In ‘The Casagrandes Movie,’ a family trip to Mexico turns into a wild adventure

A new animated fantasy comedy movie that follows the adventures of a preteen Latina who wants to do her own thing while surrounded by her multigenerational Mexican American family premieres Friday on Netflix.

“The Casagrandes Movie” extends the fun of the Nickelodeon series that ran for three years before wrapping up in 2022. The film features Ronalda “Ronnie Anne” Santiago — who first appeared as a character in Nickelodeon’s “The Loud House” before getting her own series — who’s looking forward to spending summer vacation skateboarding with her friends, but is instead surprised with a family trip to Mexico to visit her relatives for her 12th birthday.

Voiced by actor Izabella Alvarez, Ronnie Anne ends up accidentally freeing the ancient, angst-filled demigod Punguari of the Purépecha, an Indigenous community in the Mexican state of Michoacán.

The Casagrandes Movie
Ronnie Anne in “The Casagrandes Movie” ends up accidentally an ancient demigod of the Purépechas in Mexico.Netflix / Nickelodeon Animation Studios

“The best part for me is that we got to represent the Purépecha community — you hear about Aztecs and Mayans, but there are many Indigenous cultures in Mexico,” director Miguel Puga told NBC News in an interview. Puga grew up traveling to that region of Mexico during his own summer and winter school breaks.

The movie included cultural consultants to ensure correct and appropriate language and images, and while it’s largely in English, the film includes some Spanish and Purépecha.

The cast includes actors Sonia Manzano, who played the iconic María on “Sesame Street”; Cristo Fernández of “Ted Lasso” fame; and Kate del Castillo.

“When I do anything, I always think, ‘What would I want to watch?’ And representation is always something fought for in this movie; my daughter is 10 years old, and I want her to see herself in the characters,” Puga said. “People can say, ‘Hey, there are people that look like me.’ This movie is fun for all ages.”

The movie “deals with some mother-daughter drama that is universal, and it features ‘la chancla,’ which is also universal — that’s a funny part and a big part of the movie,” Puga said, referring to the “chancla force” unleashed by Ronnie Anne’s grandmother when she uses her “chancla,” or house slippers, as a weapon.

Cartoonist and humorist Lalo Alcaraz is one of the movie’s writers and a cultural consultant.

“The family trips to Mexico are something real common around the West and Southwest because we’re so close to the border, but it may not be known to many elsewhere, so I’m glad we were able to show that,” he said. “And you don’t normally see the Mexican culture from Michoacán. I want us to see ourselves reflected not just in a positive way but also in a realistic way, and cartoons, animation, is a good way to tell the truth.

“I want people to enjoy seeing themselves and being reminded of their families, and maybe it will inspire people to go to Mexico more and for some to go to get to know their background,” Alcaraz said.

The Casagrandes Movie
A birthday party gift becomes an adventure in Mexico in “The Casagrandes Movie.” Netflix / Nickelodeon Animation Studios

Rosemary Contreras, previously a story editor and writer on several shows including “Dora the Explorer,” “Go, Diego, Go!” and “Dora and Friends,” is also one of the movie’s writers and was planning to take her 12-year-old daughter, a “huge” “Casagrandes” fan, to the premiere.

“As a child growing up in the San Fernando Valley (California), we never had this,” Contreras said. “So the fact that I can give my daughter a movie that has not only an awesome all-brown familia, along with the cast and a lot of the crew, it’s a dream come true. It’s such a rare thing.”

Puga said he was still “pinching myself every day because I got to direct this movie. … Putting more of us on the screen is something I want to keep doing.”

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