As odd as it may sound to say that I fell in love with a fictional, magical Colombian family, that's precisely what happened when Disney released its break-out success, "Encanto," a few Novembers ago.
"Encanto" is a realist tale about the Madrigal family, who acquire supernatural powers such as shape-shifting, controlling the weather, speaking to animals, super strength, healing, and blooming flowers after their “abuela” (grandmother), Maria, survives the tragedy of losing her husband and home to war. Everyone in the casita (house) receives a magical bedroom corresponding to their superpower, except for the main character, Mirabel, who gets neither of those things.
Directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard, along with the co-director Charise Castro, have created a touching story about a misfit who tries to save her family and casita from impending doom. To action lovers, the plot might seem meandering, for the plot only contains conflict created by intergenerational trauma. On the other hand, it surely has given a sense of belonging to many immigrant families, for it tells a story of a homeland lost and a magical home rebuilt on new land. The heartfelt story also gives the kids who have not experienced such pain, a chance to understand the feelings of those who have lost their homeland.
It is admirable that Disney took a more inclusive approach to storytelling by depicting characters from different cultures. It is also worth noting that within the Madrigal family itself, different skin tones and hair textures were displayed, representing a group of people that had never been represented in an animation before. The movie also celebrates Colombian culture by displaying flowers and animals specific to the region and incorporating their musical palette into the movie's songs.
The movie also shines in its vibrant animation and detailed design. The concept of magical doors leading to a new world and musical sequences has allowed abstract artistic freedom. The designers have incorporated Colombian fashion by designing the characters in ponchos, flowing embroidered skirts, colourful dresses, and guayaberas, demonstrating their attention to detail.
Speaking of musical sequences, most of the songs in the movie, in my opinion, are mediocre at best and lackluster, with the exception of the Billboard hit "What About Bruno?". Unfortunately, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote "Moana", could not live up to the expectations with this one, as most of the songs are forgettable and flimsy. Though the songs are a let-down, what isn't a total let-down is the boisterous voice cast starring Rosa Beatriz, Olga Merediz, Carolina Gaitán, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabet-Conyers, Wilder Valderrama, Maria Castillo, Maluma, and Adassa. Through her voice, Beatriz has done a commendable job of embodying the love and pain, the playfulness and goofiness of fifteen-year-old Mirabel.
It is wrong to imply that it’s merely Latinx people who identify with these characters. Encanto tackles familial issues and depicts stereotypical family dynamics. Therefore, it is safe to say that most of us can more or less relate to at least one of the Madrigals. You could be the eldest sibling who always has to be responsible and careful like Isabela, or the sibling who's under pressure due to certain expectations like Luisa, or the black sheep of the family like Mirabel. The themes of "family" and "intergenerational trauma" are universal. As a result, Encanto has become a tale that many can relate to in their own ways. The themes of “self-love” and “self-acceptance” play a vital role towards the end of the story, as the Madrigals break free from the limits their powers have created around them. Isabela fully embraces herself by letting herself have fun with Mirabel and bathing herself in splashes of colour, which leads to her creating something other than a flower: a cactus. Luisa learns to not give heed to people’s expectations of her and take occasional breaks.
Though it is a small-scale story, it has the ability to leave a lasting impression on viewers with its charming characters and gripping story. Regardless of its few missteps, Encanto is a heartwarming tale that has brought us viewers together during the pandemic, to give a heartfelt reminder of the importance of family and community.