If there was a breakthrough original song from last year’s crop of contenders, it was undoubtedly “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned earworm from “Encanto” that has gone on to become a certifiable blockbuster (it currently has nearly 125 million streams on Spotify and is the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100). But when the Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday morning, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” was conspicuously absent. Instead, the stirring “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto” scored the nomination.
The short answer is: because Disney didn’t submit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” for contention. Each studio has to put forth the songs that they think will make the most impact. In the past, Disney submitted multiple songs for the category, particularly during the lucrative Disney Renaissance period (for example “Hakuna Matata” and “Circle of Life” were submitted from “The Lion King” and both secured nominations); these days Disney usually only submits one per film, probably for fear of one song canceling the other out.
But why didn’t they submit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” for the category?
Well, nobody knew that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” would explode the way it did. It’s a relatively deep cut, one that moves the plot forward while revealing specific character details. (The staging of the song, which you can now watch in “Encanto” on Disney+, is dexterous and wonderful – look in the background of certain shots for a hidden Bruno.) “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” isn’t an “I want” song (like “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid” or “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana,” also written by Miranda and also Oscar-nominated) or a “thesis song” like “Beauty and the Beast” from “Beauty and the Beast” (which won Best Original Song) or, indeed, “Dos Oruguitas,” which serves as the emotional center for “Encanto” and a profound moment of reconciliation and understanding. “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is, objectively, a bop, one that is fun to dance around your apartment to. But Disney, when submitting, went with its heart.
There’s another thing to factor in: Lin-Manuel Miranda.
2021 was unquestionably the year of Lin-Manuel Miranda, from “In the Heights” to “tick, tick … BOOM!” But there was another animated feature stuffed with Lin-Manuel Miranda originals, Sony Pictures Animation’s and Netflix’s “Vivo.” In a different version of Tuesday’s nominations, Miranda could have found himself nominated against himself (“Vivo” didn’t get a nomination despite some of the songs being very good). And what helps set a song apart from the rest, particularly when it’s a song by the same writer, is a narrative. And “Dos Oruguitas” has that much-needed story.
“Dos Oruguitas,” it turns out, is the first song that Miranda wrote, completely in Spanish. The filmmakers recently told us that his intention was for it to sound like a folk song that had been performed for 100 years; something that everybody knew the words to even if they didn’t know where the song came from. Mission: accomplished. In the context of the film, too, it’s so important – if, by some miracle, you weren’t already sobbing, “Dos Oruguitas” is the one that instantly triggers the waterworks. It’s the emotional powerhouse.
But what’s funny is that in the past few weeks, Miranda has done a ton of press about “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” He went on “GMA” to discuss the song and has done countless print interviews – all for a song that doesn’t even have a chance at the Best Original Song Oscar. It’s fascinating and will be discussed endlessly. The carefully laid narrative for “Dos Oruguitas” has already become obscured.
You can’t fault Disney’s reasoning. It’s like if they submitted Olaf’s song from “Frozen” instead of “Let It Go.” It makes so much sense for “Dos Oruguitas” to get submitted. But clearly the combination of the movie debuting on Disney+ (after the submission), a never-ending crop of TikToks, and the entire soundtrack entering the public consciousness in an unexpected way has changed the dynamic of the Best Original Song race and, indeed, the narrative surrounding “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” and “Encanto.” The only question now is: can “Encanto” still win with this song?