NEW YORK – Sebastián Yatra calls his experience with Disney's “Encanto” a "gift from God.”
The Colombian singer-songwriter performs “Dos Oruguitas,” written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and nominated to the Oscars for best original song. The movie is also nominated for best animated film and best original music.
“Being present this way at the Oscars, not only with this song but with the movie ‘Encanto’ which is inspired by my country, is a gift from God, a gift from life," Yatra said.
"Being the voice chosen to sing this song among so many wonderful Colombian artists and performers is simply a matter of being very lucky, being in the right place at the right time,” he said in an interview from Medellin, Colombia.
Set in the land of magical realism, “Encanto” follows Mirabel Madrigal, a teenage girl frustrated by the fact that she is the only member of her family without magical powers. The cast, led by Argentine-American actress Stephanie Beatriz, includes Diane Guerrero, John Leguizamo, Wilmer Valderrama and Angie Cepeda.
It is the first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to be co-directed by a Latina, Charise Castro Smith, and features original songs by Miranda that have topped the Billboard charts, such as “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which became the most listened to theme of a Disney animated film in more than 26 years, surpassing “Let It Go” from “Frozen.”
But when it came to submitting a song to the Academy Awards, the chosen one was “Dos Oruguitas.”
The moving allegorical ballad is the first Spanish-language song nominated for an Oscar since “Al Otro Lado del Río” from “The Motorcycle Diaries” won Uruguayan Jorge Drexler the award in 2005. That year, the academy invited Spanish star Antonio Banderas, a face better known than Drexler's, to perform it at the ceremony in a bittersweet moment for the songwriter and his Latin American fans.
But Yatra’s 28.9 million followers on Instagram (and 17.1 million on TikTok) could potentially give a boost to the Oscars' ratings, which last year plummeted to an all-time low of 9.85 million viewers.
“I think there are big chances of making history not only for Colombia but for the Spanish language and Latin artists in general,” Yatra said. “I think Drexler definitely put up like the steppingstones and now, more and more, everybody is open to having new faces at the Oscars ... If I have the opportunity to be that new face there, I’m definitely gonna enjoy it and just sing my heart out.”
The Latin star, who's hits include “Robarte un Beso”, “Un año” and “Tacones Rojos”, recalled how he was contacted to participate in the project. Apparently, Miranda had heard his ballad “Adiós,” released early last year, and decided he was the one.
“My manager Paula (Kaminsky) called me and told me, ‘Sebas, they are calling me from the Lin-Manuel and the Disney team for the movie ‘Encanto.’ I didn’t even finish listening. I said, 'Yes! Whatever they tell you, say yes. And well, obviously I said yes and she told me it was to sing one of the songs from the movie.
“And beautiful things kept happening,” he continued, “because it was to sing one of the songs, then it was the main love song, than it was going to be in Spanish and they also wanted to record it in English in case different countries wanted to use it in English.”
He proudly pointed out that, although they recorded it in both languages, they decided to keep it in Spanish in all versions of the movie. “Even if you are listening to the movie in Chinese, when the part of ‘Dos Oruguitas’ comes in, you hear it in Spanish, which is the first time this has happened in the history of Disney movies.”
“Dos Oruguitas” will compete for the Oscar with “Be Alive” from “King Richard,” “Down to Joy” from “Belfast,” “No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die” and “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days."
The 94th Academy Awards ceremony will be aired live on March 27 on ABC from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.
Sigal Ratner-Arias is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner.