Encanto: A Look Behind the Film

Encanto: A Look Behind the Film

Disney has made a dramatic shift over the years in representing cultures on the big screen with Disney’s magical touch. We have been introduced to Moana which the story highlights Polyneasian mythology, Raya and the Last Dragon showcases Southeast Asian culture, and Encanto represents South America.

The animated film centers on the Madrigal family who are very proud Colombians living in an enchanted house. Each member of the Madrigal family has been born with extraordinary gifts, except for Mirabel.

The cast is filled with talented Colombians bringing the Madrigal family to life. Other Latinx crew members who are not Colombian helped create the beautiful animated film, such as Manuel Miranda, the creator of Washington Heights who is of Puerto Rican descent. 

Encanto” premiered in Colombia on November 24, 2021 and was shortlisted to compete in the animation category for the 2022 Oscars, which will take place March 27th. Encanto is one of the 26 films under the animation category. Only the top 5 will be able to move forward and compete for the final award.

There are many characteristics of the film which caught the eye of the audience. Those who participated in this magical masterpiece worked years to make sure that the culture and history were as accurate as possible. Even though Encanto is a fictional story, the creators desired to make it as realistic as possible in terms of history, people, design, and Colombian culture.



One of the aspects that stands out in the film is the diversity of ethnic groups that exist in the region. These ethnic groups are all represented in the Madrigal family, such as deep Indigenous, European, and African cultural roots. Many people who first saw the Encanto trailer were shocked to notice the presence of the chiguiro and capybara in the film. This rodent is heavily present in the Andes, areas in the Coffee Axis, in the Eastern Plains, in the Magdalena, and even in the Amazons.

Interestingly, these rodents also enjoy being near forests and tropical savannas up to 2,000 meters above sea level.  Another vital asset to Colombia is the national tree and is also showcased in the film. The wax palm is native to the Andean humid mountainous forests that are located in Los Nevados National Natural Park, in Quindio. These trees can grow up to 70 meters long and can be seen in the Cocora Valley, in El Cafetero, and in Cadas and Tolima. 

Diana Uribe is a Colombian historian who took part in the creation of Encanto along with her daughter, Alejandra Espinosa. On her YouTube channel, Diana spoke about how proud she is of her daughter and the work she contributed to the making of the film.

Alejandra spent four years working with the creators of the feature film to make the Colombian representation as real as possible. Many professionals, like  architects, biologists, and historians among many others joined talents with Diana and her daughter to bring the story of the Madrigal family to life. 

“I worked for four years advising the cultural part of Colombian history and identity (…) it was a very big task of investigating the time, of having talks with the directors, with the animators, so that they understood the history of Colombia, so that they understood the historical context,” detailed Alejandra Espinosa.



Espinosa points out that even though the film is not based on a particular historical moment, it was important to set the film in the early twentieth century. This involved research and understanding the clothing for the characters, housing designs of the period and manners of speech to fully execute the era successfully.

“This process involved a whole archival work, visiting the National Museum and the National Library, reviewing photos of the time. A lot of research was conducted to depict the time and Colombian diversity inclusive of indigenous, Afro and Hispanic history that make up our three roots,” she added.

Alejandra Espinosa tells that the crew also studied rural life of the period to learn about farm and daily life. Living in Barichara (Santander), gave Alejandra an advantage due to her years of living in a small area of the country, so she was able to relate with great depth. 

To rescue that great cultural memory of the country that is rurality, because the history of the country has happened in the towns,” Espinosa explained.

In addition to all of these important aspects of the film, Espinosa hints at a surprise in the film that Colombians will recognize. She worked closely with the animators to get certain hand gestures right. These hand gestures are specific gestures that Colombians use and that Colombians will enjoy identifying them in the film.

How we speak, how we greet each other, how we move our mouths, how expressive we are,” she added.

Even though ‘Encanto’ is an animated fictional film, Espinosa states that the team worked really hard to make the story as real as possible, and it took a team of 10 people from different areas of expertise to achieve their goal. 

“There is a tremendous effort of investigation. The idea is that the film is about a family, and that family brings together Colombia and its diversity. It is a tribute to Colombian diversity. It is an endearing movie. It is very beautiful because it talks about the search for identity, that is a central theme, in which I also worked a lot (…) a great long history of looking at us, recognizing us and appreciating ourselves as we are,” Espinosa concluded.

Director of Future Journalist Program
Vanessa Campa | Florida International University

Vanessa Campa is a recent graduate from Florida International University holding a Bachelor of Arts in English on the Writing and Rhetoric track, and a minor in Psychology. Through working for the Latina Republic as a Latin Correspondent, Vanessa has gained a true love and passion for reporting underreported stories in the region. Discovering underreported stories that will inspire her readers, she has specialized in interviewing and writing articles on outstanding Latinx women who have made an impact in their communities, especially immigrants. As a Director of the Future Journalist Program for the Latina Republic, Vanessa will continue carrying the organizations’ mission in changing stereotypes that have negatively impacted the people within the region, and bringing light to another side of Latin America that is concealed.