in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, and wrote all the lyrics and music for the musical, blending salsa and hip-hop. 

In the Heights first opened off-Broadway in 2007 with Miranda in the lead role and made its Broadway debut a year later. The musical won four Tony Awards, including Best Original Score and Best Musical, a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album, and a Pulitzer Prize nomination for drama, and was adapted into a film in 2021, featuring Miranda in a small role.

Lin-Manuel Miranda (in black) at the curtain call during the opening night celebration of ‘Hamilton’ (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Getty Images)

Inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography about Alexander Hamilton, by the 2010s, Miranda began writing a musical story based on the founding father. Hamilton followed his early beginning in the Caribbean island of Nevis to becoming the first U.S. secretary of the treasury from 1789 to 1795. Miranda linked Hamilton’s story to the more humble beginnings of rappers.

The hip-hop-driven musical featured Miranda in the lead role and premiered off-Broadway in 2015 before moving to Broadway in 2016. Hamilton was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2016 and picked up 16 Tony nominations, 11 of which were won, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.


Miranda continued to compose music for film, including work on the animated film Moana—picking up an Oscar nomination for the featured song “How Far I’ll Go”—and starred in the 2018 musical Mary Poppins Returns and the TV series His Dark Materials in 2019 and even directed his feature film tick, tick… BOOM! in 2021.

[RELATED: The Powerful Meaning Behind “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Disney’s ‘Encanto’]

Working along with composer Germaine Franco (Coco), by 2020, Miranda was already writing the songs for the animated film Encanto (“Charm”).

The film follows a multi-generation Colombian family, the Madrigals, and their magical home, Casita, in the land of Encanto. Each generation of the family, with the exception of the character Mirabel, received magical powers that help them serve the residents of Encanto. When Mirabel learns that her family is losing their magic, she sets out to find out why.

Hip-Hop, Bambuco, and Pop

To better connect to the music and culture for the film—directed by Jared Bush and Byron Howard, co-directed by Charise Castro Smith, and produced by Yvett Merino and Clark Spencer—Miranda and the filmmakers visited the country in 2018.

Navigating a map of Latin-inspired sounds and dance, the music of Miranda’s Encanto soundtrack pulled from bachata, vallenato, salsa, cumbia, tango, bambuco as well as Latin pop, funk, folk, hip-hop, and musical theater.

Arrangements were also inspired by Columbian music, and feature traditional instruments from the caja, maracas, arpa llanera, bandolas, tamobora, accordian, and more.

The Film and Soundtrack

In 2022, Encanto won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

The soundtrack for Encanto featured 44 tracks written by Miranda and composed by Franco, including “All of You,” featured John Leguizamo and Maluma and the Encanto cast, and the Oscar-nominated “Dos Oruguitas,” performed by Columbian singer, songwriter, and actor Sebastián Yatra.

[RELATED: Behind The Song: “Alexander Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda]

In addition to English and Spanish, the soundtrack was also released in 44 additional languages. Encanto hit, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” also topped the Billboard Hot 100

Hitting No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the soundtrack also picked up two Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “Dos Oruguitas” in 2022.

Photo: Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images

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