One song can truly change everything in Netflix and Sony Pictures Animation’s fun-filled and touching, animated musical, Vivo! With superb, original songs, brought out by the prolific, music maestro himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda, breathtakingly beautiful animation and one of the best storylines brought to animation, Vivo will have you singing along, hugging your loved ones extra tight and, of course, dancing to the beat of your own drum!
The stupendous film follows lovable kinkajou (aka a rainforest “honey bear”) Vivo and his cherished owner, Andrés. Vivo (who is voiced by Lin-Manuel Miranda) and Andrés (who is brought to life by Juan de Marcos) have a bond that can’t be broken. With their love for music at the heart of it all, the high-spirited and musically-gifted duo put big smiles on people’s faces as they do their routine performances at a square in Havana, Cuba. But, as stated in the movie’s trailer, the two were so in sync until… the letter came. The letter was from the glorious Marta Sandoval (voiced by iconic artist, Gloria Estefan) inviting her former music partner, Andrés to join her once more on stage for her farewell concert. Unable to contain his excitement, Andrés excitedly opens up his box of mementos where he pulls out a song, and not just any song, but his song to Marta, expressing how much he has always loved her. With this being his only chance to once and for all finally tell Marta the feelings he has always had for her, this was an opportunity Andrés wouldn’t have missed for the world.
But, when a devastating situation occurs, Vivo musters up the courage to head out into a world he doesn’t know in order to bring Andrés’ special song to Marta. However, he’s going to need some help and he enlists zestful tween Gabi with him for an adventure of a lifetime!
Directed by The Croods mastermind, Kirk DeMicco, who also helped write the film, along with the uber talented Quiara Alegría Hudes, Vivo is truly an unparalleled film. The great efforts of the creative team and cast to bring this movie from a cute, animated flick to a true masterpiece that will definitely become a classic for generations to continue to watch and enjoy is evident in all aspects of the movie – from the surreal animation to the incredibly catchy songs.
Alexisjoyvipaccess was invited to a special behind-the-scenes press event for Vivo and now, it’s time to share with you all an inside look at the origins of the unmatched film and how this brilliant musical came to be.
The wonderful, virtual event began with an amazing “Bringing Vivo to Life” session with director Kirk DeMicco and writer Quiara Alegría Hudes highlighting the inspiration behind the exceptional movie.
“The big thing is, this was something that Lin-Manuel Miranda had been working on since 2009,” said DeMicco. “It was near and dear to his heart, and he had songs and a story when I was introduced to it in 2016, and the songs were just beautiful and amazing. The wonderful thing was that Lin had such authorship of the story. The exciting part for our animation team and going forward was going to be that we had Lin as a songwriter, but also as the lead. He was going to be the voice of Vivo. So, I think it was an incredibly original, one-of-a-kind situation that the songwriter was also the actor.”
Quiara Alegría Hudes added on to talk about how the character of Gabi came to be, and a fun fact is that the bubbly and fun-loving character is actually based off of her own sister!
“Gabi is a very different, creative soul,” said Hudes. “In fact, she was inspired by my sister, who is 13 years younger than me. So, just to give a sense, I thought it would be fun to show how my sister has always been a somewhat joyous anarchist or joyous rebel. Not rebelling and being nonconformist as a negative and to be anti-something, but to kind of be pro-herself… So, I wanted Gabi to have this celebratory nonconformity. For her, making a joyous noise, being loud, that’s what creativity is all about.”
After getting to learn more about the creativity behind bringing these unforgettable characters to life, it was time for the “Rhythm of Vivo” panel featuring executive music producer and composer, Alex Lacamoire, and the voice of Andrés, Juan de Marcos, where they talked about the film’s one-of-a-kind Cuban-inspired music styles heard throughout the movie. Needless to say, anyone who watches Vivo will be completely enthralled by the movie’s incredible soundtrack. All of the songs are each so unique, have a great message and also pay tribute to the roots of Cuban music.
Juan de Marcos talked about the parallels between him and his character, Andrés and also further delved into how proud he was to be a part of such an awe-inspiring project representing Cuban culture.
“They wanted me perhaps because of my story, because of my history, because of what I have done in the past with Cuban music,” said de Marcos. “I have, in a certain sense, a similar story to Andrés.”
