For their 60th feature film, Walt Disney Animation Studios was so inspired by the massively rich cultural and natural diversity of Colombia, they decided to not just set the movie in our country, but to have its unique essence define the characters, music, plot and overall production.
Since the first teaser trailer for the movie Encanto came out, Colombians flooded social media with as many details, Easter eggs and references they could find that reflected the sheer depths Disney went to in their research on Colombia. We thought we’d share with you a few of them ahead from the film’s theatrical release—from the most obvious to those even some Colombians had no clue existed—to get you as hyped as we are.
Starting with the obvious: one of the first elements our eyes were drawn to were the sky-high palm trees towering above the Madrigal household. Wax palms are actually Colombia’s national tree, and as the tallest monocots on Earth they can grow well over 60 meters high.
These are a common sight across the famous Cocora Valley, a tourist destination near Salento, Quindío that has spiked in popularity over the past few years thanks to the surreal ambiance these trees create. Upon visiting this magical place, the filmmakers knew the movie Encanto simply had to be set there.
Traditional attire and accessories
Another display of both Colombia’s wide cultural diversity and the lengths Disney went to for it to be properly depicted in the movie Encanto are the numerous traditional dresses and accessories worn by various characters. Among them you’ll find the famous Wayúu bags, which are hand woven by this indigenous community of La Guajira, and the iconic sombrero vueltiao which, being perhaps one of the most recognizable elements of Colombian identity ever, was declared Heritage and Cultural Symbol of the Nation.
Mirabel’s dress, which to many initially seemed more Mexican-influenced, turned out to be inspired by the colorfully embroidered dresses of Vélez, Santander, which just shows that Colombia is so ming-blowingly diverse, even its citizens are still discovering new traditions and expressions they didn’t know about. Alpargatas (a type of hand-woven sandal made with natural fibers), ponchos, and ruanas, are all part of the traditional attires worn by Colombians in the countryside, be it for comfort, handiness, or to stay warm in the cold mountain temperatures.
You may be also interested: Get to know Colombia’s beautiful varied traditional clothing.
You probably know the accordion, that puffy, piano-like instrument ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic plays (btw, he was at the movie’s L.A. premiere, so maybe watch out for a possible cameo!), but Colombia’s version is slightly different to his. The one played by Mirabel in the trailer is actually a diatonic accordion, which switches out the piano keys for rows of buttons.
This type of accordion is one of the three key instruments of vallenato music, one of Colombia’s flagship rhythms. It’s so influential it was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, and it features heavily in Carlos Vives’ modern take on the genre, which you’ll hear in the song he performs for the movie, “Colombia, mi encanto”, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Discover: Vallenato, the history of an entire region.
How can we talk about Colombian diversity without talking about food? The first previews of the movie Encanto gave us a mere glimpse into the countless delicacies you can find across the country like achira biscuits, panela, corn on the cob, ajiaco, deep-fried Christmastime buñuelos and, of course, Colombian coffee, often regarded as the best in the world.
The movie is certainly set to feature a lot more given that Mirabel’s mother, Julieta, has the power to cure people with her cooking. We already saw her do so with an arepa con queso, and the brief snippet was enough to ignite Colombia’s old row with Venezuela over which country is the genius behind this wholesome snack. (It was invented by the indigenous communities who lived here before European arrival, so the recipe’s actually older than both countries—there’s no need for silly bickering!)
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In the movie Encanto, the overall look of the town and especially the Madrigal house were strongly inspired by the colonial architecture that renders places like Barichara, Salento, Villa de Leyva and Cartagena so stunningly beautiful and quaint. The filmmakers actually consulted with Colombian experts on the subject after having visited the country themselves, and the colorful wooden doors, balconies, windows, staircases, archways, tiling and even lush Bougainvillea flowers Isabella blooms around her are picturesque details you’ll definitely find when visiting our heritage towns.
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Thanks to its varied topography and strategic geographic location, Colombia is the world’s second-most biodiverse country, and the richness resulting from this did not go unnoticed by the filmmakers. The movie Encanto shows some of the country’s most iconic and exotic animals, such as macaws, jaguars, tapirs, hummingbirds, toucans, coatis, and the apparent fan-favorite, the unfazed capybaras. These Colombian animals are sure to charm both children and grown-ups alike with their beauty and good nature.
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Another staple of Colombian culture are the numerous festivals, carnivals, fairs and celebrations scattered across the calendar that make us one of the most joyful countries you could ever visit.
In the movie Encanto, the Madrigal family has been blessed with gifts by a magic candle, which appears to be a reference to one of the most beautiful, joyous and solemn occasions in Colombia: Día de las Velitas, or Little Candles’ Day, celebrated on December 7, the eve of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This holiday traditionally sets off the Christmas season with millions of candles lighting up streets and houses across Colombia.
Another colorful reference lies in the “Not-Special Special” gift Mirabel gets in the trailer. It’s inspired by the Macetas Festival, which takes place on June 29 in the city of Cali and celebrates the bond between godchild and godparent through the giving of the traditional “macetas vallunas”.
You’ve probably noticed one of the recurring sights across the movie’s posters and trailers are the fluttering yellow butterflies. These are perhaps one of the most recent, yet beautiful national symbols, having risen from our beloved Gabriel García Márquez’s literary work. In the fifty years since his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, was published, yellow butterflies have become a symbol of Colombia and the way it weaves fantasy and reality together—this magic realism strongly inspired the filmmakers and Gabo’s works had a direct impact on Encanto, according to them.
The film, directed by Jared Bush and Byron Howard, isn’t just a movie about Colombia created by Americans. In addition to numerous Colombian historians, anthropologists and other experts who were consulted during its conception, the movie Encanto features some of Colombia’s greatest musical talents, such as the aforementioned legendary Carlos Vives; young star Sebastián Yatra, who performs “Dos oruguitas”, also written by Lin-Manuel Miranda; Juan Carlos Coronel’s rendition of the all-time classic “Colombia, tierra querida”, which was featured on the original teaser; and reggaeton prince, Maluma, who even voices one of the supporting characters in the original version.
Speaking of cast members, a great deal of them are well-known Colombian actors with many memorable roles to their names. For the most part, they’ll be playing their characters in both the original and Spanish-dubbed versions of the film. These include:
- María Cecilia Botero – Abuela Alma
- Angie Cepeda – Julieta Madrigal
- Carolina Gaitán – Pepa Madrigal
- Mauro Castillo – Félix Madrigal
- John Leguizamo – Bruno Madrigal
- Maluma – Mariano
Those who are not Colombian, are at least of Colombian descent. Stephanie Beatriz, for example, who voices the leading heroine, Mirabel, was born to a Colombian father—the character will be dubbed by none other than Olga Lucía Vives, one of the talented singers of the hit Colombian girl band, Ventino. Other stars born to Colombian parents include:
- Diane Guerrero – Isabella Madrigal
- Wilmer Valderrama – Agustín Madrigal
- Adassa – Dolores Madrigal
So now that you know all the trouble Disney went through to try and capture the magical, joyful, glorious, diverse essence of Colombia, it’s only a matter of taking a seat and admiring the sheer splendor of our proud nation on the silver screen. Time to go see Encanto!