Disney’s Encanto Animators On The Challenge Of Animating Really Fast Musical Numbers

The heart of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ all-new original feature film Encanto is family. The story centers around the Madrigals who live in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto in the mountains of Colombia. The twelve family members and their magical abilities are introduced in an original song by Lin-Manual Miranda, and the animators have discussed the challenge of animation really fast musical numbers. 

Fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda are familiar with his style and how he effortlessly weaves quick rap-style singing into any genre of music. ‘The Family Madrigal’ performed by Stephanie Beatriz (the voice of Mirabel) may contain some of the fastest singing ever done in a Disney movie. I spoke with Encanto Heads of Animation Renato dos Anjos and Kira Lehtomaki for an interview with CinemaBlend, and Lehtomaki shared the following about animating musical numbers:

Songs and music are usually extra hard to animate in because you have a few extra restraints. You have to move the characters musically to the rhythm and the beat and put the acting on top of that. So those two things have to work together. And if there's a specific dance move, you have to be technically accurate to that, if that's what the scene is calling for. We're paying so much attention to lip sync that with singing, your lip sync is often exaggerated. If it's a slow ballad, you're folding the notes longer and you're, you're emphasizing your OU shapes for whatever. When people sing, they over articulate their mouth more than they do when they're just talking.

Wow, so when it comes to animation, adding music already provides a challenge. When the music contains really fast singing, as done in many of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s songs, there’s an extra challenge with the technical aspects of animation. Kira Lehtomaki elaborated with the following: 

When it's a really fast number, we have an extra added challenge where we want to articulate the words so that the audience is catching everything for sure. But you can't articulate every single word because then the mouth just looks like it's chattering up and down and that's not what we really do in life either. There's sort of a simplification pass where you kind of blend some of the words together and blend some of your mouth shapes together. You have to find kind of the right amount of simplification where you can still understand and read what the character is singing and saying, but it's not too busy and over chattering. And it's just the jaw flapping up and down constantly. So it's a fun challenge and we film a lot of reference. We watched the voice actors recording the songs in the studio to use that. And then a lot of times, sometimes the mic is in the way of their mouth. So sometimes we'll have to fill our mouth, like saying it and be like, how does this... we have mirrors by our desks so that we can not because we're vain, but we need to look at what's happening.

With Encanto being a musical, Kira Lehtomaki and Renato dos Anjos were the perfect animators for the job. The animation is flawless. It’s a beautiful film from top to bottom. The scenery captures the beauty and magic of Colombia and the diversity among the Madrigal family is stunning. And, of course, the musical numbers are absolutely enchanting. Encanto arrives in theaters November 24. Check out the trailer for a glimpse of the music. 

Samantha LaBat

Obsessed with Hamilton and most things Disney. Gets too attached to TV show characters. Loves a good thriller, but will only tolerate so much blood.