Exclusive: Disney’s ‘Encanto’ team give a sneak peak of what went into the making of the upcoming animated musical   

Vibrant and dazzling visuals, catchy tunes, enjoyable performances, and the overall essence of Colombian culture… That’s the feeling one will get once they watch Disney’s Encanto. During a press day for the film, Animation Xpress got the chance to not just interact with director Byron Howard (Zootopia, Tangled) and Jared Bush (co-director Zootopia), co-director Charise Castro Smith and associate production designer Lorelay Bove, but also got the opportunity to get a 30 minutes sneak peek of the upcoming animated musical.

With the influence of social media, be it kids or adults, somewhere we all feel like we aren’t special as we lack the creativity that others possess. We have forgotten that we all are unique in our own way and Disney’s Encanto is here to instill that belief within ourselves again. It speaks out loud about an ordinary quirky Madrigal Mirabel who, despite being born in a magical family, doesn’t possess any magical powers. Eventually, she turns out to be the hero the magical family needed when their powers are in trouble.

The 30-minute clip showcased the extraordinary, wondrous and exquisite beauty of Colombia, their culture, diversity, music, and the charming, beautiful Madrigals who live in a grand house with its own magical powers. The film genre is much focused on magic realism which has strong ties with Columbia. Magic realism is a genre of literature that depicts that the world is still grounded in the real world, but fantastical elements are considered normal in this world. The difference between Encanto and other Disney movies is the way magic manifests, and how it’s used in the narrative.

Commenting about the process that went into reflecting Columbian flavour in the film, director Byron Howard said, “We wanted to tell a story about a large extended family which lives in the same house from generations. It was an amazing journey for us as we traveled to Colombia to explore and research the surroundings. It was a surprise as every turn, every city, every place was vastly different and incredibly beautiful, and we even had many Columbian consultants who helped us explore cities and specifically learn the influence of magical realism. The visit to Colombia and the opportunity to  be welcomed by so many we met there was really a revelation and inspired so much in  our story.”

Adding to what Howard said, director Jared Bush mentioned, “To create the amazing look of the movie, it really took years for our team to make the film more tactile and real. We always wanted to make sure that visuals look diversified and romantic. Columbia is such a vibrant place with a lot of different colours, enamels, regions, cultures, art, music. We wanted to impart the beauty of Columbia in each frame. I think Encanto will really surprise people by what animation can do and how far the technology in this movie allowed us to push our film techniques.”

The Madrigals who live in the hidden mountains of Colombia have been granted with unique powers. The children receive the magical gifts once they turn five. During a special ceremony a door produced in their house opens to an enchanted space that reveals what their role will be in this family and  how they’ll serve the community. Mirabelle’s sister Luisa possesses super strength and the golden child Isabelle has the ability to make flowers bloom. Bruno, the family’s estranged uncle, can predict the future. But our protagonist is left unnoticed with no powers which makes her feel like an outsider. Narrating why the creator created Mirabel without magical powers, Bush added, “Mirabel is very much relatable to us. In our lives a lot of us feel like running behind these very extraordinary special people as we are not as special as them. Encanto will make us feel a real kinship with Mirabel. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve achieved—there’s always  someone who’s doing it bigger or better. Mirabel is that character we can all relate to.”

Encanto also features Colombia Tierra Querida song by Lucho Bermúdez in the Colombian cumbia genres with Disney’s traditional fleet-footed rhythms, jazzy folk tunes, sophisticated piano notes and the occasional drum solo. Explaining how the vibrant visuals and songs plays a major role in defining a personality and the mood of the scene, associate production designer Lorelay Bove said, “Each song in the film is different and character driven, there is different feel for each song for example in Bruno’s song (which you will be able to watch in movie), we wanted to make our visuals very mysterious and we tagged the colour green for Bruno and the whole sequence has little bit of green which made the visual feel ethereal and mysterious. For the song featuring Luisa, we planned to make the visual more funny, cheerful, abstract and very emotional and dramatic colorwise. We used colours and vibrance to portray the emotional feel in the visuals.”

Shedding more light on the visual designs of the animated feature, Bove added, “In Encanto, the audience will feel the texture in the visuals. Even the costumes are not tight fitted; they are loose and has many lively movements which adds more detailing to the scenes. The artistry and handcrafted feel of the town makes the film appear more real. Our team made every tiny detail very well including the tiles which have cracks in them, the pottery and the ceramic plates all are hand painted which gives a very tactile feel. The colour and vibrance of Colombia will make people perceive the movie.”

Listing out the challenges faced, co-director Charise Castro Smith said, “The amazing challenges we faced is that Encanto is a story of multigeneration of families. There are 13 speaking family members in the movie. There are so many different relationships, characters, personalities in the film. It was really difficult to make sure that all have their own journey, strength, and assembling the characters took a lot of time in making. Encanto brought with it amazing challenges as well as opportunities for us.”

Overall the magical adventure explores the compelling but complicated relationships within the families and features original songs from Lin Manuel Miranda. Encanto will make us question family roles, expectations and will leave the audience with a strong message that everyone is special with unique qualities. We just need to find and explore our own magic as even in the darkest moment, there is a light where you least expect it. 

Encanto arrives in theatres on 24 November.