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You know the sequence. You probably know each lyric by heart.
We’re talking about the energetic, nearly-four-minute portion of Disney Animation’s Encanto featuring the No. 1 hit single “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” In the ensemble piece, Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz) asks various family members about her mysterious uncle who has vanished.
Much has been made of Disney’s decision to submit Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Dos Oruguitas” over “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” for Oscar consideration, but the Colombia-set animated musical grabbed three Oscar nominations (for animated feature, score and song) as well as six Visual Effects Society noms, including one for virtual cinematography in the “Bruno” sequence, along with many other awards.
“Very early on, we got together with [the animation team and said], ‘We really want this to be a giant dance number. We want this to feel like Broadway,’ ” says director of cinematography layout Nathan Detroit Warner. They teamed with Jamal Sims and Kai Martinez, who choreographed the sequence with dancers that Sims shot in one take with an iPad. “What made a difference is that we had excellent reference from the choreography,” says animation supervisor Michael Woodside. “They were able to give us great authentic movements that we were able to replicate.”
No performance capture was used, but Woodside says they did go “a little bit against the norm” in their production process in that the camerawork and animation — starting with a rough animation — were “working in tandem,” whereas more typically one would follow the other.
“They were putting in a lot less detail [in the rough animation] but kept the necessary footsteps and how the head might turn because the choreography could motivate a camera [move],” he explains. “We also went back and reshot all of the little individual bits of choreography for reference for the animators.” They shot the sequence with and without the skirts, which “allowed them to study the body mechanics and how the costumes would move,” adds Woodside.
Byron Howard, who directed the film with Jared Bush, urged the animators to watch musicals for inspiration, including The Sound of Music, Moulin Rouge! and the filmed version of Miranda’s Hamilton.
One of the first “Bruno” sections that they worked on was the one in which Mirabel and cousin Dolores dance as the latter reveals what she knows. Says Warner: “It starts as if it’s on a stage line. The more they get excited, the more [the virtual camera] gets excited. It’s moving up and down as the emotion happens.”
This story first appeared in the March 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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