Netflix dropped the full trailer Thursday for “Vivo,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s love letter to Cuba and his first starring animated musical, made at Sony Pictures Animation (streaming August 6th). In addition to conceiving the idea a decade ago and writing eight original songs, Miranda (“In the Heights,” Disney’s upcoming animated musical “Encanto”) voices the title character: a singer-musician kinkajou (a rainforest “honey bear”), who plays music in a lively Havana square with his beloved owner Andrés (Juan de Marcos of the Buena Vista Social Club). That is, until tragedy strikes, and Vivo journeys to Miami to deliver a love song to retiring superstar, Marta (Gloria Estefan) with the help of energetic tween Gabi (newcomer Ynairaly Simo).
“It’s taken so many turns, but at the heart of this story is this incredible friendship between Andrés and Vivo, and how it launches Vivo on an incredible journey from Cuba to Florida, where he does a lot of growing up,” said Miranda in the production notes. Musically, he was influenced by musical giants such as Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, and, of course, the Buena Vista Social Club.
“Vivo” is directed by Kirk DeMicco (“The Croods”), scripted by Quiara Alegria Hudes (“In the Heights”), produced by Lisa Stewart (“Monsters vs. Aliens”), Michelle Wong (“Hotel Transylvania 2”), and Oscar winner Rich Moore (“Zootopia”), with visual consultation by Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (“1917,” “Blade Runner 2049”). Tony and Grammy award-winner Alex Lacamoire (“In the Heights,” “Hamilton”) serves as the composer and executive music producer, and the film is executive produced by Miranda, Golden Globe winner Laurence Mark (“Dreamgirls”), and Louis Koo Tin Lok (“The Mitchells vs. The Machines”).
“We’ve never had a big CG-animated movie that really explores Caribbean color palettes, from the color of the buildings to the sun and the sky,” added DeMicco. “We were able to capture the elegance of Cuba and follow Vivo and Gabi to the kitschy, fun-loving world of Key West to the sleek, sophisticated Miami.”
Production designer Carlos Zaragoza was particularly inspired by vintage Cuban travel posters, as well as the animation of German American expressionist Oskar Fischinger. He also benefited from a research trip to Havana with DeMicco and other filmmakers to soak up the local architecture, music, dancing, and color. “This was immensely helpful to understand things in context,” he said. “Some aesthetic choices in the movie are based on those specific realities: the why of the colorful patchwork facades of the Old Havana, or how an old palace was subdivided into multiple small apartments. What is the history of the Tres guitar (the instrument Andrés plays in the film) and what makes its sound so unique? All that explained by a Cuban musician in his home-studio. We put a lot of care and attention to the details.”
Sony Pictures Animation
In terms of animation, there was an eclectic mix of styles utilized by Sony Pictures Imageworks for musical numbers. Like “The Mitchells,” they were also able to leverage tech from the innovative “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” to make it look more like 2D.
Although Deakins has consulted on several previous animated features at DreamWorks (the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy) and Pixar (“WALL-E”), he said this was very different: “This film has a very distinct look because of its locations,” he noted. “The Havana section is old-worldly and has a more traditional ’50s look. You contrast that with the bright sunlight and almost washed-out colors of Miami, so it’s great to play with those elements. Then, of course, there are the Everglades, which go from being vibrant and green to dark and foreboding.”