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Disney is not going to throw away its shot at the hottest talent in musical theater in a generation.
In late 2013, when Hamilton was in rehearsals, Disney executive vp Tom MacDougall — head of music for Disney’s animated divisions and the man responsible for overseeing the Frozen soundtrack — began courting creator-star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who credits The Little Mermaid and other Disney musicals for inspiring his career (he named his son, 19 months, after Sebastian the crab).
MacDougall and Miranda went to New Zealand for a music festival the following March looking for inspiration for the upcoming animated film Moana (Nov. 23), and Disney quickly signed up Miranda, 36, for his post-Hamilton plans.
The star, who announced June 16 that he will leave his show July 9, has written music and lyrics for Moana, and he’ll star opposite Emily Blunt in director Rob Marshall’s live-action Mary Poppins Returns, which begins shooting this winter and hits theaters Dec. 25, 2018. Miranda will play a lamplighter in the sequel.
“Lin’s musical passion and energy is undeniable,” says Disney production chief Sean Bailey. “To have him part of Mary Poppins Returns is a thrill for all of us.”
MacDougall was first referred to Miranda by WME agent John Buzzetti. The exec had hired Robert and Kristen Lopez, whom Buzzetti also represents, to write songs for Frozen — including the smash hit “Let It Go” — and was now on the the hunt for other Broadway composers to bring into the Disney fold.
“It was a dream come true for Lin to work on a Disney animated musical,” says one person close to Miranda.
Miranda also penned a song for Disney and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens after the film’s director, J.J. Abrams, visited Miranda backstage at Hamilton and joked that he’d love for Miranda to work on the film. Miranda joked in turn that he’d happily write a song should there be a cantina scene in the film. There was, and he did.
A version of this story first appeared in the July 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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