Lin-Manuel Miranda is perhaps best known for his hit musicals “Hamilton” and “In The Heights”, but he says his latest film, “Vivo”, is his children’s “favorite thing I’ve ever worked on”.
“I’m so glad that your kids can now all hear the thing that has been going on repeat in my house for years,” Miranda said Saturday at a special screening of the film in New York 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 swamps of Florida’s Everglades to bustling Miami as a A musically gifted kinkajou named Vivo embarks on a heartfelt adventure journey alongside unlikely friends in the wake of an unexpected tragedy.
The story has been a passionate project for Miranda since 2009, when he started writing songs for the film while it was in development at DreamWorks. The project was scrapped and revisited by Sony Pictures Animation in 2015 after Miranda’s second hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton.”
Miranda, who wrote eight original songs for the film, is the voice of Vivo; he was also an executive producer. He brought in his usual creative partners – Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the book for the musical “In The Heights”, as well as the screenplay for the film 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 original draft script, she quickly realized that “the beating heart of the film” was Vivo’s relationship with her well-known landlord. beloved, Andrés, who is voiced by the legendary Cuban conductor Juan de Marcos, best known for his work with the Buena Vista Social Club.
Viewers see Andrés and Vivo’s close friendship during the film’s first issue, “One of a Kind,” as the duo spend their days playing music in front of bustling crowds in Havana’s Plaza Vieja. The scenes in the opening number were directly inspired by the creative team’s visit to Havana, as well as extensive photographic and archival material, according to Netflix.
However, Alegría Hudes felt the need to bring in “a whole different energy” that would contrast Vivo’s relationship with her older owner and bring a youthful spirit to the film. So, based on her experiences with her younger sister, Alegría Hudes created a character named Gabi who would “just open up the world, like a piñata”.
Gabi, who is played by rising Dominican-American star Ynairaly Simo, offers to help Vivo following unforeseen events that motivate them to travel to Miami and deliver a secret love song to the lost love d ‘Andrés, Marta Sandoval, a famous singer who is voiced by Latin music icon Gloria Estefan.
In a press release, Estefan said the love song, titled “Inside Your Heart (Para Marta)”, was the main reason she decided to join the project.
“That same song Marta would sing… I just fell in love with her,” Estefan said. “Marta reminds me of Celia Cruz, who was one of my favorite people in the world, and I love that Vivo honors Cuban music in this way.”
Simo’s larger-than-life personality comes through as she brings wonderfully eccentric teenage girl Gabi to life. This becomes quite evident in the exuberant and catchy “My Own Drum” number, starring Missy Elliott. The children’s bop is undoubtedly inspired by the beatbox, viral social media videos, K-pop music, exaggerated live performances by Katy Perry and Elliott’s rap style.
While the character is distinguished by her eccentric and upbeat personality, Gabi’s brash confidence hides her desire to fit in and develop true friendships.
Miranda said the contagious joy of the character “hides a lot of resilience.”
“I think that’s kind of Gabi’s key,” he said. “That every setback is, like, she rolls with and she keeps moving. I can’t tell you how fun it was to write “My Own Drum”.
For Lacamoire, who grew up in Miami with his Cuban parents, working on the musical number “Mambo Cabana” seemed personal to him and his family. The sequence centers on Andrés’ dream of traveling to Miami to reconnect with Marta during her retirement concert.
“It’s a very happy and joyful song, but when my mother heard the chorus and saw the film set in Cuba, she started to cry with joy to feel this kind of performance,” Lacamoire said after the screening of Saturday. “I love that I can tap into this part of my roots, my family, my ancestry.”
For Miranda, “Vivo” explains how “music and love are exactly the same” for the characters. “It’s the timelessness of love, the timelessness of music and unlikely friendships.”
The film also touches on themes of loss at a time when “we’ve all been touched by grief in one way or another” during the coronavirus pandemic, Miranda said. Talking about how to move forward and remember those we have lost with love “I think it couldn’t be more timely. “