With every new CG animated movie new tricks are used to bring scenes to life, and this includes Disney's Encanto. Some of these techniques can be through advances in technology, but one shot in Disney's Encanto used a more practical approach.
Disney's Encanto was seen as a box-office flop when it released but found a place on Disney+ where it became the streaming platform's most-watched movie in 2022, with an estimated 269 million views. That's kind of surprising, but what has really shocked me is seeing how one shot was created – it's quite freaky.
Animator Tony Bonilla, who has worked on animated movies such as Moana and Zootopia, took us behind the curtain on how one shot from Encanto was made as he revealed the process on Twitter. "A little behind the camera peek at one of my shots on Encanto," he wrote, sharing the image below.
There's a common belief that because CG movies use rendered character models that they are always anatomically correct, when in fact animators will bend the rules to get the shot a director demands. (There also often a confusion between VFX vs CG.)
"The director went for an emotional feel that went beyond what they could do physically," explains Bonilla. To get the shot the characters arms are broken and extended, creating a fake depth of field in camera.
The animator made himself available to answer questions on Twitter and gave insightful answers to many people who want to make it as animators. "The camera choice was made by the layout artist and directors. I made my animation work with the camera choice," he wrote (there's a list of design choices he made below).
It's a cinematic technique used to heighten the emotional tension.Compressing the space.Isolating the character. Pulling the audience in close.All while the cave around her is starting to collapse.Gives the shot a sense of claustrophobia.March 8, 2023
I love that Tony Bonilla was so engaged with people on Twitter, many of whom are animators in the making. The shot is unexpected and shows how animating CG movies is a continuous process of creative choices and problem solving. The solution to gain the right focal length in this shot is also used in films, with hands close to the camera and the actor far away often done using fake hands on a stick.