“I’ve said it before that it was really a pleasure to work in a film to give to my country,” continued the Grammy Award-winning Buena Vista Social Club musician. “It’s a love story and the most important thing is love. It doesn’t matter if you have sand in your pocket. This is not important. You should be healthy and you should be in love, and this is a love story, and in a certain sense, a love letter to Cuba, which is my country.”
The stellar Alex Lacamoire talked more about the distinct and harmonious sounds in Vivo.
“What I love about Lin-Manuel as a composer is how eclectic he is and how many different styles he’s able to write in a fluent and fluid way,” said Lacamoire. “I love that Vivo has elements of so much music. There’s reggaeton. There is some salsa and I was able to compose some music that has some elements of charanga, that has some elements of warasa, that has some rumba.”
“Anytime that I get to honor Cuban rhythms, Cuban music, Cuban styles – for me, it’s a win,” added the music genius. “It’s an ability to story-tell through music, a way to honor my heritage, a way to honor this country, a way to honor the story. So, I love being able to delve into all that stuff in Vivo.”
Aside from the remarkable characters and the marvelous music in the film, another standout element of the movie is all of the visuals. The animation is flawless and pristine. The film takes viewers on an exciting journey from Havana, Cuba to the Key West, the Everglades and ultimately landing in Miami. Each of the set designs perfectly captures the essence of each of these places. From the vibrant colors of Havana, Cuba to the dark and damp Everglades and the electrifying feel of the city of Miami, the hard work of the production design team truly paid off and makes viewers feel like they aren’t just watching these locations on their screen, but more so stepping inside them.
To talk more about the creative process of designing these locations in an animated world, production designer, Carlos Zaragoza and art director, Wendell Dalit joined in to share their perspectives in the “Designing Vivo’s Journey” panel. In fact, what fans may not know about the film is that the team actually went and visited Cuba in order to authentically represent the country and its culture.
Carlos Zaragoza revealed to Alexisjoyvipaccess something that stood out to him from his trip to Cuba that he felt truly needed to be included in the film.
“We have so many things we found out when we actually visited Cuba,” said Zaragoza. “Many things because we are all learning. We are just like little kids with open eyes trying to observe, trying to understand. For me, I think the most important thing was walking in the streets of old Havana with the directors and producers and all the VFX crew and finding out so many things just out of observing how people move, talk, the colors, the textures, the smell, everything.”
“The challenge was how to translate that into the movie,” added Zaragoza. “There were special things that were very unique for us – things [like] the almost total absence of signage in the streets and the contradictions and juxtapositions – the beautiful, amazing grand architecture combined with the decay. Even the trees in specific areas on the very old Havana, like the trees growing off on a facade or on the rooftop, that was something that we wanted to use also in the movie. [Also], like how people actually talk and walk and how they interact, that was most important for the directors to put it in the staging in the movie.”
Art Director Wendell Dalit discussed how the team was able to fuse music together with the visual elements of the film and talked about the music’s influence on Gabi’s famous “My Own Drum” scene.
“We were inspired by video games, music videos, and motion graphics, things that we thought Gabi might be into,” said Dalit. “Throughout “My Own Drum,” you’ll also notice our use of 2D graphics. I really loved how our last films like in Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs. The Machines – there are some machines incorporated 2D with 3D, and we wanted to continue exploring that idea with Vivo to help create a fun and unique look.”
Another one of the many excellent parts about Vivo is how there are a lot of discussions about preserving nature and the Everglades, as seen through the young ladies in the Sand Dollars. To give more insight into that, environmental educator and Florida Everglades tour guide, Elaine Fiore concluded the fascinating and informative press event with “The Wildlife of Vivo” session.
When asked what it’s like for her having a movie like Vivo teaching kids and families essential lessons about protecting the Everglades, Fiore told Alexisjoyvipaccess how happy she is over the film’s environmental impact on viewers.
“I was absolutely thrilled that Vivo spent time to educate about the Everglades,” said Fiore. “The Sand Dollars talked about some of the importance of invasive species and so that made me beyond thrilled that that happened. Educators can even use this movie as kind of a segue into Everglades literacy.”
There are so many things that makes Vivo more than just another animated movie. The creative team truly poured their heart and soul into this project to reflect so many things – from celebrating and honoring Cuban culture, to educating viewers on Cuban music, teaching about ways to care for the environment and bringing a true and authentic feel to the art and visuals of the movie. Vivo is full of life, love and passion and it’s an experience you’ll constantly want to relive.
Watch Vivo streaming on Netflix on August 6th and catch the official trailer for the film below!