Disney Animation’s first latina director Charise Castro Smith talks about Encanto, the power of the family – news-herald

0

At the premiere of Disney’s “Encanto” on November 24, marking a milestone as the company’s 60th animated feature.

But it also marked another cultural moment, even more important, since it is the first film of the Walt Disney Animation Studios co-directed by a Latina and only the second Disney animated feature film directed by a woman.

But while Charise Castro Smith, 38, is happy to break the glass ceiling of Latino directors, she doesn’t want to be a part of any exclusive club.

“I don’t want to be the only one, I don’t want to be alone in this club. It’s good; I’m glad the milestone has been reached, but let’s break this barrier as soon as it is humanly possible because there is no reason for me to be the first and only one, ”said Castro Smith, LA resident and screenwriter, experienced playwright and actor. who is making her directorial debut with the upcoming Disney film.

Voiced by Stéphanie Beatriz, Mirabel Madrigal is determined to prove that she belongs to her extraordinary family in “Encanto”. (Courtesy of Disney)

Castro Smith co-directed “Encanto,” which features songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, with Jared Bush and “Zootopia” co-director Byron Howard.

Castro Smith and Bush co-wrote the film, which takes place in Colombia and tells the story of Mirabel Madrigal, a teenage girl who is the only member of her family who does not have magical powers.

“I am so proud of this film. He plunges into all the joys and complexities of families and all those who will see this will either recognize themselves as one of the characters of this family, or recognize people they know from their family, ”she said. declared.

  • Disney’s new animated film “Encanto” opens November 24. This is the first Disney animated film co-directed by a Latina and features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Image courtesy © 2021 Disney. All rights reserved.)

  • Disney’s new animated film “Encanto” opens November 24. This is the first Disney animated film co-directed by a Latina and features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Image courtesy © 2021 Disney. All rights reserved.)

  • Disney’s new animated film “Encanto” opens November 24. This is the first Disney animated film co-directed by a Latina and features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Image courtesy © 2021 Disney. All rights reserved.)

  • Disney’s new animated film “Encanto” opens November 24. This is the first Disney animated film co-directed by a Latina and features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Image courtesy © 2021 Disney. All rights reserved.)

Set a course

For Castro Smith, who was born and raised in a Cuban family in Miami, the road to “Encanto” began with his career as a playwright, which was influenced by the work of another Latin writer.

While she presented her first shows when she was young, putting her younger brother in plays that she wrote and would stage for her family, it was in high school that she read the play “Marisol” by Puerto Rican playwright Jose Rivera. , that Castro Smith could see a serious future as a writer.

“It really changed everything for me. He’s a Puerto Rican writer and it spoke to me in a totally different way than anything I’d read before. And I thought if he could do it, maybe I could do it. So reading this piece really put me on the right path for the rest of my life, ”she said.

Encanto co-director Charise Castro Smith says she was drawn to the film’s main character, Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz). (Courtesy of Disney)

But before finding out about her work, Rivera said she remembers seeing very few Latino writers and artists in mainstream movies and musicals, Castro Smith said.

“I remember turning eight thinking, ‘Don’t the people who make movies just know we exist? I was legitimately confused and I think once I grew up a bit it became a real mission for me and something really important to bring our culture to the screen, to bring diversity to screen and tell those stories, ”she said.

Women lead

After graduating from Brown University with her BA, Castro Smith attended the Yale School of Drama and while studying acting in 2008, she wrote her first play “Estrella Cruz [The Junkyard Queen]. “

“This play spoke a lot about my mother. I was the first person in my family to leave home. It was very important for me to leave Miami and go to college, ”she said. “And it was really hard for my family to understand why I made this choice at the time. So this piece was really born out of that moment when I grew up and wanted to do different things, ”she said.

Since then, she has written five more plays inspired by a mix of genres such as Greek mythology and even some elements of horror and magic as well as her family and culture. But the unifying factor is still a strong female lead, she said.

“It’s something that really excites me, is putting complex and dynamic female protagonists on stage and on screen,” she said.

“Encanto” is now in theaters. (Courtesy of Disney)

Her TV stint came in 2015 when she directed her lifetime series “Devious Maids”. She has also been a screenwriter and producer of the Fox television series “The Exorcist” and the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House”.

She was hired as a writer on “Encanto” to collaborate with Bush, but about nine months into her work she was asked to become a co-director.

“I think it’s risky to try your luck with someone new and step out of your comfort zone, especially for a company as big as Disney, and I give them a lot of credit for taking their chances on me and on this movie. ”she said.

Good advice

Castro Smith was immediately drawn to the film’s main character, Mirabel.

“She’s a 14 year old girl and not your typical Disney heroine. She’s clumsy, she’s funny, she tries to figure out who she is and how she fits in the world and I bonded with her. I was also a clumsy 14 year old girl, ”she said.

In the film, the Madrigals live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a place called Encanto. Every child in the family, except Mirabel, has magical powers. But she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is in danger and that she could be the city’s last hope.

It stars Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel, Angie Cepeda and Wilmer Valderrama as Mirabel’s parents, and John Leguizamo as Bruno, Mirabel’s uncle.

Another strong female character in the film is Abuela Alma, the stern matriarch of the family. She is a character who is not necessarily similar to her grandmother but rather to her grandfather, who immigrated from Cuba, she said.

“I actually think there’s a bit of my grandpa in her. He was the one who had to come here and start his business over and it was really hard for him and I think this trip really marked him and it was a lot harder for me to understand so there is a bit of him in that character, ”said Castro Smith.

But being the first Latina to receive directing credit on a Disney animated feature came with some pressure.

“There has been a learning curve, I have to say. Everyone at the studio was really welcoming and kind and really hugged me, but there was really a lot of pressure on my end to get it right. I felt like I was speaking for a lot of people in this movie, ”she said.

So her mother, who Castro Smith says is “panicking” because of her daughter’s making of a film, gave her some good advice.

“She’s my biggest supporter and also tries to keep me on Earth, so she said, ‘Don’t ruin this,'” Castro Smith said with a laugh.

Share.

Comments are closed.