Character Art Director Deanna Marsigliese describes the main character as “direct, playful, and expressive”, citing the “[bold shapes] and exaggerated proportions, much like those found in children’s drawings. She adds that Luca represents curiosity and therefore his eyes are the largest of all the characters in the film. Additionally, Japanese prints, antique maps and mosaics, scientific illustration, puppets, and folk art were textures that inspired the looks. “You won’t find perfectly straight lines or evenly spaced patterns in our character designs. Even our sea monster scales have been arranged with great care to have a rhythmic irregularity in size and placement.
MADRIGAL OF MIRABEL
In the Colombian set Encanto, protagonist Mirabel, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, is the only member of the Madrigal family without a magical gift. About her look, Associate Production Designer Lorelay Bové says, “We started with a traditional Colombian-inspired skirt and covered it with embroidery designed to look imperfect and handmade. Similar to what you can find in a 15 year old girl’s album, we have created different icons [for the skirt] represent each member of his family, reflecting his love for each of them. Mirabel also wears glasses, which was an important aspect of her look. Bové states, “One of the main themes of the film is perspective – how different points of view can affect a relationship – and the fact that our main character wears glasses was an intentional choice to reinforce this theme.”
The Mitchells Vs. The Machines (Netflix)
Teenage film student Katie “had to be as bold and interesting on the outside as on the inside,” notes director and co-writer Mike Rianda. The animators used her clothes as a way to signify her creativity. “Katie is trying to connect with people and be seen… so her clothes are that beacon that attracts people like her – whether it’s with movie Easter eggs, like her socks which share the carpet pattern in the brilliant, or her rainbow button letting others know she’s LGBTQ+,” says Rianda. He adds that set designer Lindsey Olivares “got a good grasp of the specificity of what it is to be a creative teenager who seeks both her artistic voice and her connection to others”.
Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney)
Set in a Southeast Asian-inspired fantasy world called Kumandra, Raya and the last dragon follows Raya, a young warrior princess whose costume needed to be functional yet authentic. The research included training a group of consultants for Southeast Asian history and research trips to Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia. “The team was inspired by the breathable draping styles of clothing from the region, landing on a combination of the sabai top and dhoti pants, allowing it to move believable,” says production designer Paul Felix. Raya’s costume design included input from Laotian visual anthropologist Steve Arounsack, who led the story trust.
JONAS POHER RASMUSSEN
To run away (Neon/Participant)
To run awayThe writer-director appears in his animated documentary as he interviews Afghan refugee Amin. “I really wanted to create a contrast between Amin and me,” Rasmussen said of the decision to make his on-screen character blonde. “To run away is Amin’s story, and I wanted to make that clear from the start. Another thing was that Amin wanted to remain anonymous. Since I’m representing the film in public, I thought being blonde would be a nice and subtle way to show that the people in the film don’t look exactly like they do in real life.
Ron Gone Bad (20th Century Studios)
Director Jean-Philippe Vine explains that the design of the personal robots was meant to evoke “the iconic look of products made by Apple or Google,” but the robots were also meant to be a child’s best friend. “We came across the idea that the whole bot is a screen that could be ‘skinned’ with nice animated skins.” Ron’s Dysfunction has been “stripped down to the bare essentials to really sell its lack of software.” It gave us tons of opportunities to use his glitchy pixels and erratic movements to make him a real clown. Of Ron’s attitude, the director admits: “We couldn’t help but refer to the old ‘Clippy’ character in Microsoft Word who tried to be cheerfully – and annoyingly – helpful all the time.”
Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director Mamoru Hosoda Beautiful follows Suzu, a shy 17-year-old from a rural village who becomes international singing sensation Belle when she enters a virtual world known as “U”. Hosoda explains Belle’s costume: “The goal was to portray a more holistic perspective of ‘beauty’, hence the rather unrealistic dress and pink hair. The dress was designed by different artists and a fashion designer who has designed clothes for Parisian collections in the past [Kunihiko Morinaga and the brand Anrealage]. It is these unrealistic designs that portray a strong and powerful sense of beauty.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.