Director Byron Howard joined producer Yvett Merino and composer Germaine Franco on a panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film: The Nominees event to discuss Encanto, the Disney movie that is nominated for three Oscars.
Encanto takes place in a magical town sheltered by mountains in Colombia. As she is fleeing from her home, Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero) loses her husband and prays for a miracle to save her three children. The candle she was holding becomes magical and builds an “encanto” around the refugees, blasts away the invaders, and builds a sentient house for her family to live in. The candle gave magical gifts to Alma’s family for 50 years, until her granddaughter Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) mysteriously receives no gift. Mirabel starts to notice cracks forming in the house and goes on a quest to fix the magic of the candle, without the aid of any special gifts herself.
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“One of the reasons we were drawn to Colombia was its roots in magical realism,” said Howard, “and that tradition of emotional storytelling that made its way into every part of the film.”
The lead artists were supposed to go to Colombia for research, but Covid prevented them from travelling, so the team needed another solution. “We knew we needed to bring Colombia to us,” said Merino. “So we gathered a group of experts…our Colombian cultural trust.”
One artist that was supposed to go to Colombia was composer Franco, who instead opted to immerse herself in the music and literature of Colombia. “I had to bring the instruments to me, since I couldn’t go there,” she said, “so that I could immerse myself in the sounds and I could share with the creative filmmakers what the possibilities could be.”
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Along with Oscar nominations for Best Animated Picture and Best Score, Encanto is also nominated for Best Song for “Dos Oruguitas.” Although the popular choice among fans would be “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” Howard said that “Dos Oruguitas” was chosen because “it is the core of what the movie is about.”
“It’s about Mirabel’s eyes being open to the fact that what her grandmother went through isn’t the story she was told as a child… Lin[-Manuel Miranda] told us when he wrote it, he wanted it to sound like a song that had been around in Colombia for 100 years…something that felt like a known folk song but it speaks so specifically and beautifully to Alma and the loss of her husband,” Howard said.
Check out the panel video above.
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