On this episode of LIVE: Front & Center, host Myki Angeline talks with dear friend Jennifer C. about the Disney animated feature Encanto, focusing primarily on the women who bring this film to life and the incredible representation of Colombian culture throughout the movie.
Jennifer C. is a Colombian American blogger, content creator, speaker and creative. As one-half of the sister duo @CurlyCurvyPassion on social media and the web since 2016, Jennifer advocates for empowerment through real talk about natural hair, body love, community & culture. You can read her blog and follow her social media at: CURLY CURVY PASSION
Encanto is Disney’s first film that truly encapsulates the culture and nuances of Colombia. From the storyline and historical references to the symbolism of the costumes and music soundtrack. Encanto is the 60th film by Disney with all original songs written by multi-award winning playwright/producer/director Lin-Manuel Miranda. Every effort was made in being as true and authentic to the creation of this animated feature.
The Co-director and Co-writer Charise Castro Smith is from Miami, Florida and raised in a Cuban family. Germaine Franco composed the film and has shattered the glass ceiling for Latina composers. She is the first female composer for a Disney animated feature, the first Latina composer invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences music branch and to receive the Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature (COCO). Plus, Franco is the first female composer to be hired by DreamWorks Animation and Pixar.
The soundtrack for Encanto hit the ground running upon its release in November 2021. Within two weeks, it reached number 1 on Billboard 200, dethroning Adele’s 30. It is the first Disney film since Frozen II to top the chart. Up for several award nominations, it has won seven so far including Best Animated Film and Best Animated Female (Stephanie Beatriz) at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards. It also garnered two Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture, Best Original Score, and a won a Golden Globe award for Best Original Song for “Dos Oruguitas”.
An impressive seven songs from the album appeared on the US Billboard Hot 100, led by “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” – which was the soundtrack’s most popular song. it reached number one on the Spotify Top 50 US chart on January 10, 2022. The single “Surface Pressure” reached number 10, making Encanto the first Disney animated film to have generated multiple top-10 songs on the Hot 100. “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is the first-ever original Disney song to top the chart.
On the UK Singles Chart, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, “Surface Pressure” and “The Family Madrigal” have peaked at numbers one, five and fifteen, respectively.
Nearly all the female voice roles were cast by Latina artists who act and sing on the soundtrack, and all of Colombian or Cuban descent. Actress Angélica María Cepeda Jiménez who voices Julieta (Maribel’s mom), is born in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Carolina del Pilar Gaitán Lozano who voices Pepa Madrigal (Aunt) is born in Villavicencio, Meta, Colombia.
The main character Maribel Madrigal is voiced by Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), who was born in Neuquén, Argentina. Maribel’s sisters are voiced by Jessica Darrow (Luisa, a Cuban-American born in Miami) and Diane Guerrero (Isabela, Colombian born in New Jersey). The only character with a separate voice actress and singer is ‘Abuela’ Alma Madrigal. She is voiced by actress Maria Cecilia Botero Cadavid (Colombian), with actress Olga Merediz (Cuban) providing the vocals.
I came away from our conversation completely inspired and mesmerized with Colombian culture. I learned a great deal on how much Disney did justice for the culture and people of Columbia with Encanto. It is a beautiful and powerful story that opens the doors for conversations on healing from trauma, embracing one’s culture… even finding the strength to be true to one’s identity. I encourage you to rewatch this film, especially with a loved one.