While the Madrigal family is the heart of Disney’s “Encanto,” another key character in the film is Casa Madrigal, the family’s magical home and center of the narrative.
From the very beginning, co-writer and co-director Charise Castro Smith says the creative team knew that the house would be a reflection of the family and their magical powers, with a personality and a point of view.
“We knew it was going to be alive, magical and fun and a friend to the kids who lived in the house,” she says.
Each room in the house also had its own personality and early on, Castro Smith says the magic of technology allowed her to visualize the world of “Encanto” through VR.
“The visual design team modeled it in 3D, so we got to put a headset on and walk through the house.”
That process came in handy when she was polishing the story that is rooted in magical realism — she was able to step into the casita and immerse herself in the experience.
Although the house is alive, in designing the home, associate production designer Lorelay Bove added touches that were inspired by Colombian homes while making sure it oozed energy and vibrancy.
The kitchen had items that would be found in a cocinar Colombiana, “like a molinillo, which is a hot chocolate stirrer, a corn grinder and traditional clay pottery called La Chamba,” Bove says.
“The one thing the directors said was that there needed to be truth to the materials. They didn’t want to bend wood or metal; they still wanted to make it believable.”
The spaces within the house reflected the inhabitants and their powers.
While each bedroom was a world within itself, the design of each space was guided by character.
However, since Mirabel is the only member of the family who doesn’t have magical powers, that meant the non-magical Mirabel’s room was rather plain.
Explains Smith: “That room is the nursery, that’s the place that everyone is meant to grow out of. At the beginning of the movie, Antonio is the baby and he’s Mirabel’s roommate, but she has stayed stuck and hasn’t become the next iteration of herself.”
Isabela’s room was inspired by the Medellin flower festival with incredible floral arrangements but has traditional princess colors of pinks and purples.
Antonio’s room was based on the Colombian rainforest. Bove looked at the coastline of Colombia and consulted with botanists to reflect natural scenery in the decor, filling it with greenery and indigenous animals, including a jaguar and some toucans and capybaras.
Bove and the art team also created ways for the house to come to life in order to aid the family. “We looked at different ways that the house could be moving and thought, ‘What if the stairs move out like a shelf?’”
Furthermore, as soon as she came on in 2017, she built a guide that evolved throughout the filmmaking process, but served as the foundation of the colors.
“I was looking at the character and tagging a specific color to that environment or thinking about their magical doors,” which are illustrated “with iconography of each character.”
While Bove didn’t get to go on the trip with the team to Colombia, she did her own research and worked with architects, botanists, cultural groups and an anthropologist to ensure authenticity throughout.