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Hampton Roads performers, creators celebrate the joy of representation with viral 'Encanto' videos

Hampton Roads performers "Encanto" cosplay
Hampton Roads performers "Encanto" cosplay
Hampton Roads performers "Encanto" cosplay
Hampton Roads performers "Encanto" cosplay
Hampton Roads performers "Encanto" cosplay
Posted at 8:26 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 21:43:13-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - We don't talk about Bruno, but we definitely will talk about the local talent that's bringing a hit Pixar movie to life.

More than two dozen actors, performers, filmmakers and photographers based in Hampton Roads came together for a viral multimedia project based on the 2021 film "Encanto," in which they performed a handful of songs from the movie's beloved soundtrack.

And yes, that includes the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned "We Don't Talk About Bruno," which made history in February by becoming Disney's second number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Video courtesy of Canvas Cosplay

Hampton Roads performers "Encanto" cosplay

The project's cover of "What Else Can I Do?" has more than 5.3 million views on YouTube as of May 5.

Video courtesy of Canvas Cosplay

Philip Odango of Canvas Cosplay is the Norfolk director, producer and costume maker who conceived the "Encanto Cosplay Project," which highlights multiple local landmarks, such as the Norfolk Botanical Garden, the Hermitage Museum and Gardens and Stage Right Lighting.

Many of the performers who participated in the project are performers of color and of Latin descent.

"Hampton Roads is filled with diverse talent and organizations," Odango said. "Representation matters, and our communities are filled with joyful stories of creativity and passion, and the people who live them."

Odango collaborated with the film's production designer, Lorelay Bové, and lead costume designer, Nesya Bové, for insight on the animated costume designs. He toured the backstage of Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández at The Sandler Center for the Performing Arts to study the Latin dance costumes.

The creative has also made more than 30 costumes by hand at his studios at the NEON Arts District in Norfolk and inside the artist cooperative For All Handkind at MacArthur Center, all through the support of JOANN Fabrics and Fabric Hut.

The "Encanto Cosplay Project" has even received praise from the people who made the film. Directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard gushed over it on Twitter, while actor Jessica Darrow, who played Luisa Madrigal, thanked the performers on Instagram.

The Latin performers who took part in the project said it was a way to reconnect with their own Latin heritage.

"As a person of color adopted from Colombia into a white family and white environment, it was easy to grow up with identity issues. 'Encanto's' themes of belonging, family, and the lesson that “you are more than your gifts” is one that I needed to hear," said Angelica Michelle, who cosplayed as Mirabel Madrigal, the film's protagonist.

Similarly, performer Aila Shai Castane, who portrayed Dolores Madrigal, said, "Blackness is deeply woven into the fabric of Latinidad. Latinos have been Black. We've been here. And our contributions to Latinx culture will always be present. Dolores' character is affirming in so many ways, and embodying her - even for one day - lets me know that I am seen and taking up space is something I will never shy away from. Because little Aila deserves it. Present-day Aila deserves it. And future Aila deserves the inclusive world I have been building and continue to build by simply being me without apology," Castane said.

If you plan on attending Tidewater Comicon in Virginia Beach on Saturday, May 14, you can meet many of the performers at the "Encanto"-themed photo booth.

You can check out more of the "Encanto Cosplay Project's" videos and some of Odango's other work on his official YouTube channel here.