How ‘Encanto’s’ ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ Got Bigger Than ‘Let It Go’

They might be roaring about the clairvoyant Colombian animated character in Bulgarian, Norwegian, Vietnamese or one of more than 40 other languages. The song, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” from Disney‘s

the movie “Encanto,” is known as “Don’t Mention Bruno” in Russian, “Secret Bruno” in Japanese and “Just Not a Word About Bruno” in German.

“Bruno” recently became the first song from a Walt Disney Animation Studios movie to hit number one on Billboard’s Streaming Songs chart. This week, it reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 to become the highest-grossing song from a Disney animated film in over 26 years (since “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” in 1995), according to Billboard – and surpassed “Easy”. It Go ”from“ Frozen ”, which reached number five in 2014. The song is also in the top 20 of Spotify’s Global Daily and Weekly Top Song charts.

Sleeping Single, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, has become a hit almost two months after the film’s cinema release. Fans and critics have praised the way it mixes musical patterns and genres, from hip hop to Cuban folk and dance music.

Part of the appeal is that it can be sung in so many places. Translating the lyrics to audiences around the world has required some explanation, including what it means to “grow a gut”.

“Encanto” takes place in rural Colombia and has a magical family whose members possess unique superhuman skills. The song explains how Bruno, an outcast uncle with psychic powers, has ruined lives with his negative prophecies.

“He told me my fish would die. The next day, dead,” sings a woman, as she shows a goldfish upside down in a bowl. “He told me I would get a gut, and like he said, “moans a man as his stomach explodes through his shirt and jumps off the buttons.

The Thai translation captures a similar spirit: “He said you just drop a goldfish with its wide open mouth, he said you will soon grow a big belly, just like it has been said.”

The film premiered in US theaters on November 24 and on the Disney + streaming service a month later. On January 10, Disney released a video of the “Bruno” song, which incorporates the lyrics into 21 of the languages ​​in which it was recorded. It starts with English and Spanish and then moves to Hungarian, Greek, Bahasa Malaysia, Portuguese (with separate Brazilian and European translations) and more.

The multilingual version of the song accumulated more than 12 million views on YouTube in one week. A polyglot version of a 2016 Disney hit, “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana,” has 10 million views on the same channel.

“It’s so streamlined,” says Jacqueline Avila, a professor of musicology at the University of Tennessee, about the editing of the multilingual “Bruno” issue.

The musical tracks in “Encanto” have a specific sound, largely from a specific region. The studio worked with teams around the world to dub the film in a total of 46 languages, says director Jared Bush. The goal is for translated lyrics to capture the spirit and character of the song across different languages.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote and produced eight songs for ‘Encanto’, at the film premiere in Los Angeles in November.


Photo:

michael tran / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

“These are typically not direct translations,” says Mr. Bush. “If another word needs to be entered, or the way it is said needs to be adjusted, it needs to feel the way it feels for us in the language that feels very comfortable.”

The process requires trust across teams, he says.

“Our team around the world will come to us and say, ‘What you can say in English in four seconds is very different from what you can say in Korean in four seconds. So can we say this?’ Says director Byron Howard.

Notes for help with translation and localization were provided to these teams, according to a Disney spokeswoman. Under the English text that begins, “He told me I would grow a gut,” there is a note that helps clarify: “gut = someone’s stomach, especially when it’s fat.”

Referring to another lyrics that read, “Hey, sis, I do not want a sound out of you,” a note clarifies that “sis = everyday sister.” Another note says that “party on = to feel great joy of something.”

The instructors say they hoped to keep Colombian culture and music at the core of any translation. Many of the dubs were recorded in Colombia, and Colombian consultants and musicians advised on pronunciation. The filmmakers also received help from other South American countries. For the Czech version, a Uruguayan actor gave voice to Félix, a cheerful animated character with a major role in “Bruno”.

Some words and phrases remained consistent in Spanish throughout the versions, such as a character’s devotion to his wife, “mi vida,” which means “my life.”

“Some of it was very character-specific, and those are the things that ended up hanging on,” says Charise Castro Smith, co-author and co-director of “Encanto.”

Charise Castro Smith, co-author and co-director of ‘Encanto.’


Photo:

Willy Sanjuan / Associated Press

In recent years, Disney has taken steps to address criticism of stereotypical or racist themes and depictions in its older movies and amusement parks. In 2020, the company said it would include advice on content that includes negative portrayal or treatment of people or cultures, including the 1953 film “Peter Pan” in which indigenous peoples are referred to as “red skins” and the 1992 film “Aladdin . ”

The influences of Cuban folk and dance genres – including guajira, a country music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and son, a more modern version of guajira – may have contributed to the global reaction. on “Bruno,” says Michael Birenbaum Quintero, professor of musicology and ethnomusicology at Boston University with a focus on Latin America.

“It is very familiar to people in the United States and around the world as a kind of Latin American music. We have heard it internationally since the 1930s, ”he says. “It’s something that’s popping up in Broadway musicals and in Hollywood and TV commercials.”

The song’s global popularity across languages ​​has been both surprising and affirming for Mrs Castro Smith.

“I think this video actually proves that everyone in the world has a black sheep in their family,” she says. “It’s such a related concept of the person in your family that you really should not talk about, but he’s like the biggest deal, right?”

Write to Alex Janin and Alex.Janin@wsj.com

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