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A Magical Trip Itinerary Once Led to the Creation of One of Disney’s Most Magical Movies Yet

lin manuel miranda and a scene from Disney's encanto in colombia

Inside the Disney kingdom of fandom lately, there’s been a lot of talk about trip itineraries that include stops in Colombia, the backdrop for Walt Disney Animation’s 60th animated feature filmEncanto. But long before fans had the chance to see the film and become diehard fans, another trip itinerary served as the guide for a journey deep into the Colombian mountains for two filmmakers, a musician, and the musician’s father.

Recently, Disney announced two exciting new travel opportunities for fans of Disney’s Encanto. One trip via Adventures by Disney will allow Guests to immerse themselves in the magic of Colombia, as seen in the animated feature film, and another opportunity, offered by Disney Cruise Line, will afford Guests an Encanto-themed excursion while aboard the Disney Magic.

Encanto 2021 the madrigal family home inspired by Colombia

Credit: Walt Disney Animation

But long before any Disney fan had ever heard of Encanto, a trip deep into the heart of Colombia served as the inspiration for the film’s storyline, its popular musical score, and the fan-favorite, chart-topping tunes that Encanto lovers still can’t stop singing.

Though it was first released at the box office in November 2022, Disney’s Encanto continues to sweep the nation. Walt Disney Animation‘s 60th animated film hit every mark, not only with Disney fans, but with film critics as well. The music from Encanto has the sure feel of Colombia, features styles like bambero, mapale, cumbia and joropo, and includes the sounds of unique instruments like the tiple, the tambora, the gaita, the arpa llerna, and the marimba de chorta, in addition to the staple of some Colombian music, the accordion.

And by far, the best part of the music of Encanto is that fans don’t need to know how to play or pronounce any of these instruments to get lost in the Colombian rhythms of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”

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Credit: Walt Disney Animation

The film began with an idea that–just like the magic of casita and the special Encanto, or “place of enchantment” in the film–grows and grows into something more beautiful every day. And that growth was nurtured by the experiences gained and lessons learned by Encanto directors Byron Howard and Jared Bush, Lin Manuel Miranda, and his father Luis, when the quartet made the journey to Colombia in 2018 to gain inspiration and perspective for the animated film.

Byron Howard and Jared Bush for Encanto in Colombia

Directors Byron Howard and Jared Bush in Colombia/Credit: Jared Bush

Lin Manuel Miranda was raised in New York City and says that having his father Luis, a Puerto Rican native, along for the trip to Colombia was an invaluable experience, though he’s not sure how Luis got clearance for the trip.

“I don’t know if my dad was invited by Disney or just sort of showed up on the trip; it still remains a mystery,” Miranda said of his father accompanying him on the trip.

lin manuel miranda and father luis

Credit: PEOPLE

Miranda says that his father’s storytelling during the trip served as part of the inspiration for the character of Abuela Alma, the matriarch of the Madrigal family in Disney’s Encanto.

“I remember [my father Luis] telling us a story about his grandmother in Puerto Rico,” Miranda recalls. “She had lots of kids, and those kids married, and they all stayed under the same roof.”

Miranda says his father talked about his great-grandmother, describing her as one who “ruled with such certainty” that family members would hand over their paychecks to her. Then, he says, she would “reallocate the wealth amongst the kids and the married couples,” as well as amongst her children and grandchildren.

Meet The ENCANTO Characters: Interview With Creators

Credit: Walt Disney Animation

The quartet says that their visit to Columbia allowed them to explore the country, talk with many of the country’s residents, and truly get a genuine feel and appreciation for the Latin American country that would serve as the setting for Disney’s 60th animated film. The filmmakers wanted very much to have the new film present Colombia truthfully and authentically in every way. Director Byron Howard said the entire trip was vitally important in helping them to do exactly that.

“It was incredible,” Howard said, “and I have to say, Lin has been with us on this journey from the very beginning, which is so rare to have your songwriter with you for this experience.”

“So, when we went to Colombia with Lin and his dad, Luis, who we love; [it] was an amazing experience,” he explained. “I think we were just blown away.”

colombian street and housing

A Colombian street and houses/Credit: Jared Bush

“I think we were learning about Colombia from people who we love, people who are of Colombian heritage and were sharing their families, and that warmth, and just the diversity of families and music,” Byron Howard continued. “And Columbia being this crossroads of culture, of dance, of food, of tradition, it just was an incredible moment for us. We were all over the place.”

The men visited the cities of Bogota and Cartagena, as well as the small towns of Barichara, Salento-Salento, and Palenque. They also visited some of Colombia’s natural landmarks, like the Cocora Valley. And each location exhibited a Colombian vibe all its own.

Cocora Valley in Columbia

Colombia’s Cocora Valley/Credit: Culture Trip

The directors said that they met lots of people during their time in Colombia, and many were used as inspiration in developing the characters in the film–including the many members of the Family Madrigal.

Howard says that’s why characters in the story of Encanto differ from other family members. This is seen in the film as a Pasteno, Mauro Castillo, plays the voice of Felix (Pepita’s husband and Mirabel’s uncle by marriage). And Augustin, Julieta’s husband and Mirabel’s father, is a man from Bogota, Colombia. Howard says that they wanted to bring as much of Colombia into the Madrigal family as possible, and after seeing the film, it’s clear that they hit that goal.

Encanto Madrigal family members

Credit: Walt Disney Animation

If you’re a diehard Disney fan but you’re looking for a different kind of Disney movie, Encanto can’t be beat. And don’t worry; you don’t have to speak Spanish or play a Colombian instrument to enjoy the film to the fullest!

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!