Encanto: a wondrous, charmed place. In this instance, it’s a magical home hidden away in the mountains of Colombia… And the setting of Disney’s latest animated feature.
In the film, the magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the Madrigal family with a unique gift—every child except one, Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). But when Mirabel discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is in danger, she realizes she might just be her exceptional family’s last hope.
The voice cast also includes María Cecilia Botero, Wilmer Valderrama, Adassa, Diane Guerrero, Mauro Castillo, Angie Cepeda, Jessica Darrow, Rhenzy Feliz and Carolina Gaitan.
The Family Madrigal
What truly makes Encanto stand out is its emphasis on family. Now, I know “family themes” sounds like pretty standard fare for a Disney film. But think about it—when have you seen so many members of the same family on a Disney screen before? And extended family, too—aunts and uncles and cousins. Just by including these dynamics in the fim, Disney is already reaching into new territory. (And representing more real-life families while doing it.)
Admittedly, with a dozen family members and a runtime of under 100 minutes, you’re not spending a ton of time with each person. But somehow even with briefer appearances, it’s easy for viewers to see glimpses of their own family in the Madrigals, from your gossipy aunt to your life-of-the-party cousin.
More importantly, Encanto does an incredible job of linking the personalities and emotional struggles of the Madrigal family directly to their gifts. Elder sister Luisa has the gift of super-strength, but worries she can’t bear the emotional burdens of her family. The beautiful Isabela literally sprouts flowers where she walks, but becomes so obsessed with embodying perfection she never enjoys her life. Bruno sees the future, but his openness about less-than-stellar events to come turned him into a bad omen in the eyes of the community.
Of course, Mirabel finds herself the odd one out in her family—the only one without a gift of her own. (Or a gift of the magical variety, at least.) What Mirabel lacks in special powers, she soon realizes she holds in bravery and sheer determination.
Animation & Representation
Put simply, Encanto is a beautiful film, bursting with life, color, and magic. From the structure of the Madrigals’ magical casita to the detailed embroidery on Mirabel’s clothes, it’s clear the production went to great lengths to capture the look and feel of Colombia in the movie.
Similarly, plenty of care went into the character design for the film. I love that the movie used the opportunity of having a larger ensemble cast to represent a variety of body types, skin tones, hair textures and more. Combined with each of the Madrigal’s distinct personalities, this makes it so easy to see each character as a real person.
It wouldn’t be a Disney animated feature without music. So, what does Encanto have to offer?
First off, the film’s music comes from award-winning composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda famously composed the musical Hamilton, and previously worked on the Disney feature Moana.
That said, the music in Encanto is definitely the best when it’s a little less… well, stereotypically Disney. Like a lot of Disney flicks, Mirabel gets her own heroine ballad, “Waiting on a Miracle”. It’s in no way a bad song, but I think Disney’s been chasing the high of Frozen’s “Let It Go” for a few years now and hasn’t managed to hit that level again. It sounds pretty generically Disney-fied, and for me wasn’t particularly memorable.
However, the songs that branch out more from the typical Disney sound and formula are definitely winners. Luisa’s anthem “Surface Pressure” really hit me emotionally as the eldest sister in my family; it’s also got a fun, modern-pop-radio feel and one of the funniest visual sequences to accompany it. Similarly, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” stands out, as it leans into much more distinctive Latin music roots.
Finally, “Dos Oruguitas”, the emotional ballad at the climax of the film, captures an old-timey feel unlike anything else in the movie. I genuinely thought this must be a pre-existing song carefully handpicked to join the official score; but no, it’s another Miranda original! The performance by Sebastián Yatra is beautiful, and serves as another tie-in to the movie’s Colombian setting.
Welcome to the Disney family, Madrigals!
For being a film about a family with magical powers, Encanto stays surprisingly grounded. The magical realism puts family dynamics front and center, which keeps the emotional heart of the film strong even in places where the plot drags or falters a bit.
Overall, Disney’s Encanto is vivid and imaginative. You’ll fall in love with the Madrigal family immediately.
Encanto premieres in theaters November 24.
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