“Encanto” translates in Spanish to “charmed”, and Disney’s latest Animated Feature is set to do exactly that to audiences. Set in colourful Colombia, the Film co-directed by Byron Howard, Jared Bush and Charise Castro Smith. The former two partnered on Zootopia to raves, and ENCANTO features the Music of Hamilton mastermind, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Film centers on an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live in a magical house. Children in the town of Encanto each possess the power to heal, except Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) who must find her own strength to be her family’s only hope, when she learns that the magic of the town might be in danger.
We had the joy of sitting in on the Press Junket with the Cast and Creators of ENCANTO, including:
Stephanie Beatriz (Mirabel)
John Leguizamo (Bruno)
Maria Cecilia Botero (Abuela Alma)
Diane Guerrero (Isabella)
Jessica Darrow (Luisa)
Angie Cepeda (Julieta)
Mauro Castillo (Felix)
Carolina Gaitan (Pepa)
Rhenzy Feliz (Camilo)
Ravi Cabot-Conyers (Antonio)
Lin Manuel Miranda
Byron Howard (Director)
Jared Bush (Director / Co-Writer)
Charise Castro Smith (Co-Director/ Co-Writer)
Yvett Merino (Producer) and Clark Spencer (Producer)
We learned that Byron Howard, Jared Bush and Lin-Manuel Miranda had travelled together to Colombia in preparation for the Film. Howard talks about the inspiring experience.
Howard: “Lin has been with us on this journey from the beginning. It’s so rare to have your Songwriter with you for this experience. So when we went to Colombia with Lin and his dad Luis – whom we love – which was an amazing experience, I think we were just blown away learning about Colombia from people who we loved, people who are of Colombian heritage and sharing their families and that warmth and diversity. Colombia being this crossroads of music, of culture, of dance, of food, of tradition and this was an incredible moment for us. We were allover the place, we were in tiny little towns and huge cities, all of which have a different vibe. And we love that people from these places celebrate those specifics of their personalities and we looked at any way we could get that into the family. ”
“Playing-up those great contrasts, we came back really charged-up to get as much of Colombia as we could into this Film… and I almost fell off a cliff! But I lived!”.
Abuela Alma is one of the Film’s most integral characters and she’s played by Maria Cecilia Botero.Lin-Manuel Miranda talks about the inspiration behind her.
Miranda: “I don’t know if my dad was invited by Disney, or just sorta showed-up on the trip, it still remains a mystery. His experience and what he brought to the table actually wound up being invaluable. I remember him telling us a story about his grandmother in Puerto Rico and she had lots of kids, those kids got married and all stayed under the same roof. She ruled with such certainty that people would give their paycheques to her and she would re-allocate the wealth amongst the kids and the married couples and her children and grandchildren, and that was the kind of rule that wound-up informing Abuela Alma, who really loves her family dearly, but holds it super-tight. And that’s just where our story begins.”.
Botero: “She’s like the one whose strength is family, the one that keeps the family together, she’s like the force of the family. And I think I am too in my own family.”.
One of the centerpiece songs of ENCANTO is “Dos Oruguitas” (Two Caterpillars). The song happens to be the first song ever written entirely in Spanish by Miranda.
Miranda: “I think that being there from the beginning really allowed for more of a give and take than I’ve ever experienced on an Animated Film. There were songs where I put points on the board and said ‘Here’s our opening number!’, ‘Here’s how everyone’s related and what they can do!’, and I wrote that opening number before we had a Second or a Third Act to our Film, because we needed it for ourselves to keep track of everyone. Their names my change and their powers may change, but we know the audience is gonna need a guide and Mirabel is going to be our guide.”.
“Dos Oruguitas was inspired by some of the visuals coming-out of the Animation Department. And I loved the way they embodied the Miracle by having a flame from a candle turn into a butterfly, turn into a cascade of butterflies. Approaching this moment without spoilers, it’s a moment where we reveal a really personal part of the Madrigal family history and it didn’t feel right to have a character sing in real time, which is what all the other characters are doing over the course of the Movie. I thought we needed a Folk song, a song that feels like it’s always existed. Riffing-off the butterfly imagery I thought, butterflies have to go through a miracle to even become butterflies, and so I wrote this song about two caterpillars who are in love and are scared of letting each other go, but have to let each other go to become their next selves. It was a nature metaphor that already was baked-into the visuals of the Film, but speak so specifically to what this family is going through to see each other more fully in terms of you have to change to see each other get to the next level, and you have to allow yourselves to change.”.
“It isn’t harder to rhyme in Spanish, I just have a more limited vocab in Spanish, so I really had to reach for my Thesaurus and go outside my comfort zone to really try to write a song that feels like it’s always existed and I hope we accomplished this.”.
Colombian Author Gabriel García Márquez’s 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE serves as a great inspiration for ENCANTO and Co-Director/Writer Charise Castro Smith talks about this.
Smith: “We were definitely inspired by magical realism, by Gabriel García Márquez. I was reading 100 Years of Solitude,Love in the Time of Cholera and The House of Spirits, a lot of different magical realism, when I was starting to work on this Movie. The butterflies absolutely are an homage to him.”.
Stephanie Beatriz stars as Mirabel, and waseight months when working on the Film, singing some of the Film’s demanding musical numbers. As Miranda says, she was “carrying a miracle” in a Film about a miracle. She talks about what she brought to the role from her own personality.
Beatriz: “Awkwardness, my anxiety, and honestly my use of Comedy. When I’m uncomfortable and don’t know what to do, I often turn to making a joke out of it to make myself more comfortable, to make everyone else more comfortable. I think Comedy is really useful because it takes the air out of stuff. Everyone can be really tense and then you make a joke and then everyone relaxes. You can’t really laugh if you’re tense. Does that make sense? I think I tried to bring that to Mirabel. I like to improvise and I like jokes and I like making other people laugh. One of the highlights of my life was when Byron, Jared or Charise would laugh at something I would do!”.
“Once Mirabel starts to take-off on the adventure, there’s some funny stuff when she’s by herself when she’s trying to entertain herself. ‘Cause really what’s kinda crazy is in this huge family is that Mirabel is often alone and depending on herself. She kinda becomes her own sidekick and talks to herself a lot. I think a lot of that Improv wound-up making it into the Film.”.
Colombian-born John Leguizamo has been very vocal about inclusion and representation of the Latinx community in Film.
Leguizamo: “There’s a couple moments that hit me hard as a grown-ass man. It was when I saw all the colours, ’cause that’s how my family is in Colombia. Everyone can be really mad dark or light, with straight and super-curly hair. It looked like the way I grew-up and to see that, you just feel like ‘Oh my God, we’ve arrived!’. We as Latinx people have really arrived when there’s a Disney movie about you. And then to hear music from Colombia on-top of that, I can’t do this, it’s too much for me!”.
Some stills from the Press Junket:
Check back soon for our Review of Disney’s ENCANTO. ENCANTO is in theatres November 24, 2021.