Lin-Manuel Miranda could also be best known for his hit musicals “Hamilton” and “In The Heights,” but he says his latest film, “Vivo,” is his kids’ “favorite thing I’ve ever worked on.” “I am so glad that your kids now will all get to listen to the thing that has been playing on a loop in my house for years,” Miranda said Saturday at a special screening of the film in NY City. “Vivo,” Sony Pictures Animation’s first animated musical, which premieres Friday on Netflix, takes audiences on an adventure from the streets of Havana to the swampy Everglades in Florida to the busy city of Miami as a musically gifted kinkajou named Vivo embarks on a heartfelt journey alongside unlikely friends following an unexpected tragedy. The story had been a passion project of Miranda’s since 2009 when he started writing songs for the movie back when it had been being developed at DreamWorks. The project was shelved and revisited by Sony Pictures Animation in 2015 after Miranda’s second hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton.”
Miranda, who wrote eight original songs for the movie, is that the voice of Vivo; he was also an executive producer. He brought along his usual creative partners — Pulitzer lottery winner Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the book for the “In The Heights” musical, also because of the screenplay for the movie adaptation, and Alex Lacamoire, who worked with Miranda in “Hamilton.” Alegría Hudes said during Saturday’s screening that when she got her hands on the script’s original draft, she quickly realized that “the beating heart of the movie” was Vivo’s relationship together with his beloved owner, Andrés, who is voiced by the legendary Cuban bandleader Juan de Marcos, best known for his work with the Buena Vista Social Club.
Viewers see Andrés and Vivo’s tight-knit friendship during the movie’s opening number, “One of a sort,” because the duo spend their days playing music to lively crowds at Havana’s Plaza Vieja. The opening number’s scenes were directly inspired by the creative team’s visit to Havana, also as by exhaustive photographic and archival material, consistent with Netflix.
However, Alegría Hudes felt the necessity to bring “a whole different energy” that might contrast Vivo’s relationship together with his elder owner and convey a youthful spirit to the film. So supported her experiences together with her younger sister, Alegría Hudes created a personality named Gabi who would “just break the planet open, sort of a piñata.” Gabi, who is played by the Dominican American rising star Ynairaly Simo, offers to assist Vivo following unforeseen events that motivate them to travel to Miami and deliver a secret love song to Andrés’s long-lost love, Marta Sandoval, a famous singer who is voiced by the Latin music icon Gloria Estefan.
In a news release, Estefan said the love song, titled “Inside Your Heart (Para Marta),” was the most reason she decided to hitch the project. “This very song that Marta would be singing … I just fell crazy with it,” Estefan said. “Marta jogs my memory of Celia Cruz, who was one among my favorite people within the world, and that I love that Vivo honors Cuban music this way.” Simo’s larger-than-life personality comes across as she brings the wonderfully eccentric tween girl Gabi to life. That becomes quite evident within the exuberant and catchy number “My Own Drum,” featuring Missy Elliott. the youngster’s bop undoubtedly draws inspiration from beatboxing, viral social media videos, K-pop music, Katy Perry’s over-the-top live performances, and Elliott’s rapping style.
While the character stands out for her oddball and optimistic personality, Gabi’s brash confidence conceals her desire to suit in and develop true friendships. Miranda said the character’s infectious joy “hides tons of resilience.” “I think that’s quite the key to Gabi,” he said. “That every setback is, like, she rolls with it and she or he keeps on moving. I cannot tell you ways fun it had been writing ‘My Own Drum.’” For Lacamoire, who grew up in Miami together with his Cuban parents, performing on the musical number “Mambo Cabana” felt personal to him also on his family. The sequence centers on Andrés’ dream of traveling to Miami to reconnect with Marta during her retirement concert.
“This may be a very happy, joyous song, but when my mom heard the chorus and saw the movie happening in Cuba, she started weeping for the enjoyment of just feeling that sort of representation,” Lacamoire said after Saturday’s screening. “I just love having the ability to probe this a part of my roots, my family, my ancestry.” For Miranda, “Vivo” is about how “music and love are the precise same thing” for the characters. “It’s that timelessness of affection, the timelessness of music and therefore the unlikely friendships.” The film also touches on themes of loss at a time when “we’ve all been touched by grief in how or another” during the coronavirus pandemic, Miranda said. Talking about the way to advance and remember those whom we’ve lost amorously “I think couldn’t be more timely.”