A digital graphic artist reimagined Filipino versions of the Madrigal sisters from the Disney film “Encanto.”
Junrel Bardon, a 24-year-old artist from Negros Occidental, Philippines, created realistic illustrations based on Filipino actresses Nadine Lustre and Maine Mendoza and Olympic weightlifting champion Hidilyn Diaz.
For all three illustrations, Bardon also turned the characters’ outfits into traditional Filipino clothing, such as the Filipiniana for Nadine Lustre, the Baro’t -Saya for Maine Mendoza and the Kamiseta de Chino for Hidilyn Diaz.
“While watching Disney’s ‘Encanto,’ I noticed a similarity in culture and family values between the Filipinos and Colombians,” Bardon told NextShark. “And I really saw Nadine Lustre in Isabela’s character, and that’s how I started to think, ‘What if there’s a Filipino live-action version of Encanto?’ Then, I turned on my computer and started to create my first digital artwork for ‘Encanto.’”
Bardon shared his illustrations on his Facebook art page “Rel Disenyo” on Jan. 11. Soon after, he received praise on social media and was even featured by various media publications.
“Filipinos gave pride to some Disney movies like ‘Mulan’ and ‘Aladdin’ when [Filipino singer] Lea Salonga was cast as the singing voice of Mulan and Jasmine,” Bardon shared. “The latest Disney Princess movie called ‘Raya and The Last Dragon’ was inspired by Southeast Asian culture, and that includes Filipino culture. Aside from the catchy songs and music of ‘Encanto,’ Filipinos really saw themselves represented in this movie. Colombian culture has similarities to Filipino culture in terms of family values and personalities of the characters. I, myself, wanted to see what a Filipino live-action movie was that was produced by Disney. That’s also how my idea started.”
“Rel Disenyo” came alive during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when the Philippines went into lockdown. Bardon worked as a Solutions Implementation Specialist, designing websites and digital applications. With enough time to spare, he decided to create his own page to post his artworks online.
“I am a digital artist who is very fond of expressing my imagination through a reality-based type of art style,” Bardon said. “Most of my arts recently were photo manipulation with a mix of digital painting and illustration. These artworks might be a depiction of a person, 3D miniature objects, or places from a movie or real life.”
“‘Rel Disenyo’ now has gained its popularity through social media as a digital artist [sic] of turning movies or imagination into reality, that’s why I also redefined the name ‘Rel Disenyo’ as ‘Reality Design,’” he added. The name “Rel” comes from his first name “Junrel” and the word “Real,” while “Disenyo” is the Tagalog word for “Design.”
Maine Mendoza, a Filipina actress and television personality, served as Bardon’s inspiration for the recreation of “Encanto” main protagonist Mirabel Madrigal, the youngest and only non-magical daughter of a gifted family.
“After searching through a bunch of Filipina famous personalities, based on their physical and on-screen personalities, I found Maine Mendoza for Mirabel, while Hidilyn Diaz for Luisa,” Bardon explained. “Maine Mendoza was famously known for her comical-stint from a TV show called ‘Eat Bulaga’ as ‘Yaya Dub,’ and I really believe she can pull off the character of Mirabel.”
Nadine Lustre is one of the most popular actresses and singers in the Philippines. In Bardon’s illustrations, she stars as Isabela Madrigal, who is seen as the golden child of the Madrigal family and has the power to conjure flowers and plants.
“I really saw Nadine Lustre in Isabela’s character in terms of physical and personality basis,” Bardon said, explaining that Lustre led to the beginning of his Filipino “Encanto” project.
“Hidilyn Diaz was no doubt the perfect fit for the role of Luisa, not just because of her physique and strength, [but] she also lifted the Philippines to its first-ever Gold Medal in the Olympics, just like how Luisa lifted her family’s burden and responsibilities,” Bardon told NextShark.
Given the popularity of his “Encanto” artwork, Bardo decided to create a survey for his followers on “Rel Disenyo” to see what other Filipino personalities people thought would best fit the roles of more “Encanto” characters.
“After the survey, the winning casts will be the ones I’ll use to create the next batch of digital fan art of the ‘Encanto movie’ to be posted in early February,” Bardon told NextShark.
As of Jan. 28, Bardon posted the survey results of his Filipino “Encanto” cast. The winners included actress and producer Coney Reyes as Abuela Alma Madrigal and comedian-actor Pepe Herrera as Bruno. Bardon has yet to release his digital art for the remaining characters.
Bardon’s recent artwork can be viewed on his website, while his behind-the-scenes look into the process of creating his realistic illustrations is also on his official YouTube channel.
All Images via Junrel Bardon