I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first saw trailers for Disney’s Encanto. Disney animated films always have a certain level of standard, but there are definitely tiers to those levels. I really thought Encanto was going to be a standard affair, another world jaunting adventure to save the magic of the house and other characters by the one with no powers. Nothing special. I’m happy to say that this movie surprised me. It wasn’t what I was expecting and brought a breath of fresh air to the Disney catalog.
Welcome to Family Madrigal
Encanto revolves around the family Madrigal, living in their magic house hidden within the mountains of Colombia after a tragic event witnessed by the matriarch Abuela Alma Madrigal (Maria Cecilia Botero). Alma is given a magic candle that gives her three children, and in turn their children, special gifts. All except for our heroine, Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). Mirabel is a quirky and caring girl who does her best to support her family even though she feels a bit like an outcast. Beatriz knocks it out of the park here. There’s always an underline empathetic sincerity to her portrayal. And she’s got the pipes to really empathize the joy, pain, and worry with her songs.
There are her two sisters, Luisa (Jessica Darrow) and Isabela (Diane Guerrero), who have super strength and plant growth respectively. Then there’s her cousins Dolores (Adassa) who has super hearing, Camilo (Rhenzy Feliz) who can shape shift, and little Antonio (Ravi-Cabot Conyers) who receives the power to talk with animals. We also have Mirabel’s parents, Agustín Madrigal (Wilmer Valderrama) and Julieta (Angie Cepeda) who can heal with cooking, her uncle Félix Madrigal (Mauro Castillo) and aunt Pepa Madrigal (Carolina Gaitán) who can control the weather, and Bruno (John Leguizamo) who can see the future. They don’t talk about Bruno. With such a big family, the movie does a great job portraying the family dynamic. Everyone is their own character, and everyone feels unique.
Not What I Expected
During the celebration for Antonio’s gift reveal, Mirabel finds that the magic of the house is starting to wane. While no one believes her, she is determined to solve the mystery and protect her family. The story of Encanto wasn’t quite what I was expecting; however, it’s definitely for the better. The trailers made it seem like it was going to be more of an adventure film a la the Frozen series. However, it was much more of an intimate and introspective film. Exploring how expectations, both self and ones placed upon you, can affect you even with good intentions, how misunderstandings and fear can cause a family to break apart, and how in the end love and communication can save it. I was really surprised where the film went. It’s definitely still a Disney movie, but I like that the formula was shaken up a bit.
Visually, it’s an exceptional film. The environments pop with vibrant colors and design. But what’s really amazing is the Latin culture, along with the diverse shades of skin tone and character design. It really makes the world feel alive and lived in when everyone looks and feels unique. I loved seeing characters like Salsa, casually speak Spanglish and have the mannerisms you generally don’t get with a Disney movie. It’s not a perfect representation, but the film has deservedly gotten a lot of buzz from the Latin community loving the film. It’s good to see Disney showing more diverse and well told stories.
Music to my Ears
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who previously worked with Disney on Moana, returns to provide the music along with Germaine Franco composing the score. While the songs in Moana still feel mostly Disneyesque, Encanto feels A LOT more like Lin-Manuel’s style. Honestly, it works really well for the film and is a nice change of pace from the standard Disney song. It still feels very rooted in Disney, but a lot of the songs incorporates the “Lin-Manuel rap” style. It will throw some people off who aren’t used to hearing that style in Disney movies, but it absolutely works. All the songs are great, and there are definitely “Disney style” songs here. But I have read some people not enjoying these songs like they have for other films. They’re wrong though.
Encanto is a fantastic film that shakes up the typical Disney formula. With amazing visuals, a stellar story, and a great soundtrack, Encanto is one of the best animated films Disney has recently put out. Everyone should run out and see this magical film!