Maya and the Three’s big-nose witch has a Looney Tunes connection

Netflix’s animated series Maya and the Three is a sweeping fantasy epic set in a Mesoamerican-inspired world. Creators and husband-wife team Jorge Gutiérrez and Sandra Equihua drew from a variety of Mayan, Incan, and Aztec myths and visual inspiration for their nine-episode animated epic, but from the get-go, they wanted to put a modern twist onto the ancient legends of heroes venturing into the underworld.

“How do I hack that myth?” Gutiérrez recalls asking. “In all the mythology I read, women tended to be the sleeping princess or the victim or the witch. How do we — with all the respect to mythology — how do we change it to reflect today?”

Not only did the female characters like Maya, a warrior princess and Chimi become more feminine but so was the look. While Gutiérrez and Equihua drew many of the mythological figures straight from the cultures they surveyed — much as Gutiérrez drew on existing myth for his 2014 animated film Book of Life — a lot of their character design came from popular movies, television, and video games. The otherwise timeless fantasy setting is given a contemporary edge by this. Maya’s design, for instance, was influenced by Chun Li from Street FighterWith a dash of Princess from Battle of the PlanetsWhen it came to her armor for warriors. Picchu the giant warrior was influenced by Conan, the Barbarian. Rooster Wizard Rico, meanwhile, was inspired by Gutiérrez’s favorite artist, Basquiat.

chimi the archer, picchu the warrior, and rico the wizard with glowing weapons ready to battle

Image by Netflix

One design stands out among all of the strong warriors, Gran Bruja, the head witch on Rooster Island (voiced Queen Latifah), and her discolored, twisting nose. Equihua burst into laughter when I asked her about the subject during a press conference.

“We had such a fight about that!” Equihua laughs.

As it turns out, while Equiha and Gutiérrez collaborated very well together on most of the show, this character’s nose ended up being a source of contention. Exaggerating Bruja’s nose was Gutiérrez’s way of paying homage to two of his biggest influences.

“I’m a big lover of Looney Tunes. Witch Hazel has an unusual nose, which is beautiful. That design is amazing. And ‘Gran Brujah’ literally means ‘the big witch,’” explains Gutiérrez. “So when I designed her, I’m like, ‘I’m going to do the biggest, craziest nose I can do.’ I also love Sergio Aragones, and he has a character named Groo. These are the two main inspirations for my drawings. I drew her — it was crazy.”

“It was Do it twice the size!” Equihua cuts him off. “She was literally dragging it, and I was like, ‘We are It is notThis is what we are going to do. We are gonna chop it!’ And I chopped it down one day a little too much. Jorge almost threw my desk at me, he was so angry.” She laughs. “And I was like, ‘You know what, let’s just compromise and go halfway.’”

Ultimately, the person who decided Gran Brujah’s look was the voice actress herself: Queen Latifah.

“I showed it to Queen Latifah and told her the whole story,” recounts Gutiérrez. “And she’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, man, I love this.’”

Maya and The ThreeAvailable on Netflix Now

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