This Thanksgiving, Walt Disney Animation Studios is bringing the anticipated Encanto movie exclusively to theaters and early word is giving high praise. To get you ready, we talked to the cast and crew!
Opening in theaters on November 24, the Encanto movie is tale of an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a magical house, in a vibrant town, in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto.
The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift from super strength to the power to heal – every child except one, Mirabel. But when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is in danger, Mirabel decides that she, the only ordinary Madrigal, might just be her exceptional family’s last hope.
The film is directed by Jared Bush (co-director Zootopia) and Byron Howard (Zootopia, Tangled), co-directed by Charise Castro Smith (writer The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez), and produced by Yvett Merino and Clark Spencer. The screenplay is by Castro Smith and Bush, while the songs are by Emmy, GRAMMY and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, Moana).
Stephanie Beatriz provided the voice of Mirabel, our main character. She’s the only one in the family without a gift, but she loves her family and will do anything for them. Beatriz said of her character, “Mirabel doesn’t have a gift, which I find extremely relatable, because there have been many times in my life where I felt like I didn’t belong, I didn’t measure up, I wasn’t talented enough to be there, I had that sort of imposter syndrome.
“But I also discovered by getting older, and working more and more on trusting myself, that I do have something to offer, and it is special, and I am myself. So, you know, not everybody’s gonna love that but the people that do, are gonna love it really hard.”
John Leguizamo is the mysterious uncle Bruno. No one talks about him after he left the family (and there is a song about it). Leguizamo explained, “Well, Bruno is that relative that always says the wrong thing at every party, who wrecks every holiday, because they’re always talking too much. And so, that’s who I am. I’m Bruno.
“I’m that uncle that they try to get rid of. And they do get rid of him in this movie. And I relate to him because I had that bit of a issue. I was always talking too much, saying everything nobody wanted to – was afraid to say… I was the black sheep of the family, so I relate to Bruno.”
Maria Cecilia Botero is the voice of the grandmother, Abuela Alma, who was given the gift of magic years ago while fleeing invaders. Botero voices her in both the English and Spanish version of the film. “Abuela doesn’t have a gift,” she told reporters at the Encanto movie junket. “She’s the one… that keeps the family together… I think I am, too, in my family. So it was kind of myself.”
Abuela has trouble understanding Mirabel in the film, because she wants so much to use the magic she was given to help her community and honor her husband, who was lost in the invasion.
Jessica Darrow is the voice of Mirabel’s older sister Luisa. This character is powerful and strong, and has one of the best songs in the film. She is, however, starting to feel the weight of her responsibility.
Darrow said, “I love Louisa so much, too, because of how much we are alike. We are both tough crybabies, you know? We got the tough exterior, but soft, mushy, gushy center. And, you know, we’re very much the rock of both of our families, I think.” She continued, “We definitely keep it all together… she’s the emotional superhero of the film.”
Angie Cepeda plays Julieta, Mirabel’s mother who can heal with her cooking. She said, “Julieta’s very kind, she’s warm. I really fell in love with her. She cares so much about her family and for the people in her community. She has this gift and she heals people with the food that she cooks. She does that for all who need it.
“She has this special relationship with Mirabel. She knows how Mirabel feels about not having a gift and the fact that she feels that Mirabel doesn’t belong and she’s always there for her.” Cepeda said that she sort of does that in her own family and that she loves to cook.
Diane Guerrero plays the perfect sister Isabella who drops flowers wherever she goes. She has to be perfect and that is starting to get to her. “Isabela was sort of given the role of kind of being perfect, and her gift is to grow, make things grow, plants and beautiful flowers.
“And so, I guess with this gift sort of came the expectation that she just sort of had to be perfect, and just sew, and make beautiful, and sort of, she uses it kind of like a defense mechanism, something that has worked for her for so long. But I think she discovers that, you know, when you’re growing up, and you’re an actual, real human being, that perfection really isn’t sustainable.”
Mauro Castillo is the voice of Mirabel’s uncle Felix, who is married to her aunt, Pepa. He doesn’t have a gift, but he said, “Felix is the soul of the party. He loves the music. He’s a music lover and he deeply loves his wife Pepa with her change of mood, and he loves everything of her. He admires every single member of the family, and he likes food a lot. The salsa.” We should note here that Mauro is a well-known salsa singer from Colombia, where the film is set.
Carolina Gaitan is the voice of Pepa, whose gift is all about weather. It changes according to her emotions. Gaitan said of Pepa, “It’s the craziest. I mean, I can really relate with her because of that.” She laughed, “I’m a little bit crazy as well… overly dramatic and sometimes a little bit like a drama queen. But most of all, I think it’s about vulnerability. Like, not to be in control of everything… she’s is emotional and she allows herself to be emotional and I think that’s very beautiful about a person, about a character.”
