Encanto: Disney Creators Explain Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Reggaeton Musical

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Encanto, Disney’s latest animated film slated for November, is a lush musical about a magical family who live in an enchanted house in the mountains of Colombia. Each of the Madrigals has been given a magical gift – with the exception of Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), the film’s eccentric protagonist, who grew up without obvious power. When family gifts are threatened, Mirabel must find a way to save the magic and uncover her hidden family secrets. While a magical musical about a teenager with big dreams sounds like typical Disney fare, directors Byron Howard and Jared Bush, as well as screenwriter and co-director Charise Castro Smith, see a few subtle differences that make Encanto come out.

From the start, the Encanto team wanted to evolve the Disney musical. On a press day for the film, Howard and Bush told Playserver about their working time on Zootopia, and how they brought more maturity to the familiar idea of ​​a talking animal fantasy. While each of them had previously worked on Disney musicals, Encanto was their first musical together, and as musicians themselves, they wanted the music to be an integral part of the story. This meant bringing in Lin-Manuel Miranda and dabbling in different genres, like reggaeton and montuno, as well as incorporating the dance moves of the choreographers throughout the animation process. The different styles have shaped the distinct personalities on the screen.

“A lot of Disney musicals have been kind of like boyfriend movies: two people going on an adventure, learning things. And this movie is definitely very different from that, ”says Smith. “There are 12 members of this family who all have their own personalities, concerns, journeys through the film.”

Image: Disney

Trying to shatter all of these characters was a complicated process. Encanto is more of an ensemble musical than any previous Disney movie, and that alone builds on what audiences normally associate with an animated Disney musical. It also meant that the filmmakers couldn’t waste time on filler songs that didn’t specifically affect the story.

“Each song speaks to the character and is emotionally motivated,” Bush tells Playserver.

But the biggest – and most subtle – difference with Encanto is that instead of a typical Disney movie with magic, like Frozen, Moana, Where Tangled, it is a work of magical realism.

The magical realism genre has strong ties to Latin America, particularly Colombia. In literature, magical realism is distinct from fantasy stories with modern settings, as magic and the supernatural are not recognized as something magical or supernatural. Often, these elements are seamlessly integrated into the representation of the realist, used to take stock of reality. Of course, it’s a little different in Encanto that in the novels of Gabriel García Márquez – the madrigals recognize that the gifts they have are magical. But the difference between Encanto and other Disney films is how the magic manifests itself and how it is used in the narrative.

Mirabel and her mother stand together, in the comfort of her mother's magical arepas

Image: Disney

“We were really interested in exploring what the magic is that arises from human emotion or human need, or great relationship issues. It was born out of human action, human relationship and desire, ”says Smith. “We really tried to use that as a guide while we were working on this movie, just this idea that magic isn’t arbitrary. It’s not given to people by fairies, or anything like that. It’s an extension of emotion and character, and it’s really born out of people and who they are, what they want and what they need.

The film was originally crafted around the idea of ​​family roles, with magic added later. Bush says that while Disney movies generally have magic, for Encanto, they didn’t want magic to be “forced or inorganic”. The setting for the film sparked the idea of ​​incorporating magical realism and linking magical gifts to family roles – but it was very important that the story work without magic.

“This movie must work if the magic doesn’t exist. You could tell the story if there was no magic in this family. It has to work too, ”Howard explains.

Encanto hits theaters on November 24.


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