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7 January 2022, 17:26 | Updated: 17 January 2022, 13:37
Lin-Manuel Miranda teams up with composer Germaine Franco in his latest Disney musical partnership.
Dancing its way out of 2021, Encanto is the latest movie offering from Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Encanto tells the story of the Madrigal family living in Colombia during what seems to be the early 20th century, and their magical house ‘casita’ which was created to protect them from harm.
As well as protecting them from harm, the casita gifts each of the family members a magical gift, except for our main character, Mirabel Madrigal.
However, when the magic starts to fade, and both the casita and the lives of the family are at risk, Mirabel must step up if she is to save them all.
With a magical soundtrack running through this vibrant and family-centric story, let’s explore the composers and musicians behind the tracks.
The music for Encanto was written by Germaine Franco, an award-winning Mexican-American composer, who has also written for films including Disney-Pixar’s Oscar-winning film Coco, and 20th Century Fox’s The Book of Life.
Franco was the first Latina person to be invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences music branch and to receive the Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature (Coco).
In 2019, Franco was the only woman and woman of colour to score two of the 100 top-grossing films (Dora and the Lost City of Gold and Little) across the entire industry.
As well as being a great composer, Franco is a professional percussionist, and has performed with orchestras and ensembles across the world, including with Belgian Radio Orchestra, and on her own soundtrack for Encanto, where she also played keyboards.
Traditional instruments and rhythms play a big role in the score.
Commenting on the score, Franco said: “[The team] created new textures and sonorities, using traditional Colombian instruments such as tiples, bandolas, cununos, marimba de chonta, arpa llanera from Latin America mixed with orchestra.
“The sound of the score is infused with many Colombian rhythmic styles including bambuco, mapalé, cumbia, and joropo.”
Franco also involved Colombian musicians in the creation of the film.
“The women of Colombia are also musicians and singers, they’re called cantadoras and they have this tradition, especially in the Afro-Colombian areas, where the women play percussion, chant and sing. I wanted that sound.” So, Franco organised a remote session in Colombia to get these voices into the films soundtrack.
Overall, Franco hopes that the musical imagery of her score “evokes the resonant landscape of Colombia, the tenacity of our lead character, Mirabel, the strength of family, and our shared humanity.”
Eight original songs feature in the Disney film, all of which were written by the multi award-winning composer, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
On working with Franco, Miranda said: “It was really important to me that we have a Latino music team for this movie. Our first meeting went really well and she just spoke so powerfully about the themes and instrumentation she wanted to use.
“The theme she found was so incredible. Particularly in the finale, there’s give and take between where my song ends and her score begins.”
The film marked a first for Miranda, whose fan-favourite song, ‘Dos Oruguitas’, was his first song written entirely in Spanish.
Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, thought it important to write the acoustic song first in Spanish, before translating it to English, in order to make it sound like an authentic Colombian folk song.
The second song of the film is Mirabel’s solo Waiting on a Miracle which unlike the other tracks in the film, is written in a 3/4 waltz-like time signature.
Miranda purposefully did this to show that Mirabel is in a “different rhythmic universe than the rest of her family” and got the idea after the film’s 2018 research trip to Colombia noted that local musicians often played in this time.
Here are all eight of the songs in Encanto.
Encanto is out now on Disney Plus.