What Is It about Bruno? Why Fans Love Encanto’s Hit Song
We don’t talk about Bruno, but we will talk about the viral song showcasing Encanto’s masterful storytelling and musicality…
If you haven’t stepped into the colorful Casa Madrigal yet, there’s never been a better time. We covered Encanto’s homage to Colombian storytelling in an earlier post, and since then the film’s popularity has blossomed like Isabela’s flower powers.
While the ballad "Dos Oruguitas" is shortlisted for the 94th Academy Awards, the ensemble piece, "We Don’t Talk About Bruno", reached number one on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and the UK singles chart. But why has the song gone viral and why are we so drawn to Bruno’s story? Here’s our breakdown of the film version…
As the Madrigal family prepares for an important meal with handsome Mariano ahead of his planned proposal to Isabela, various relatives remind young protagonist Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) not to discuss her estranged Uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo). In a family blessed with magical gifts, Bruno’s ability to see ominous futures was not welcome. Now feeling worried about the family’s future, Mirabel sets out to learn about him. But her relatives have other ideas…
A masterwork in mood
"We Don’t Talk About Bruno" constructs the titular character as a classic Disney villain. Cracks of thunder punctuate the beginning and end; the home key is C minor, giving a bitter edge to everyone’s vocals. Adding to this effect, green is by far the most prominent and striking color on-screen. In fact, the scene begins with Mirabel’s room glowing with a lurid, lime hue that conjures up feelings of evil or toxicity.
The symbolism doesn’t stop there: sand imagery links Bruno to the passage of time and unstoppable change. Seems like a classic villain indeed, right? But, of course—spoiler alert—it’s actually the family’s perception of him that’s the problem. Their portrayal of Bruno has erased his actual personality and feelings, so the reversal just around the corner means re-watchers can enjoy the dramatic irony.
Every star’s moment to shine
Disney has plenty of villain songs—why’s this one so special? Perhaps because its haunting mood and dark humor is set against a fun, danceable bassline with tons of syncopation (almost no notes fall on the beat). Composer Lin Manuel Miranda compared it to a "spooky montuno". There is a lot of influence to listen out for, from Latin-American dance to Broadway. This catchy rhythm allows the characters to weave around with their melodies and their bodies.
Alongside the music is the ever-shifting choreography, that draws the watcher’s eyes around each character as they share their gossip. Watch the choreography reference video below, which demonstrates the attention to detail in creating authentic movements from Colombian dance styles:
And when you’re done admiring the musicality, there is the amazing characterization of this song, where several characters each get a moment in the spotlight.
We start with Tia Pepa and her husband Félix. The contrast of Pepa’s thundery personality versus Félix’s agreeable nature is clearly apparent in their to-and-fro dancing. As they recount their wedding day, a fictionalized Bruno appears, face cloaked, to cause mischief. The sky above the church is cast in stormy green. Their expressions become almost desperate, as if they fear the bad luck that even mentioning him again might bring.
Then, we move to a quieter verse with Dolores. Singer Adassa uses a low, whispering rap to convey the pressure she feels under. And this isn’t surprising—quiet Dolores can actually hear the shufflings of Bruno, as if he’s still in the house… Watch closely, and you’ll see a creepy silhouette with a green glow sneak around the background, even bobbing its head to the rhythm. Later, Dolores confirms her suspicions further with her lyric: "I can hear him now"—though her words get drowned out by the chorus.
Cousin Camilo doesn’t know Bruno, so can only use his transformation ability to portray the frightening version in his verse. Camilo’s impersonation has gaping green eyes and sneaks around purposefully—contrasting the anxious, jumpy Bruno we see later. His lyrics are also exaggerated. Bruno doesn’t really have a “seven-foot frame”, and the rats are his friends rather than scary accomplices. All this further demonstrates the impact that ideas of perfection vs imperfection have had on the Madrigal grandchildren.
After a few solo verses, there is an interlude with the town, which shows that negative perceptions of Bruno stretch outside the family. Each townsperson reports quite normal if unfortunate events, suggesting that really Bruno’s predictions are hunches rather than curses. Nevertheless, the growing chorus shows that people feel very strongly about him.
Finally, we have a quiet bridge with a totally different feel. We move to pink lighting and see Isabela on a floral swinging bench. Her prophecy from Bruno was that her life would be perfect and dreamlike. The key also switches to major—the only part of the song to do this. A few minutes into the music we’re still getting fresh perspectives, although of course we’re missing arguably the most important one… Mirabel sings, "gimme the truth and the whole truth, Bruno", as she senses there’s more to the story than she’s hearing from her family’s fragmented and contradicting tales.
The pressure keeps growing…
Soon the family reunites, as Mariano arrives for dinner. This last section moves the plot forward again. The tension builds, and the audience figures out that this unspoken story is not going to stay unspoken much longer. Everyone brings their own feelings to the (literal) table.
This outro is polyphonic, in that it has multiple voices and melodies overlapping each other. With every character singing at once, their voices faze in and out as we follow them around the table, and crockery becomes percussion to add to the chaotic feeling. It’s honestly hard to choose who to sing along with!
Mirabel returns to her room and assembles the vision shards she found earlier, as all their voices collide around her. When Mirabel sees the vision put together, she finishes the song feeling vulnerable and like they could be right—Bruno’s vision might just bring the family destruction.
Somehow, this song serves a hundred purposes at once. It characterizes members of the Madrigal family who don’t get their own full songs, making them equally vivid and believable. It draws us in with an irresistible beat that you can’t help but dance to. It offers many voices to join in with—one for every mood! And more than anything, it captures the theme of the entire movie: the pressure of saving face and the importance of families understanding and making space for each other.
Which is your favorite song from the movie? Let us know in the comments!
And if you’re feeling inspired to create your own vivid characters or write your own catchy tunes, check out our courses on character design and music and audio.
You may also like:
- Encanto is Disney's Homage to Colombia
- The Fascinating Story of the Women who Created the Great Disney Classics
- Introduction to Design of Characters for Animation and Video Games, course by Jean Fraisse
- Introduction to Percussion: Discover the Magic of Rhythm, course by Carlinhos Brown
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