Q&A: Inside the Magical World of The Art of Encanto

By the D23 Team

The Academy Award-winning movie Encanto has captured our hearts with its emotional story and catchy music—and, of course, its gorgeous visual design! If you’ve been enchanted by the film’s look, you need to check out The Art of Encanto, a stunning book featuring never-before-seen production art, character designs, storyboards, and colorscripts. This oversized volume celebrates the art of this stunning animated movie, alongside exclusive interviews with the filmmakers and behind-the-scenes details into the creative development process. We sat down with the book’s author to give you an inside look at how this gorgeous book came to life.

D23: The Official Disney Fan Club: Your team took a research trip to Colombia to help develop the project. How important are these trips to realize the film we see in theaters?
Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones (JPRLJ): On every Walt Disney Animation Studios project, the research process for the directors and visual artists is crucial. For Encanto, the visit to Colombia was especially important due to the specific influences of the culture seen in the film.  There are some things that can’t be gathered from books or the internet, like the warmth of the people, the natural majesty of the different environments, or the huge diversity that exists from town to town. However, the trip is only the tip of the iceberg, and much more research went into Encanto—they talked to architects, anthropologist, biologists, and other experts who went on to form our Colombian Cultural Trust—many of whom are quoted in the book! This work was so meaningful and can be seen in the book through various designs, including those inspired by mochila from the Wayuu and the sombrero vueltiao from the Zenú Indigenous Community.

D23: What about Colombia did you find most inspiring?
JPRLJ: How different people and places are from region to region. Colombia is far from being just one thing, and that was very exciting for the filmmakers  to explore. The biodiversity of plants and animals was also exciting, because there are so many species that we have never seen in animation before. The musical variety and instruments that exist in the country were also very exciting, and Lin-Manuel Miranda was deeply inspired by the sounds [the team] experienced in the trip.

D23: Mirabel is the first Latina lead character in a Disney Animation film. What other ways did your team strive to distinguish her from previous heroines?
JPRLJ: She is also the first one to wear glasses! Her costume design, done by costume design lead Neysa Bové, is also very unique and specific. It’s a blouse and skirt instead of a dress. (You can see a detailed design of all the iconography on her skirt in the book.) Her personality is also very specific, and art director, characters Bill Schwab and his team did an amazing job at finding very distinct features that felt true to the region—which you can clearly see in the many versions of Mirabel shown in her chapter. Animators also did a great job at finding that beautiful soul.

D23: The artwork and color keys in The Art of Encanto have deep, rich purples, blues, and other jewel tones. How do these colors influence the feeling and emotion of the film?
JPRLJ: The directors, production designer Ian Gooding and associate production designer Lorelay Bové wanted the film to be colorful, to carry the magical realism spirit that inspired it. The color choices were extremely thoughtful. One of my favorite parts of the book is the image that shows how they decided to distinguish the different members of the family through color choices.

D23: Casa Madrigal is not only a setting, but a character in the film. How did you inject personality into the architecture?
JPRLJ: They knew that the house would be alive from early on, and the challenge was how to execute it. Both the visual development and story departments did a lot of work to find different reasons and ways in which this could happen. Many of those explorations are in the book, even the ones that didn’t make it into the movie.

D23: What is your favorite part of the house?
JPRLJ: I grew up going to an old family hacienda, so I have a soft spot for stunning courtyards that you can find throughout Latin America. The art environments department, led by art directors, environments Camille André and Mehrdad Isvandi, nailed that and every single magical room. There are some stunning courtyard paintings in the book, and we even show a closeup on the tile work Lorelay Bové did!

D23: When you were designing the Madrigal family, how did you approach bringing their gifts into their designs? Was that process different for Mirabel?
JPRLJ: It all started with their personalities and family roles, and that dictated their gifts and design. The book has a section of some early boards the story team did to explore different powers and how they could be realized. You can also see how costume choices and symbology visually support their powers in subtle but meaningful ways. The contrast with Mirabel is that everything around her—elements in her room and costume—feel handmade by her, a way to express herself as a young woman trying to find who she is.

D23: Is there anything in this book that we haven’t seen before?
JPRLJ: There are tons of designs of elements that didn’t make it into the film—like the interior of Luisa’s room, family members that aren’t in the film, a different love interest for Isabela, and the list goes on! There are even alternative versions of the story represented by images created by director Byron Howard. I’m also excited to include in this book a section that shows you the evolution of Mirabel from initial design to final render, allowing us to show the artistry of many other departments.

D23: Why was working on Encanto and writing this book meaningful to you?
JPRLJ: As a Latin American little boy growing up with love towards the Disney heroines, I was beyond excited to have the opportunity to work on a film about our first Latina heroine. I also love art—I have a background in art publishing—so being able to celebrate the talented Disney Animation artists who worked on this film is a huge honor and responsibility I didn’t take lightly. I hope you enjoy the book; hours of the artists’ work went into creating every image you see in it, so to me it’s such a treasure.

Preview The Art of Encanto