Norman Joseph works as a general technical director at Walt Disney Animation Studios. He has previously worked on the Oscar-winning film 'Big Hero 6' as an Assistant Technical Director and went on to work as a General technical director on the films 'Frozen 2', 'Moana', 'Raya and the Last Dragon', 'Ralph Breaks the internet' and 'Zootopia'. We had a small chat with him regarding Disney's latest release, 'Encanto'.
Someone who worked as a Child artist in Doordarshan, and given your interest in animation, you must have already thought of taking a mythological story from India and making it as a full-fledged animation movie with Disney's magic. Which story will be an apt one for an exclusive Disney India's animation movie?
Thank you, I do believe that there are multiple mythological stories from India that could be made into amazing animated movies. The important thing for me is to know what message we will like to convey to our audiences. How would we like to inspire them. One example for this in the form of an animated short of Sanjay's Super Team. They did an amazing job at it. I do hope to see more stories based on Indian mythology to take the stage in the near future.
Given that Encanto is the 60th movie from Walt Disney Animation Studios, what sets it apart from the previous movies? How did you contribute to it?
Encanto is an incredible, funny, emotional, and beautiful film. It has 12 main characters, the members of the family, which is a much larger number than many of our previous movies.
Encanto is set in Colombia and takes inspiration from the people and cultures of the country. The story was further inspired by a filmmaker's research trip to Colombia, the collaboration with the Colombian Cultural Trust (a group of experts in Colombian culture, anthropology, botany, music, language and architecture) and with Familia (a group of Latinx Disney Animation employees who shared their personal perspectives and experiences to help shape the film).
I worked on Encanto as a part of the greater Technical Director Group. Technical Directors are responsible for providing support to our artist teams in a variety of areas including writing tools to facilitate the computer graphics animation process, acting as a liaison to software and system engineers, and front-line artist support. We function as an integral part of the artist departments they're associated with, designing or optimizing processes and tools to best fit production needs.
From the trailers, it looks like the movie will have a backdrop of Colombia and its culture with a tint of magical realism. Any real-world events, we can relate to?
While Encanto is set in Colombia and takes inspiration from the people and cultures of the country, it is not set in a specific place or time.
The word “Encanto” literally translates to “charmed,” but in our film it refers to a place. During their research trip to Colombia, the filmmakers visited areas that had a sense of heightened spirituality and wonder. We were told that magic/unexplained phenomena happen in these places. These places are sometimes known as “Encantos” — places in nature filled with enchantment.
So, “Encanto” in our film refers to the enchanted place where the Madrigal family and their community live — where a miracle happened that saved their lives and has allowed their community to grow and thrive.
How do you see the growth of Indian industry? Have you seen any Indian movies lately, apart from Bollywood Biggies?
The Indian Film Industry is witnessing an amazing growth over the last decade. Even though, like any other industry, it was affected by Covid-19, in my opinion it's doing great and will continue to create amazing and inspiring movies.
The most recent movie I have seen and loved was Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl. Unfortunately I have not seen many of the very recent Bollywood movies yet, though some of my favorite movies include 3 Idiots, Lagaan, Sholay, and Amar Akbar Anthony.
Heightened emotions and actions are the signature of age-old animation movies and cartoons. In the current scenario, animated movies are slowly marching towards realistic portrayals and story-telling. Is this a boon or a curse?
Though the rendering capabilities are certainly improving for animation shows, I do believe the look and feel of a movie is very much based on what the filmmakers think best fits the story. The important thing I believe is what is the message that we are trying to convey and what's the best way to do so. The look of the movies always works with the story so that the audience enjoy the movie. I think the improvements offer additional possibilities but do not take away from more traditional options.
Anything you'd like to tell the audiences that they can takeaway from Encanto and what is the future like for animation consuming audience?
One thing that I would love the audiences to realize from the movie is that families are not perfect and what makes them full of life is love and understanding. For me what would really be amazing would be if even one of the audience members would be inspired to call their friend or family member who they have lost touch with and work to mend the broken bonds.
We have a lot of amazing diverse shows to come in the future and we are also experimenting with new technologies and mediums with the Short Circuit program as an example. Also the animation industry in general has amazing diverse mediums as well including Streaming/Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.