The pantheon of iconic Disney movies might be vast. But the studio’s insistence on remaking or revisiting its most beloved movies has certainly divided fans. However, with the inclusion of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in Mary Poppins Returns, Disney not only drew closer attention to that movie but officially made Miranda a regular in-house talent. Still, the Encanto composer once admitted he had trouble finishing the original Mary Poppins.
Lin-Manuel Miranda played Jack in ‘Mary Poppins Returns’
Released in 2018, Mary Poppins Returns is a direct sequel to the 1964 classic featuring an Oscar-winning Julie Andrews. But the story only picks up roughly 20 years later, as the grown-up Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) and his family struggle to recover after his wife’s death. Emily Blunt steps in as Mary Poppins, who has seemingly not aged a day since she last visited the Banks family. And she takes Michael’s children, naturally, on an adventure.
Miranda plays Jack, a lamplighter who accompanies the Banks children and Mary throughout the film. The character is said to be a former apprentice of Bert — played by Dick Van Dyke in the first film — and serves a similar function in Mary Poppins Returns as Bert does in the first movie. Miranda’s cockney accent might be similarly dodgy, but it’s hard to argue with what his vocals and dancing bring, particularly in the epic “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” number.
The ‘Hamilton’ creator couldn’t finish ‘Mary Poppins’ as a child
Even though Miranda plays a significant role in the sequel, he confessed to NPR that he struggled to finish watching Mary Poppins as a child. But it wasn’t because he couldn’t connect to the movie. In fact, his problem was quite the opposite, as the young Miranda revealed an “openly hostile” relationship with one particular song.
“I just found [‘Feed the Birds’] so sad. The notion of this bird lady, who cares for these birds and sits on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, I couldn’t bear it as a child — it was too much for me. And so, I only saw the first two-thirds of the movie many times as a kid. As soon as ‘Feed the Birds’ came on, I would turn it off. Such was VHS technology.”
Bringing Mary Poppins Returns back into the conversation, Miranda compares the newer film’s “Where the Lost Things Go” to “Feed the Birds.” The former goes darker, allowing Blunt’s Mary Poppins to address loss and grief. The track received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song, losing to “Shallow” from A Star Is Born.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is working on another classic Disney movie
In addition to playing Jack in Mary Poppins Returns, Miranda achieved great success — and Oscar nods of his own — composing original music for both 2016’s Moana and 2021’s Encanto. It remains to be seen whether his “Dos Oruguitas” from the latter will help Miranda win the EGOT fans have been waiting for. But he’s already back at work.
Miranda serves as a co-composer and co-producer on Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. All of the fan-favorite songs will return in this new version starring Halle Bailey as Ariel. But Disney tapped Miranda to craft some new songs as well. The Little Mermaid — directed by Mary Poppins Returns‘ Rob Marshall — hits theaters on May 26, 2023.