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‘Encanto’ Star John Leguizamo on Why the Film Is So Important: ‘I Never Thought I’d See This In My Lifetime’

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 03: (L-R) Walt Disney Animation Studios CCO & executive producer Jennifer Lee, producer Yvett Merino, composer Germaine Franco, Angie Cepeda, Rhenzy Feliz, Jessica Darrow, María Cecilia Botero, Wilmer Valderrama, Stephanie Beatriz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, co-writer and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mauro Castillo, Carolina Gaitán, Adassa, co-director and screenwriter Jared Bush, John Leguizamo, co-director and screenwriter Charise Castro Smith, Diane Guerrero, and producer Clark Spencer attends the world premiere of Walt Disney Animation Studios' Encanto at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California on November 03, 2021. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
Getty Images for Disney

Disney’s “Encanto” aims to exude the joys of celebrating family and celebrating Colombia. The green and purple carpet premiere at the El Capitan Theatre did just that.

“This is the first time we’re meeting people in the flesh. It’s crazy,” said writer and director Jared Bush, noting that the film, which will be released Nov. 24, was produced during the pandemic.

The extravagant premiere setup allowed for cast, crew and families alike to walk the carpet, pose for photos in front of posters and take in the spectacle of Hollywood Boulevard’s own taste of “Encanto’s” Colombia. John Leguizamo, who voices Bruno in the film, expressed what drew him to the film.

“The fact that it was an all-Latinx Disney movie,” said Leguizamo. “Disney’s 60th movie is all Latinx. I mean, I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime. We’re the oldest ethnic group in America, the largest ethnic group in America, and we’re virtually absent everywhere. But not tonight. Not tonight.”

“Encanto” follows the Madrigal family, who have all been blessed with unique gifts from being able to talk to animals to super strength – except for the protagonist, Mirabel. Set in Colombia, the film grapples with topics both magical and real.

“We tried to actually take inspiration from a lot what our friends expressed to us, which is that Colombia has a history of internal displacement,” said writer and co-director Charise Castro Smith. “That is something that is a part of our movie. It’s a really foundational piece of the family’s history. So, we wanted to make it sort of emotional and for all ages, but it’s a reality in this film and for this family that we wanted to include.”

The film not only features musical numbers, with songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, but Germaine Franco is the first female composer to score an animated Disney film.

“I didn’t get here by myself. I had a lot of great teachers and a lot of great supporters,” Franco told Variety. “What I wanted to convey in the film is the voice of Latin American women. Latin American woman have this incredible voice. I can only speak for myself, but I wanted Latin American women to feel proud. And Latin American people love rhythm, so I did my best to give motion but to also have that spirit of enjoying life.”

When asked what they could choose for their own unique gift, the “Encanto” team was divided between whimsical and practical.

“I would want to be wise,” said María Cecilia Botero, who voices Abuela. “I would like to fly,” added Mauro Castillo, the voice of Félix.

“I would so want to speak to animals. I’m sure that’s one of the most popular ones because who doesn’t want to do that,” answered executive producer Jennifer Lee. “But I’m also happy with Mirabel, like a heroine with glasses who gets to unify a family? That’s a pretty good gift.”