NEW YORK, Charise Castro Smith, the first Latino woman co-directing a Walt Disney Animation Studios film, admitted that she felt scared at times. She was ecstatic to be able to work on "Encanto," and she didn't hesitate.
"I said, "I have to do that." Castro Smith stated that she had to. She was a writer when she joined the project, but had never held a directing position.
Castro Smith, a mother to a young girl, stated that "it means everything to me for little brown children everywhere to be able to see themselves, to be represented in a positive manner, and feel seen."
She co-directs "Encanto" with Jared Bush, Byron Howard and Byron Howard. It is set in Colombia, the land of magical realism, and Mirabel Madrigal is a teenager who struggles with being the only one of her family members without magical abilities. It will be in theaters on Nov. 24.
Bush and Castro Smith also have writing credits together with Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote original songs for the movie. The cast includes Stephanie Beatriz, an Argentine actor ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine," In The Heights"), Diane Guerrero and Wilmer Valderrama, as well as Angie Cepeda, a Colombian actress.
Castro Smith started out as a playwright. She has credits for writing "Devious Maids" and "The Haunting of Hill House". "Encanto" is undoubtedly a major step.
Bush wrote in an email to AP, "Charise was a Godsend from the minute she joined 'Encanto. She created a foundation for heart, vulnerability, and authenticity that the whole film is built upon." She wanted Mirabel to be unique and relatable, while also being flawed and humane from the beginning.
Castro Smith was initially hired as a writer for Bush's collaboration. She was then asked to become a codirector after seven to eight months. It all happened organically, and it's been incredible.
She cites her connection with her Cuban grandmother as the reason she was inspired to create Abuela Alma. Maria Cecilia Botero, a Colombian actor, is her voice.
Castro Smith, who recalled her abuela's childhood, said that she just remembered watching the talk show "Cristina" with her a lot. She encouraged me a lot. She was an incredible woman. In fact, the play that I wrote about her ('El Huracan' or 'The Hurricane') was actually about her.
Alma is temperamentally very different from my grandmother, but that bond and that closeness she shared with me was what really informed her writing.
Howard might also see it.