From Walt Disney Animation Studios, Encanto tells the story of the Madrigals, an extraordinary family who live in a magical house in the mountains of Colombia. Every child in the family has been blessed with a unique magic gift, except for Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz), an ordinary teenager still trying to find her place and value among the generations in her vibrant and lively community when she learns that the Madrigal magic may very well be in danger.
During this interview with Collider, which you can both watch and read, Beatriz and John Leguizamo (who voices Bruno, the member of the Madrigal family that no one speaks about) talked about how much it means to them to be a part of Encanto, being such a huge Disney fan that Beatriz even had her bachelorette party at Disneyland, finding exactly who Bruno would be, performing the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda, which characters they’d love to learn more about, and how the story evolved.
Collider: With such a beautiful, magical film about the importance of family, and with so many characters and so much culture and great music and so much going on, what makes this film special to you? What does being a part of Encanto mean to you?
STEPHANIE BEATRIZ: First of all, look at us, we get to be the main characters in Disney Animation’s 60th film.
JOHN LEGUIZAMO: That’s special right there. A Latinx animated movie coming out for the holidays?
BEATRIZ: What world are we living in? Turns out it’s this one and we’re living in it right now. Wow!
LEGUIZAMO: It’s an inclusive world. Oh, my God, that’s so amazing!
BEATRIZ: It’s really special.
LEGUIZAMO: And the movie is funny. The music is crazy. Her singing is unbelievable.
BEATRIZ: Thank you.
LEGUIZAMO: And you fall in love with all of these people and go, “That’s my family. I see my family in all of these dysfunctional, beautiful folks.”
Stephanie, what’s that like for you? Do you feel any sense of ownership of this character to where, if you go to a Disneyland theme park and see the character walking around, you’ll feel a special place in your heart for her?
BEATRIZ: Listen, I had a Disneyland annual pass for a very long time. I’m a huge Disney fan. I love Disney animation. It really holds a very dear and special place in my heart. I had my bachelorette party at Disneyland.
BEATRIZ: Yeah, I did the whole thing. So, it’s extremely special to me to be following in the footsteps of some incredible performances throughout the history of these Disney heroines. I hope that I’ve honored the legacy that they’ve left. I hope that I brought something new to the table. That’s really all I can do, is just honor what’s gone before me, and then hopefully bring my best to Mirabel. Hopefully, audiences will like her and go on the journey and the adventure with her.
At the same time, how did you embody a 15-year-old? Where did you find your inner inspiration for her?
BEATRIZ: Man, when I was 15, I honestly do think adolescence for anybody, but particularly young women, is a really difficult time. You’ve got all of these societal pressures, you’ve got internal pressures, your body and brain is changing at an incredible rate, and you’re way smarter than most people around you. Fifteen-year-old girls are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
LEGUIZAMO: That’s true. I have a daughter.
BEATRIZ: It’s like, “Oh, my God, you’re so bright and your world view is so smart. How are you coming up with all of this?” And yet, at the same time, everything’s shifting and changing for them. I remember that period of my life, very, very, very well, so I was able to think about that and try to bring it to Mirabel because she’d gone through the same thing.
John, how much fun is it to voice a character that we’re not all that sure of. We don’t know really, if he’s a good guy or a bad guy. We just know that we’re not supposed to talk about him. How did everyone else’s reaction to him really shape how you approached the character?
LEGUIZAMO: It was mostly the directors, Byron [Howard] and Jared [Bush], who steered me onto this path of being this really socially awkward, weird loner who talks to his rats and mice, and they’re his only friends. They just created a safe space for me to be as weird as possible and to create this character that’s myself at my most awkward.
I love that this story is really about the underdogs that save the day. It takes the two family outcasts to heal the cracks in the home. What do you think it will mean to audiences to see that the ordinary really can do the extraordinary and that even the odd one out still has something special to bring to the table?
LEGUIZAMO: It’s such a great message. That’s the most beautiful thing you can give at these holidays. There’s a place for everyone, and we just have to be patient with ourselves and inclusive of others. It’s a beautiful message.
BEATRIZ: I would add to that that I hope that, if anyone is watching this film and going, “I don’t know. I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I’m valuable. I don’t know if I’m worthwhile,” I hope this film gives them a nudge in the direction of, “You are extraordinary, even if you think you’re ordinary. You just are. Just by you being alive and being on the planet, you’re extraordinary.”
Stephanie, you got to work with the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda when you did In the Heights, but you really got to kick things off in this by setting the whole tone for the movie with the song “The Family Madrigal.” What was that like to perform? What was it like to hear this music for the first time?
BEATRIZ: It was amazing. Lin is such an incredible writer. He’s really a genius. Some of these songs are ear [worms]. When they get in your head, there’s a hook and they stay and tumble around in your brain. Lin is really, really good at that. He’s so smart and the songs are so good and so funny and they’re such good storytelling. They’re structurally so interesting that, as somebody who loves music and loves especially musicals and Disney musicals, it was really, really fun to hear the history of Disney musicals reflected in the songs. If you’re a Disney fan and you’re paying attention, the structure of the songs, over the course of the film, is reflective of how other Disney films are structured to, and yet it’s doing something totally new. That’s really fun.
With such a big family, there are so many fun characters in this. Aside from your own character, which other member of this family would you like to learn more about or see them go on their own adventure?
BEATRIZ: I think I’d like to know more about Pepa, whose emotions affect the weather. I’d love to see like a day in the life of Pepa and what that would be like.
LEGUIZAMO: That’s a good one. I like the strong sister, Luisa. I’d like to see a whole story of her, changing the environment and fixing climate change. Who knows what she could do with that kind of strength. She could fix the whole world.
Were there any major changes along the way that were made to your character or any aspects of the story, as you recorded this, or do you feel like it pretty much stayed the movie you thought it would be?
LEGUIZAMO: My character changed. I was a little cockier when I started. They tore me down until I was an emotional puddle. And then, somewhere around there is where they created Bruno. So, I started out a little cockier, and then they made me a little more vulnerable and a little more awkward.
BEATRIZ: That’s cool. I don’t know. I don’t think that the structure of the story really changed at all. Some of the songs did shift around. Structurally, some of the songs changed a little bit.
LEGUIZAMO: Didn’t what they saw and the vision change a couple of times?
BEATRIZ: Yeah, the vision changed. The storytelling elements shifted, but there was no, “We’ve thrown your character out entirely.” It was nothing like that. There was no, “Now, she’s gonna learn to sail a boat or fly a plane.” There was nothing that huge.
At least they didn’t come to you and say, “Sorry, she’s just not going to be in the movie anymore.”
BEATRIZ: Yeah. “You’re cut out of the film.” That happens.
LEGUIZAMO: Oh, my God, that’s what happened to me with John Wick 2.
BEATRIZ: I’ve had that happen before. I’ve had a big scene cut.
LEGUIZAMO: In John Wick 2, I had a fight sequence and a monologue, and it’s all on the cutting room floor.
BEATRIZ: See you never!
Encanto is now playing in theaters.
Disney Animation makes plenty of films for families, but ‘Encanto’ puts family at the center of the story.