Interview: ‘Encanto’ composer Germaine Franco, the first-ever female composer of a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film [VIDEO]
Germaine Franco is one of the biggest up and coming composers working in Hollywood and this year made history as the first-ever female composer of a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film.
Since 2003, Franco has been an assistant score coordinator for huge movies such as The Italian Job, The Bourne Supremacy, Mr and Mrs Smith and P.S. I Love You. She was the songwriter and producer for five of the six songs from Disney’s Coco.
But now her time has come, as she stands head-to-head with songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer for Disney’s latest and 60th animated production, Encanto.
Encanto follows a young woman who lives in Columbia with her family, all of whom have a special gift, except her. But when the magic that allows them, their gifts begins to dwindle, she must save the day. Franco had the responsibility of not only bringing Colombia to life but complementing Lin-Manuel’s very specific music style.
To prepare, Franco fully immersed herself in Colombian music, culture, and literature. The sound of the score is based on the idea of “magical realism” – a specific type of Latin American literature, where the spiritual realm is part of everyday life. With these influences in mind, she wrote original music away from picture and that’s how the main Encanto theme was born. The sound of magical realism is filled with Colombian rhythms, inspired by Cumbia—the national dance of Colombia. As a percussionist, Germaine was well-equipped to bring these rhythms to life that accompany the vibrant animation and beauty of the land. Colombian singers and musicians are featured on the score, as well as various instrumentation, including: guitar, bass, flutes, accordions, strings, winds, brass, and an authentic hand-made Afro-Colombian marimba.
Just this week, Franco was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score for Encanto, which is currently only in theaters and will be on Disney+ on December.
Benji Bury sat down with her to discuss working with Walt Disney Animation and what it’s like to be one of the most respected musicians working today.
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney