CLEVELAND, Ohio – To be seen, heard and cherished for who you are not what you should be is one of the many messages explored in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 60th feature film “Encanto,” which hits theaters on Wednesday 24 November.
With original songs by Grammy Award, Grammy Award and Emmy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”, “Moana”), “Encanto” tells the story of the living Madrigal family hidden in the mountains of Colombia.
Their home is the lovely Encanto, who for generations has blessed each child in the family with a unique gift – from super strength to the power to heal – before they fail to do so. This exception belongs to the young Mirabel (voiced by StÃ©phanie Beatriz), who although being the only ordinary Madrigal must do extraordinary things to save the family.
We had the opportunity to talk to Nicholas Burkard, responsible for the technical animation of “Encanto” and from the Toledo region (“Frozen”, “Zootopia”, “Ralph Breaks the Internet”, “Moana”) about his role in overseeing the creative team responsible for the fabric. and hair simulation, as well as improving animal movements with the skeleton, skin and musculature.
Nicolas, congratulations on the film. What initially inspired you about âEncanto?
I’ve been working on this film for almost two years now. The way it works at Disney is that the directors are basically pitching the concept to the entire studio. It’s kind of a twinkle in their eyes at that point, but what really drew me to it is both that strong sense of family that is at the same time conflicting. It reminded me of my family. I grew up in, of course, Ohio and my family is really big. On top of that the movie is inspired by Columbia so the other big part of my life is that my wife is Mexican. My kids are Mexican-American, so that’s another part of life I’ve been involved in – this Latino culture and how this movie represents it. It was really convincing to me.
In the film, Mirabel’s grandmother helps present young family members with their own blessings or gifts. Going through your resume, it looks like your aunt has played this role in your life.
Yes, my Aunt Ann lives in Toledo and she had this collection of Disney VHS tapes. Every time we went to her house, we put one on and we were transported to this magical world of Disney. It was definitely just a huge, huge piece of my childhood.
What were the first Disney movies that you drew your childhood to?
I’ve always loved âPete’s Dragon,â that idea of ââthis boy and his imaginary friend, who just happens to be this giant dragon. For some reason, it still spoke to me.
It’s amazing to think of how technology has developed since the release of âPete’s Dragonâ almost 45 years ago.
Technology has totally changed. These guys were Xeroxing cells in live action footage for movies like “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “Pete’s Dragon”. We are on computers. We partner with our engineers at Disney Animation and are constantly innovating new ways to make better images. In “Encanto” there is a lot of embroidery, which is a big challenge in computer graphics. So a lot has changed but a lot is still the same. At the end of the day, we always come back to these principles of 2D animation. These are kind of the aesthetic high bars that we are trying to achieve with the infographic.
When it comes to the production of animated films by Disney, how quickly does technology change between productions?
I’ve been doing this for 13 years now and the technology never slows down. Best of all, there is always something new on the horizon. You make these giant movies like “Zootopia” and you come out the other side thinking, “Oh, I wish we would do this and have this.” “Encanto” is a great example where we were doing an anatomy simulation on the jaguar. We thought, âWhat could we get out of what we did with the jaguar from ‘Zootopia’ and do better on this movie? So we built a simulated anatomy platform for our jaguar that was based on the concepts we started working on in “Zootopia”, but it was better and more functional. So it still builds on our previous types of lessons learned.
Finally, the phrase from the film that will strike a chord with many viewers is “Sometimes the freaks of the family have a bad reputation.” With that in mind, what do you hope people take away from the film?
Yes, I experienced that. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I think Mirabel has definitely gone through some big challenges. We started the movie with Mirabel trying to figure out and trying to figure out where she belongs in the family. Through her own persistence, she ends up trying to figure this out by following her own path. I think that’s really the message – through your own persistence, at least in me you will find your way. He will come to you.