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“This film was destined to take place in Colombia”, says Byron Howard, one of the directors of “Encanto”, the Disney animated musical set in the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez, which opens this Thursday in the United States, in an interview with the EFE agency.
That magic, along with the biodiversity, the music, and the different ethnic groups that inhabit Colombia, among others, resulted in the perfect cocktail for Disney to choose the coffee-growing country as the ideal setting for the Madrigal family five years ago.
“I think there’s something about that storytelling tradition that felt so organic that it was the optimal combination for a Disney film where magic is present. But it’s not European magic: it’s magic tied to emotion and based on real-life experience,” stresses, Howard (“Bolt”).
And the action takes place in “La Casita”, a hacienda that evokes a mixture of traditional dwellings in the towns of Barichara, Cartagena and Salento, which from the beginning of this animated film becomes, with a life of its own, one of the most important characters.
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Vallenato, Cumbia and Joropo
Different genres of “the best music in the world”, Colombian music, also take on special relevance in the almost two hours of the film, according to another of the directors, Jared Bush (“Zootopia”).
The songs, mainly interpreted in the film by the protagonist, Mirabel, in moments of joy, sadness or fear, range from vallenato to cumbia, including mapalé, joropo and bambuco, originally from Colombia.
“Honestly, it’s like a dream come true: to be able to absorb as much music as possible, since it’s the best music I’ve ever heard,” says a smiling Bush, also a musician.
All this musical mix under the artistry of composer Lin-Manuel Miranda -creator of the Broadway phenomenon “Hamilton”-, who wrote and produced eight original songs for “Encanto”, musical arrangements by fellow composer Germaine Franco, and pieces with vocals by singers Carlos Vives and Sebastián Yatra.
The Spanish language
Since the film is set in Colombia, both Howard and Bush and Charise Castro-Smith, another of the directors, wanted Spanish to be present at all times, both in the songs and in some of the dialogues in which the characters speak in their language naturally, according to their own accounts.
They thought so much about the use of Spanish in the creation phase of the film that they even considered making it in that language, although in the end, they backed off.
“We thought a lot about all the decisions we made about the Spanish language, the accents of the characters. (…) In the end, we have a lot of Spanish in the film and the characters use Colombian expressions,” says Castro-Smith, who comes from a Cuban-American family.
Colombian gastronomy in Encanto
Food also plays a major role in many scenes of the film “to the point that you can smell it,” jokes one of the directors, Howard, during the media presentation session.
So much so that a panela, several yuccas, totumas and sacks of coffee are some of the food Mirabel carries in her basket, known as a maceta, which is a representation of the day of the godchild, a celebration in Cali (Colombia) every June 29.
“It was super important to get even the smallest detail of Colombian culture right, and I think we got it right,” celebrates the team behind the magical realism secrets of “Encanto,” which brings the magic of Colombia to the big screens of the United States starting this Thursday, November 24.