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The strange and peculiar becomes commonplace in Disney’s latest musical, “Encanto”, a piece inspired by magical realism that focuses its story on a family with fantastic abilities living in the mountains of Colombia.
And they all live 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 another character with a life of its own.
This enchanted home, with great importance in the film, welcomes the Madrigal family in a moment of weakness after the loss of a loved one to change the course of their lives.
“magic happens in these places and always has. But not European magic, not wizards and wands, but magic tied to emotion and part of a tradition called magical realism,” says one of the film’s directors, Byron Howard (“Bolt”).
The magic of Colombia
This magic could not happen in any other place than a bucolic setting cared for down to the last detail “to respect the biodiversity of Colombia,” a country with more than 50,000 registered species and nearly 31 million protected hectares.
“We even had a botanical consultant to know perfectly what plants grow in the region to reflect Colombia’s immense biodiversity,” Lorelay Bové, a Disney designer, explains to the same group of reporters.
The iconic yellow butterflies brought to life by Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez in his book “One Hundred Years of Solitude” are also a nod to Colombia in several scenes of the film and in the dress of the main character, Mirabel.
The directors — Howard, Jared Bush (“Zootopia”) and Charise Castro Smith — also seek to reflect in “Encanto” the great cultural diversity of the Latin American country through music, food and the family’s own characters, who represent its different ethnic groups.
For the musical aspect, they counted on one of the best in the Spanish-speaking world, the Puerto Rican Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway phenomenon “Hamilton.”
Vallenato, guaracha, cumbia, and merengue are some of the styles danced and sung by the members of the Madrigal family, especially Mirabel, in both Spanish and English.
Use of English
The use of English in the film was one of the deepest internal debates that the directors had, aware that the audience in Spanish, and specifically the Colombian audience, might disagree.
That is why they included Spanish throughout the film, with Colombian idioms and the use of different accents of the region through its characters, with tan, dark and white skin.
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 godchildren’s day, 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,” celebrates the team behind the magical realism secrets of “Encanto,” which will premiere on November 24 in the United States.