Disney’s Sketchbook Animator Reacts To Audiences Connecting With Encanto’s Colombian Representation

Now that the dust has settled and we’ve finally gotten “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” out of our collective heads after it broke some crazy music records, allow us to plop it right back in there. Because not only is Encanto the home to some catchy and viral bops, the Disney film was also the Mouse House's first musical centering on characters hailing from Latin America. In the months since its release, it left an important mark on its audiences, and one Disney animator is sharing her reaction to all the big love for it. 

Encanto’s story artist Samantha Vilfort was recently featured in an episode of the Disney+ docuseries Sketchbook. Each episode centers on a Disney animator as they share their journey in animation and teach viewers how to draw a beloved character. In Vilfort’s episode, she draws Encanto’s Mirabel. When CinemaBlend spoke to her about her experience seeing the movie reach audiences, she shared what she thought of its massive audience reaction: 

I was so happy to see so many people really connect with it as a film about Columbia. We were really, really passionate early on about making sure that Colombian families and people from Latin backgrounds felt like this was a movie that they felt seen by. And to see when we became a TikTok trend, I was like, ‘It's happening! Finally! Oh my god.’ I was so excited because all of a sudden you had those same families going, ‘Oh my gosh, like I've never seen something like this’ or ‘This really felt like my family.’ We were so passionate about having people see their own families in it and be like, ‘Oh, that's my sister.’ Or, talk about the messy side of families too.

Samantha Vilfort is one of the newer additions to the Disney animation family, having previously worked as a storyboard artist on Ralph Breaks the Internet and as a story apprentice on Frozen II. Her role in Encanto is her biggest in a Disney animated film thus far, and that experience contributed to the amazing representation audiences have been pointing out since the release. Vilfort continued: 

I think in a lot of media, there's the level of the mom is this way and the dad is this way, as these kind of archetypical figures. I think the beauty of Encanto is to show this stuff where your family is fighting or you don't understand your grandparent because you don't know what they went through. Or having your grandparent trust you and actually level with you and be like, ‘Here's how it actually was for me growing up.’ I just loved the idea of these people who are in your life all the time, your family, friends, whatever, understanding them better and understanding the world around you through people. It's the dream and I hope that’s what people got out of it.

Encanto was made from a story co-written by Cuban-American filmmaker Charise Castro Smith and Puerto-Rican/Mexican-American playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, alongside Disney’s Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Jason Hand and Nancy Kruse. Like the studio has done with many of its previous films, such as 2002’s Lilo & Stitch, the filmmakers took extra care to represent a culture in a way its people can connect with.  

Encanto breaks the mold of a typical family, with each family member having their own specificities, leading more people to relate to it. Instead of telling a big adventure, the story of Encanto lies within the household of the Madrigal family. It tells the story of the family's passed down trauma and how different situations over the years led to their foundation starting to break at the seams. It’s no wonder why the movie won the Best Animated Feature Oscar at the 2022 Oscars. 

You can check out Encanto and Samantha Vlfort’s Sketchbook episode now with a Disney+ subscription

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.