How Vivo was successful with the help of Roger Deakins

This version of the story of “Vivo” first appeared in the animated special of Prize preview problem of TheWrap’s award-winning magazine.

There’s a lot of competition these days for your attention, especially in terms of animation, so it’s important to capture your audience’s attention and imagination as quickly as possible. For “Vivo,” the animated musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and co-written by “In the Heights” Quiara Alegría Hudes, the approach is simple: wrap the viewer in the world of a kinkajou singing named Vivo (Miranda) who traveled from Cuba to America to fulfill the last wish of his master Andrés’ (Juan de Marcos González), with a large, brassy, ​​unsightly number.

Easy enough, right? But what if that same number covers a vast array of emotional stories and real estate? Oh, and it was taken in one shot?

As director and co-writer Kirk DeMicco said, the franchise wasn’t originally staged as a single show. That idea came later, from choreographer Calvit Hodge. “Initially, it was really just an idea about finding dance references,” he says. “It’s more about the realism, the cultural representation of the background dancers – so when the tourists and other people in the square dance along, there will also be locals there and we can watch How will each person dance? Calvit and his team went into a studio to choreograph and they did it with their cameras and choreographed most of it as one shot. ”

A moment in Hodge’s video when one of the bystanders takes a selfie sparks DeMicco’s determination to do the scene just once, but the animators who had to work on the idea took it off. really surprising. “They all said, ‘A what? A flanking? Who will do that? ‘ It’s going to take a year,” DeMicco said. (Kevin Webb, head of animation, says the shot comes at 1,500 frames, which DeMicco admits is “unprecedented in animation.”) Also, what matters is the amount of storytelling they have to do. pass: The sequence is braided with small flashbacks, and it covers most of the day.

However, “Vivo” had a secret weapon: the participation of Roger Deakins, the Oscar-winning cinematographer who had just made “1917,” a film that was modeled as a continuous shot. Deakins was tasked with “understanding how we can get all the excitement and instant feeling when opening a scene.” Also, like “1917,” he will have to determine where separate photos can be “spliced” together for a seamless look.

“The great thing about working with Roger, especially in cartoons, is that when Roger comes on as a DP, his brain doesn’t think that the camera and the light are in two separate departments. ,” said DiMicco. “That’s part of him.”

DeMicco, Deakins, and the rest of the collaborators soon brought the scene to life. Since we were introduced to Andrés and Vivo as a troubadour, the single shot would put the audience in the shoes of the tourists that took place during their performance.

“The idea of ​​that one shot feels like we, the audience, have come in and are watching it,” DeMicco said. “If we were to show up with a camera and watch a troubadour act around, you wouldn’t be doing a lot of different cuts. You’ll be with them and then just carry your phone with you and record a video. I think it’s a really great way to give us the opportunity to have the audience right there as if you’ve just arrived in Cuba and you’re shooting this movie.”

Read more from the Award Preview issue here.

Tessa Thompson Award Preview Magazine Cover
Photographed by Matt Sayles How Vivo was successful with the help of Roger Deakins

Curtis Crabtree

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