The lid might have just been pulled back on an upcoming Walt Disney Animation Studios feature. And what’s inside sounds really, really cool.
According to The DisInsider, Byron Howard and Jared Bush, two of the filmmakers behind 2015’s Oscar-winning blockbuster Zootopia, are hard at work on their next feature. Tentatively titled Encanto, the report suggests that it concerns “a young girl and her family in Brazil, who all have magical powers, sadly, the young girl has no powers.” Sounds cool to us. Lin-Manuel Miranda will reportedly be writing the songs for the feature, which will have a script by Bush and Charise Castro Smith, with production duties being handled by Clark Spencer (who is now also President of Walt Disney Animation Studios) and Yvett Merino Flores.
We reached out to Disney, who did not provide official comment, but everything in the report makes sense.
Howard let slip years ago that he was working on an original project with Miranda (who worked on Moana, Mary Poppins Returns and whose Hamilton is about to debut on Disney+), and Bush was one of Howard’s key collaborators, working overtime to get Zootopia together after seismic story changes (he also co-directed that feature). Plus, Rich Moore, the other Zootopia director, recently left Disney for Sony Pictures Animation. Bush is an insanely talented, hardworking artistic powerhouse at Disney (he also received sole screenwriting credit on Moana the same year Zootopia was released) and would make a perfect fit to work alongside Howard on this new project.
Also, Walt Disney Animation Studios has been venturing out recently, focusing their animated features on various cultures and locales, including Polynesia (Moana) and Asia (2021’s Raya and the Last Dragon). Brazil makes perfect sense as the setting for a forthcoming movie. Not only is it a rich, vibrant culture, but it’s also a huge market for Disney product and a territory that Disney has flirted with for years. For a long time the company has looked at Brazil as a possible location for the first South American theme park, and right before the last D23 Expo in Anaheim, rumors swirled that Disney would announce a new Brazil pavilion for EPCOT in Florida. A new animated feature, set in Brazil, should get some of these projects off the ground …
And, of course, Brazilian culture has longstanding ties to Disney Animation. While Walt Disney and his team of animators were on a goodwill tour of South America in the 1940s, Walt and the animators fell in love with Brazilian culture, which led to the creation of José “Zé” Carioca. The dapper parrot appeared in animated package films Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, and in the “Blame It on the Samba” segment of Melody Time. Born in Rio de Janiero and initially voiced by Brazilian musician José Carioca, the character would go on to make numerous appearances over the years, usually alongside Donald Duck and Panchito Pistoles (the Mexican rooster). He is the best.
We will follow this story closely, of course, and should any official word come down, we will update it accordingly.