Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Surprising Way Horror Influenced Disney's Encanto

Meet the Madrigals, an extraordinary family who live in a magical house hidden in the mountains of Colombia. They're the basis of Disney's upcoming animated film, "Encanto," where every child has been blessed with a unique ability — from super strength to the power to heal. 

That is, all but one, Mirabel. She must live her life as ordinary, until the magic surrounding her family is in danger — and she just might be the one who can save their way of life.

Starring Stephanie Beatriz, Wilmer Valderrama, and John Leguizamo, "Encanto," which will be released in theaters on November 24, features the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda. While on the surface, the film is geared toward kids, "Encanto" was surprisingly influenced by the horror genre, as revealed during a recent press conference for the film featuring directors Jared Bush ("Moana," "Zootopia") and Byron Howard ("Zootopia," "Tangled") and co-director-slash-co-writer Charise Castro Smith ("Raya and the Last Dragon").

The unexpected connection between Encanto and horror series The Haunting of Hill House

Prior to joining the filmmaking team for Disney's "Encanto," Castro Smith had a background as a playwright and working on such horror series as Fox's 2016 "The Exorcist" and Netflix's 2018 "The Haunting of Hill House," which she directly compares to "Encanto" because they both feature supernatural houses. So, just how much did Castro Smith's horror background influence the writing and directing of this film?

"My background was really very different than this film," says Castro Smith, "but I think what really makes good storytelling in any genre is just grounded characters and creativity. It's applicable in horror, and it's applicable in this movie. I worked on 'The Haunting of Hill House,' which is about a different kind of [magical] house, and it's so important to have a wide range of characters. 'Encanto' is a movie that hopefully everyone will be able to relate to and will be able to see themselves and their own families reflected back at them. I think there's something for everyone."

As for why Castro Smith's horror experience was a draw for Disney, Howard explains: "One of the reasons Jared and I landed on her specific writing is she has this amazing way of combining the idea of magical realism and the supernatural with things that are very relatable. It's like one of her plays that we read that was so incredible, about this suburban family experiencing these incredible but sometimes very dark things, but she has a beautiful way of weaving that into it. So having her talent contribute to the tapestry of what this movie became was something we knew we couldn't do without."

"Encanto" will be released in theaters on November 24.