Disney’s latest musical movie Encanto is a colourful animation that celebrates family. Set in Colombia, the story follows the Madrigals, who all have special abilities. However, when their magic starts to disappear, it is up to Mirabel – the only powerless family member – to save the day. The film holds a strikingly talented cast of Latinx stars who breathe life into these charismatic characters. We got the chance to chat with some of the fantasy movie‘s leading actors Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, and Diane Guerrero, about their performances in the new Disney movie.
Directed by Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and Charise Castro Smith, with music from Lin-Manuel Miranda (Moana), Encanto is a quality Disney feature full of heart and personality. Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), plays the main character in the story, Mirabel Madrigal, a young woman who must face her own feeling of inadequacy as the only one in a magical family without special powers to rescue her home. Diane Guerrero (Doom Patrol) voices Isabela, Mirabel’s perfect sister who can control nature and make flowers bloom at will – but who is also constantly living up to others expectations. Finally, John Leguizamo (Ice Age) portrays Mirabel’s estranged Uncle Bruno, who can see the future to such an accurate degree that he is filled with anxiety, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to help his family.
In our interview with Beatriz, Leguizamo, and Guerrero, we discuss what it was like making the new animated movie, working with Lin-Manuel Miranda, and how Encanto shows that the heroes we see in media shouldn’t all look the same.
The Digital Fix: Hi guys, how are you?
Nice to meet you. Congrats on the film. I thought Encanto was lovely and a really nice addition for Disney. This is Disney’s first animated movie really celebrating Colombian culture. How important do you think representation is for family movies, and what do you want people to take away from it?
Stephanie Beatriz: I think oftentimes in [the] media, in television and in film, Latinx people can be portrayed in very stereotypical ways, and I think this film centres around a Colombian family and how much they love each other, and how they function as a family, and how magical they are. And their magical enchanted town. That’s not a way that I have necessarily seen Colombians or Latinx people shown in film very often before.
And what’s thrilling about that, is that not only is it in a film, but it is in an animated, gorgeous, stunning film by Disney. And what that does is centre us as the heroes of the story and then allow people to see themselves in us, and that’s really important because heroes shouldn’t look all one kind of way. They should look like the breath of humanity.
And what’s exciting about being alive during this time is that television and film continue to start to reflect what the world really looks like, and it’s cool to be a part of that. It is really beyond cool. I really don’t have the words for it.
John Leguizamo: You’re right, you’re right because Disney is sort of the cultural barometer, you know what I mean? If your culture has made it to a Disney animated movie, you are part of the American fabric; finally, you know? We Latinx people are so underrepresented, well actually excluded, to be honest with you, in ‘Hollywoodn’t’ and to see a whole cast of Latinx. I mean, look at this framing right here, all these faces, that was not the norm, and for this to be the norm, I just got to say, I don’t believe in God, but I almost want to believe in God all of a sudden.
Diane Guerrero: It’s important for people to see themselves, right? Like, I think about positive mirroring, you know? Like when a kid and mother see each other, and if the kid is excited to see the mother and the mother is excited to see the kid, that’s positive, right?! That kid is going to turn out to be super well adjusted.
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If the kid sees themselves represented poorly or if the kid cries and the mother doesn’t hold the kid, that’s a problem, that kid is going to have issues, you know? So I see that for the kids who watch film and are looking for themselves and say ‘where is my mother in there? Where’s my uncle in this?’ If they don’t see themselves, they are going to think ‘man, maybe I don’t really matter that much’. So this is going to make a lot of kids feel like they matter. It’s really cool.
You have all done voice work before, and I wanted to know what are the differences between going from acting in a live-action to now being a part of a Disney movie? You know, being a part of this big animation [Encanto] that’s coming out?
JL: Having Lin-Manuel…I have done a lot of movies, but I didn’t have Lin-Manuel helping me do my song, and that’s the special thing. I wish that Lin would follow me in all my movies and help me do all my monologues and scenes because he was beautiful, he was so patient. I mean, it took hours to get me in the pocket, I’m not going to lie. He was patient trying to get me in that pocket, because like Stephanie once said, he writes this flow that has nowhere to breathe, and you’ve got to find a way to breathe. I couldn’t figure out how to breathe, haha.
DG: Yeah, I think it is so cool. Lin has such a special meaning for all of us. And I hear you, John when you speak about Lin, but Lin got a lot of that stuff from watching you, I’m sure, you know what I mean? From Latinos in the US that have a certain swing, that have a certain flavour, that can only be created in the US, right? Like Latinos from the US.
I loved how Lin’s music represents that. Hearing his music, I’m like, ‘that’s me,’ you know what I mean? Haha, I really, really get it, and I feel like it is special for kids in Colombia; it’s special for people all over Latin America. But it [Encanto] is also going to be very special for us kids who grew up in the US.
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JL: Ah, so special. Diane, so well said. We have a patois in America, we Latinx have a patois, we have our flavour, and it is a uniquely Latinx American flavour – so well put.
Final question to Stephanie, so obviously, your character doesn’t have a door, which every other family member has – once they get their special ability in the movie. I wanted to know if you were in Encanto, what would be behind your door? What would be your superpower?
SB: Mine personally? Me Stephanie?
SB: If I can have a superpower, it would be…I’m going to rip off John because he said this earlier, but I would want to gift compassion to every single person I ever came across. Because I think it is so necessary to have it as human beings.
Sometimes we are trying to be tough and hard, and don’t allow ourselves to give other people or even ourselves compassion. I would just want to like ‘Bing’ [motions hand like a wand] you know like a fairy, like a Tinkerbelle, and be able to [mimes blowing fairy dust] with my magic dust and gift everyone compassion that I came across and It’d be really cool.
DG: You tried that, but it was some different dust. People didn’t like it. It did not do well. It did not go well with a lot of people, haha.
[John and Stephanie laugh]
Haha, it was really lovely meeting all of you. Thank you so much.
All: Thank you!
Encanto opens in theatres on November 24.