“She’s our most human character we’ve ever tried to put across on screen before,” says “Encanto” director Jared Bush of the film’s main character Mirabel. She’s the only member of the beloved Madrigal family who is not bestowed with a special power from the land. “We didn’t want her to be a sad sack,” notes Bush, “she still tries to show up for her family.” Bush sat down with the movie’s other director Byron Howard and producer Yvett Merino, to detail the creative process which brought Mirabel and her family to life. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Stephanie Beatriz is the voice behind the headstrong Mirabel and Howard admits that before her audition, he “never heard her speak” outside of her hit series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” But when the actress auditioned with the song “You’re Welcome” from “Moana,” she won the role. Howard reveals that “it was so good and so funny that one of our animators animated Mirabel to it. It was one of the things that set the tone for who that character would be.” Merino praises Beatriz’s ability “to be funny and improvise, but then go down so small and be vulnerable.”
Bush explains that the story of “Encanto” is unique for the creatives because they had gotten used to making “buddy comedies,” such as “Moana,” “Tangled,” and “Zootopia.” “To track Mirabel’s progress emotionally without a buddy is really hard,” admits the director. The team had to balance her interactions with the many characters who make up the Madrigal clan and it took plenty of time to fineness the script in order to keep any single supporting character from dominating the story.
Luckily the team also had contributions from Lin-Manuel Miranda, who became involved at the start of the creative process, to help flesh out characters. Howard was working with Miranda on “Moana” when the award-winning composer said he wanted to make “the definitive Latin-American Disney animated musical.” They began discussions about the “wonderful, complicated” nature of extended families, which served as the jumping-off point for “Encanto’s” story. “He’s an incredible creative partner,” states Howard, who appreciated the way the songs helped inform characterizations.
Bush, Howard, and Miranda were able to visit Colombia on a research trip in order to properly capture the culture for their animated musical. But Merino and other team members had their trip canceled since it was to occur in March 2020, the start of the global pandemic. “So we had to pivot,” she explains, and find ways to bring Colombian cultural experiences straight to the Disney artists. A “Colombian cultural trust” was formed which linked the creative team with experts on Colombian culture and history, as well as artists and artisans from the country. There was also an internal group for Latinx employees, called “Familia Group,” where folks could share stories and experiences of growing up in Latin-American cultures. It was all in service of presenting an authentic Colombian experience on screen. “We wanted to make sure that we were representing the country as beautifully as we found it,” she explains.
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