It’s safe to say that Lin Manuel Miranda is one of the busiest men in Hollywood right now: the star has had a huge hand in as many as four films released this year.
The first of those four films was musical spectacular In the Heights, which hit UK cinemas back in June, and the second is Vivo, a brand new animated adventure about a musical kinkajou (voiced by Miranda himself) that arrives on Netflix this week. (Disney’s Encanto and his directorial debut Tik Tik… Boom! are still to come).
Of course, In The Heights and Vivo are very different films in a number of ways, but one key thing they have in common is that they were both written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, who has struck up a great working relationship with Miranda over the years.
“One of the really fun elements of creating Vivo was that I got to work with Lin-Manuel again,” she told RadioTimes.com and other press at a recent behind-the-scenes event.
“We had written In the Heights together, and so we had spent a lot of hours, and a lot of years, and at this point, a lot of decades in the writing room refining and playing. But in the recording booth, I saw an entirely different side of him. The things that he was doing with his voice, I’ve never heard him do. And I think the opportunity for him to embody Vivo, you know, he related to Vivo, of course, because he’s also a musician and he’s an excellent musician.”
Hudes explained that when she joined the project, Miranda had already been developing the characters of Vivo and Andrés, but she really put her stamp on the project with the character Gabi – a slightly rebellious girl scout who strikes up an unlikely friendship with the kinkajou.
“I grew up with a sister who’s 13 years younger than me, so she’s kind of my baby sis and kind of my baby. And as you can see here, she’s part of the inspiration for this character,” Hudes said.
“The opportunity to take these classy, refined Cuban musicians, and throw them in with this diaspora, Key West, Floridian agent of brilliant chaos known as Gabi was really exciting to me.
“So, I imbued this character of Gabi with a lot of life and creativity, and spunk, and pizzaz, and wildness,” she added. “I was really excited to write a wild girl. I feel like a lot of the girl characters that I iconically grew up with in fairytales and stuff were dealing with being good girls, and dealing with being nice. And I wanted Gabi to not be dealing with that. Gabi was just wild, and the world was gonna get on board with her or not!”
Several songs written by Miranda punctuate the film, and Hudes picked out the track My Own Drum as one that she thinks works particularly well – at one point describing the song as “just utter freedom”.
And she also thought that Miranda’s song Keep the Beat worked well with her script, saying, “It makes perfect sense for it to be musicalized as a song rather than in scene because if you have two conflicting percussive notions in music, that makes syncopation. And that’s got drive, and that’s got propulsion, you know, and that’s got dynamism. So, Lin put that all into the music in that song.”