3d & animation

Encanto is Disney’s Homage to Colombia

Disney Animation’s sixtieth and latest film introduces audiences to magic realism and Colombia's iconic landscapes

Directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush—the creators of Oscar-nominated feature ZootopiaEncanto is a film that many of the studio's fans believe breaks away from numerous Disney conventions.

By redefining magic in the light of magic realism, a commitment to diversifying its characters, and carrying out exhaustive research into Colombia, the new animated feature hit cinemas this week with high audience expectations—especially in Colombia.

Discover more about the creative process the directors and their team used to bring Colombia to life. And find out how Encanto pays tribute to Colombia below.

Understanding Colombia

One of the most important challenges was to translate Colombia’s multicultural and multi-ethnic society for the big screen. Encanto is the result of five years' getting to know the country, her faces, natural landscapes, street music, and many magical towns.

Unlike other Disney titles, the film's co-directors together with composer, songwriter, and producer Lin-Manuel Miranda (and his father) made a series of scouting trips, visiting local families and iconic landscapes such as the Cocora Valley, to really get to know the country.

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The creative team travelled to Colombia as part of the development process on "Encanto".

The film allows audiences to admire some of Colombia’s characteristic regional features, including:

- Cartagena’s floral balconies. Anyone who has strolled through the historic city center will recognize its densely colorful vegetation.

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Cartagena’s historic balconies are often covered in flowers.

- The majestic wax palms of the Cocora Valley, which are iconic in this area near Salento.

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The Cocora Valley in Quindío is famous for its towering wax palms.

- The flourishing bougainvilleas in many Colombian homes.

- The colonial architecture of Colombia’s magical towns.

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The Madrigal family home features various regional Colombian traits, including its colonial style and flowering balconies.

On top of the usual research that goes into developing any animated film, the directors formed a group of Colombian journalists, documentary researchers, and botanists known as the Colombian Cultural Trust. They wanted to consult a group of experts to give the film greater authenticity.

Magic realism and Colombia

Magical realism is one of the most influential movements in Latin American literature. Colombian writer and Nobel Prize for Literature winner Gabriel García Márquez was one of its main exponents. This style narrates everyday life by emphasizing the unusual or fantastic, without really suggesting that anything is out of the ordinary.

García Márquez’ famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, is a clear demonstration of how magic realism works. One of its most famous images is the yellow butterflies that flutter around one of the novel’s characters Mauricio Babilonia... as if by magic.

Yellow butterflies are present throughout Encanto: a clear tribute to one of Colombia’s most venerable and influential authors.

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"Encanto" includes a clear reference to the yellow butterflies in "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by García Márquez.

Using magic realism as one of its main sources of inspiration allowed Disney to create a story that doesn’t approach magic from a Western perspective, with wands and spells, but as the particular way in which some people see the world.

Animating the Madrigal family

Unlike most Disney films, Encanto doesn’t have one or five main characters. It has twelve.

The team of writers created twelve narrative arcs for the multigenerational Madrigal family, and the animators modeled and created twelve different characters, each with their own color palette, costume design, and hairstyle. The directors highlight that this level of complexity has never been seen in an animated feature before.

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The film aims to represent the diversity of Colombia.

Similarly, in order to represent a country with around eighty-seven indigenous groups, as well as people of African, European, and mixed-race descent, Encanto's characters have a wide variety of skin tones.

The feature also includes iconic elements from specific Colombian communities, including:

- Traditional dress from Vélez, Santander.

- Alpargatas, the footwear worn with most traditional Colombian styles.

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Mirabel’s wardrobe makes clear reference to the traditional dress style worn in Vélez

- The traditional sombrero vueltiao hat, originally designed by members of the Zenú tribe.

- La ruana Colombiana, a poncho-like outer garment worn in the Colombian Andes mountains.

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The sombrero vueltiao is made by people from the Zenú tribe.

Colombian talent

While the film is directed by North Americans, it stars numerous Colombian actors, musicians, writers, and illustrators, who worked on the dubbing, music, and marketing.

The most famous names include reggaetón singer Maluma, who plays Mariano, along with two of Colombia’s most famous singers: Sebastián Yatra and Carlos Vives.

The marketing was created in collaboration with Colombian artists and illustrators including illustrator, printmaker, and Domestika teacher Catalina Estrada (@catalinaestrada), Sebas Pakui, Diana Ordóñez (aka Ledania), and Jhonny Núñez (@jhonny_nunez). The film merchandizing includes artwork featuring designs by each artist, accessories, homeware, and more.

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Mural by Colombian illustrator Catalina Estrada in Disney Springs.
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Catalina Estrada, Sebas Pakui, Diana Ordóñez (also known as Ledania) and Jhonny Núñez are pictured with their work.

For many, Encanto marks a new phase in Disney Animation history, from the way it approached the story to the film’s stars. Watch it and decide if you agree.

English version by @studiogaunt.

You may also like:

- The Fascinating Story of the Women Who Created the Great Disney Classics
- 9 Brilliant Documentaries and Books about Animation
- Introduction to Character Design for Animation and Video Games, a course by Jean Fraisse
- - Illustration for Patterns with Soul, a course by Catalina Estrada

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