Assisted by Charise Castro Smith, Byron Howard and Jared Bush meet after “Zootopia” on “Encanto”, a Christmas musical from Disney studios. A film on which the trio returns to our microphone.
As is often the case with Disney, the magic of Christmas arrives a little early. One month in the case of Encanto, musical comedy against a background of family and powers, to be seen in theaters since Wednesday, November 24. Directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush, already at the helm of Zootopia, with Charise Castro Smith (screenwriter on the series The Exorcist and The Haunting of Hill House), the studio’s 60th animated feature film takes us to Colombia.
And more precisely alongside the Madrigal family, gathered in their enchanted house, where each member receives a magical power at the end of a ceremony in the form of a rite of passage. Except Mirabel, the heroine. So much for the starting point of an adventure that is both spectacular and intimate in which it is a question of finding and affirming who we are in the face of the expectations that others have of us.
A sunny and frenzied film whose songs were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, also co-author of the story (and Disney darling since Vaiana), and that the three directors evoke with us.
AlloCiné: How did “Encanto” come about? Did the project start with the place, the music, the magic, the notion of family…?
Byron howard : It has been five years to the day since we started working on Encanto. Jared and Lin-Manuel Miranda had just finished working together on Vaiana, and they had loved their relationship and their experience on this wonderful movie. Jared and I also loved working together on Zootopia, and we talked about our desire to make a musical.
However, Lin-Manuel Miranda was there! So we thought it would be great to team up with him and start forming a team around this project. And since we could all relate to these large, large, multigenerational families, that’s how we thought of a Disney musical that would really talk about the intricacies of family. Not just that family is good – which it often is – but how difficult it can be, how people can often not see what other people really are.
This is what has guided us for years. Lin-Manuel loved it, because he thrives when confronted with really complex musical problems to solve. And let him solve them beautifully. On Encanto, he embroidered a real musical tapestry for us within this great story.
This is the first time that you have worked as a screenwriter and co-director in the animation industry Charise. How has your live-action experience been useful to you? What have you been able to contribute, having worked on horror before?
Charise castro smith : It was indeed my big first. And an extraordinary experience. I appreciate this amazing art form even more deeply now. Like you said, I’ve worked on horror, and even several different genres.
And what I’ve always sought to bring to all of these projects is a solid grounding of characters, psychology, and relationships that can then be developed with some fantastic elements. Whether in horror or here, with magical realism and music. I like to work on bases which will then become massive, beautiful, colorful, frightening.
Lin-Manuel Miranda thrives when confronted with really complex musical problems to solve. And he solves them beautifully.
Among the various messages of “Encanto”, it is particularly a question of keeping the magic intact. How do you manage to do it, on your side, on such long projects?
Jared bush : I love this question! As Byron said, we worked on Encanto for five years. And people ask me a lot how I manage to invest myself over such a long period. You should already know that the film is not exactly the same throughout these five years.
And that’s one of the luxuries of working for Disney Animation: you have plenty of time to iterate. Not just to refine something and polish it, but to experiment and try new things. On this film, Charise and I explored a hundred versions. We screened it eight times, because we were trying to discover new things. Even things we weren’t expecting.
We are constantly surrounded by great artists. And the arrival of the actors [pour doubler les personnages] also changes a lot of things. I think the trick is to always be looking for a great idea. Because the best will always win. And, most of the time, we’re not even the perpetrators.
Our awesome team of artists inspires us, and making a film like this is like riding a roller coaster. You have to hang on but you never get bored. There is always something to discover, beyond the magic and the songs.
The film is also about finding who we are and the opposition between who we are and what others expect of us. We imagine that, on the set of a Disney movie, this aspect was very personal to you.
Charise Castro Smith: It was surprisingly personal, yes. Since the movie is about family, you really wanted to ask a lot of questions about what was important about it. And our heroine, Mirabel, is a young woman who is trying to understand who she is, what her place in the world is, what her goal is.
Her journey has made us think a lot about how someone can realize their worth and fully embrace them during this period of their life. It was truly one of the most important parts of the movie for me and a lot of the other crew members. May she get through that and embrace who she is and what she’s worth, and then move on. It is one of the most important themes of the film.
In the universe of “Encanto”, if each of you opened your magic door, what power would you receive?
Charise Castro Smith: (laughs) Antonio’s power is amazing! I love it. Being able to talk to animals would be really cool.
Byron Howard: I asked myself the question and I always come back to the fact of flying. Because it has a lot of advantages. I live in Los Angeles and the traffic is terrible, so flying would allow me to go faster.
Jared Bush: My God ! I would love to have the power of Julietta for several reasons. Already being able to heal people would be great. But it’s also clear that she’s a fantastic cook, and I think those things go hand in hand. I would like to be able to make a souffle without it falling again. It would be amazing. So this power, without hesitation.
Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Paris on November 10, 2021