Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 60th animated film, “Encanto,” represents the family, not only to its audiences, but to its animators as well. The film, which premiered in theaters on November 24, tells the story of Mirabel, a young girl who fights to save her family and the magic of her home.
In a virtual webinar on Friday, November 12, hosts Rebecca Perez Stodolny and Jorge E. Ruiz Cano, along with production manager Natalia Adame Mendoza, discussed their experience working at Walt Disney Animation Studios on their latest film, “Encanto “. Stodolny studied computer animation and worked on a variety of films like “Bolt” and “How To Train Your Dragon” from Dreamworks. Cano studied media arts and design and has worked at Disney for almost 10 years.
Stodolny and Cano shared how they have always been inspired by Disney throughout their childhood and career.
“There has never been a moment in my life that Disney was not a part of,” Stodolny said before explaining the role of the message in Disney’s “Zootopia” to inspire him to be a part of this industry. .
Cano also discussed animation as a universal language for storytelling and cited Aladdin as his inspiration:
“I got lost in the storytelling,” Cano said.
Stodolny and Cano shared many of the guiding questions behind “Encanto”: “How do you tell a story with a large family? And “How well does our family really know us?” Family is very important in Latin American culture, and Stodolny and Cano discussed Colombia, in particular, as the inspiration for the film due to the country’s ties to magical realism. They performed a featurette documenting Byron Howard, Jared Wright, Lin-Manuel Miranda and other members of the team traveling to Colombia to gather information and inspiration for the film, documenting the architecture they saw. , the places they visited and the music they heard. They were inspired by stories of areas of heightened spirituality and natural beauty, known as “encantos”. These encantos inspired the concept of the magical house of Mirabel which gives her family powers. These powers reflect the character’s role in the family, such as Mirabel’s mother’s ability to heal people through her cooking.
Stodolny and Cano also discussed family, especially their “familia” – a group of artists and studio workers who came together, shared stories and consulted on the film, reviewing each version of the film and of the scenario.
“It was surreal to converse with Byron and Jared over three years ago and be curious about it,” Cano explained. “It’s amazing to be a keeper of culture.” Cano and Stodolny have found their time to be part of the familia very rewarding.
“The fact that the studio itself wanted to hear from people like us was very empowering,” Stodolny said.
Natalia also pointed out how close the familia has come.
“I have worked with you over the past year and it is always a pleasure to listen to your stories,” she said.
Disney is no stranger to producing films with powerful messages behind them, and “Encanto” follows in the lineage of films like “Zootopia”, “Raya and the Last Dragon” and “Big Hero 6”. Storytelling is a big part of the animation, and when asked how complex themes should be presented to a large audience, Stodolny and Cano insisted on who you want to reach, which can inform about the compromises to be made.
As the Latin American people working on this film, Cano and Stodolny found certain aspects of “Encanto” to be particularly fulfilling creatively. Cano spoke about the dances and rhythms, as well as the importance of capturing the “flow” of Latin dance and making performances believable. “It was really rewarding to see the team focusing on mi gente,” said Cano.
Stodolny found that the intimate conversations between Mirabel and her grandmother were especially important to her, but she believes they will be accessible to people no matter where they are from. “It’s about families. It’s about you and your abuela, your grandmother, ”she said. Different perspectives on growth are portrayed in the film, and Stodolny explained that this was something they wanted to make sure they captured as well.
The creation of “Encanto” took several years, and the Covid-19 pandemic certainly did not accelerate the process. When asked about their career challenges, Stodolny and Cano both discussed virtual work. “Encanto” is the second animated film that Disney has produced virtually. Stodolny explained the importance of being agile and making things work. Cano has supported the value of problem solving and being open to problem solving while remaining passionate about your work.
“It’s easy to complain, but we chose this,” he said.
Stodolny, Cano, and Mendoza’s dedication to telling the story of “Encanto” was evident in their enthusiastic accounts of their work on the film despite many obstacles.