Rhenzy Feliz is the voice of Camilo, Mirabel’s cousin who can shapeshift into anyone he wants. Feliz said that Camilo is, “…someone who’s a little crazy, a little dramatic, and someone who’s a lot of fun, and a lot of energy, you’re born an entertainer. So that’s kind of Camilo. He’s, like, this entertainer. He sort of wants to make everyone laugh, have a good time. And I sort of feel like that. I mean, I’m an actor, so when you sort of try and get that spotlight, it feels nice, it feels good. So he’s kind of like that. And so he’s out there, trying to get that attention. He has a good time and he’s a lot of fun, but he loves his family.”
Ravi Cabot-Conyers is the voice of the young Antonio, the little boy who is granted his gift during the film. He’s especially close to Mirabel as they’ve lived in the nursery together. He said of his character, “Antonio’s gift is talking to animals and communicating with them. And they can communicate with him. And he’s kind of an introvert… but he also has a really big heart. I also think that I can also communicate with all different sorts of people.” Cabot-Conyers also said that he did have “a few animal dolls” while filming, including a unicorn and a turtle.
Adassa is the voice of Mirabel’s cousin Dolores who can hear the slightest sound. She said, “I absolutely love the character. I think that Charise Castro Smith, and Byron Howard, and Jared Bush did an amazing job writing this character, because she has all the secrets, she can hear everything. But sometimes, you know, her well-placed heart is a little bit out of order when she kind of speaks up and she can’t help it.
‘And then she kind of pops in and out, just like, ‘Oh yeah, this happened.’ Just the matter of a fact, that you didn’t hear it, you know? I love her character, because even though she is a strong part of the family, sometimes she can be unnoticed. Even though she can hear everything, not a lot of people really pay much attention to her, which is why there’s so many issues that happen within the story.”
Also joining the Encanto movie junket were the filmmakers, including Lin-Manuel Miranda who created the music, director Byron Howard, director and co-writer Jared Bush, co-director and co-writer Charise Castro Smith, producer and President of Walt Disney Animation Studios Clark Spencer and producer Yvett Merino.
Howard, Bush and Miranda took a trip to Colombia in 2018 for research. Howard said, “Lin has been with us on this journey from the very beginning, which is so rare to have your songwriter with you for this experience. So when we went to Colombia with Lin and his dad Luis who we love, which was an amazing experience, I think we were just blown away by… learning about Colombia as we were there, from people who we love, people of Colombian heritage, and were sharing their families and that warmth, and just the diversity of families and music.
He added: “And Columbia being this crossroads of culture, of dance, of food, of tradition, it just was an incredible moment for us. We were all over the place. We’re in tiny little towns way in the country, we’re in huge cities like Bogota, and Cartagena, all of which have a different vibe. And we love that people from these different areas celebrate those, specifics of their personalities. We looked in any way we could to try to get that into the family. So you’ll see, like, a Pasteno, like Mauro Castillo who plays Felix in the movie – a Bogota guy like Augustin, playing up those great contrasts.”
Miranda said that his father being there brought a lot to the process. “I remember him telling us a story about his grandmother in Puerto Rico. She had lots of kids, and those kids married and they all stayed under the same roof. She ruled with such certainty that people would bring their paychecks to her, and she would reallocate the wealth amongst the kids and the married couples and her children and grandchildren. That is the kind of rule that ended up informing Abuela Alma who really loves her family dearly, but holds it super tight.”
Castro Smith spoke about the encantos in Colombia and the magic they bring to the story. “We were definitely very, very inspired by magical realism, by Gabriel García Márquez. You know, I was reading ‘100 Years of Solitude’ and ‘Love in the Time of Cholera,’ and also Isabel Allende, ‘House of Spirits.’ A lot of different magical realism, as we were starting to work on this movie… the butterflies [in the film] are absolutely an homage to him.”
The house, the Casita, is a character as well. Castro Smith said, “Byron and Jared knew that this house was going to be magical and alive and joyful, and we wanted it to really reflect the family that lived in it… we really landed on the metaphor of this house behaving like the family dog… it sort of has favorites, like, it has different relationships with each person in the family, but it sort of is a communal kind of beloved family member by everyone, and it’s really also sort of a metric for how the family is doing, ultimately throughout the movie.”
Bush spoke about the characters. “Literally from day one, we knew we wanted to tell a story with an extended family… honestly at Disney, we’ve tried many times to like, ‘Maybe there should be more family members, and ultimately you’re like, ‘Nah, there’s just one person.’ Like, Moana’s going on a boat, that’s just by herself, her family is not coming… so for this movie, from the beginning, we knew we had to make that a priority, and okay, if we’re going to have 12 members of the family, they have to [be] separate.”
He continued, “We couldn’t say it’s all magic all the time. We had to feel like this is a family story that functions, and that we can relate to, whether or not there’s magic. We also happen to really love magic, so then that was a really fun part, saying, ‘Okay, the responsible strong one, what does that turn into? Oh, she can lift anything.’ or ‘Here’s a guy, he’s sort of nervous, and he’s always worrying.’ Then he’s a guy who can see the future, or he’s always worried about what’s going to happen, or Isabella, who’s the golden child, flowers literally spring up in her footsteps. I think what we really tried to do was take these very relatable, familiar dynamics, and then just plus them and make them magical.”