As the title suggests, Encanto turns out to be another charming addition to the Disney family.
Through Briony Havergill, Cinema and television, third year
Set in a fantastic version of Colombia, Encanto follows the Madrigal family as they struggle to preserve the miracle offered to their matriarch, Abuela Alma (María Cecilia Botero). Each family member has a unique magical ability, all but the protagonist, Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). As the family begins to cringe under the weight of Abuela Alma’s high expectations, Mirabel uses her natural gifts to save the Madrigals from themselves.
At the heart of Encanto is a collection of heavy and emotionally charged themes, from generational trauma to the pressures of perfectionism and expectations. These are handled in a surprisingly sensitive and accessible way, largely through the songs written by Lin Manuel-Miranda. Some of these musical numbers segment these themes sharply, perhaps too sharply, which may put off an older audience. However, I believe the songs break these difficult concepts down into satisfying bite-sized chunks.
Encanto features a wide range of characters, which inevitably means that some characters don’t have enough development or screen time. Fan favorites Dolores (Adassa) and Camilo (Rhenzy Felix), cousins of Mirabel, have such aesthetic characters and interesting gifts that they could have been used more in the film.
However, this wide distribution results in some excellent ensemble songs, such as We’re not talking about Bruno, which is Disney’s best original song in a while. Each Madrigal sings the mysterious Tío Bruno (John Leguizamo) of Mirabel, who is said to have “disappeared”. The colorful palette, expressive animation, and ingenious use of each character’s gifts make the sequence a pleasure to watch; while the talented voice cast and signature flair of Miranda make her a privilege to listen to.
It is evident that Disney has put a lot of thought and effort into its portrayal of Colombia in Encanto. Disney created a Colombian Cultural Trust to advise on the film, undertook a research trip to Colombia in 2018, and hired an entire cast of Colombian heritage.
Despite this, it is disappointing that the core writing and directing team is all-American, and that the presentation of key cultural elements (i.e. food and clothing aspects) seems to be more of an amalgamation of Latin America than specifically Colombian. However, I’m not Colombian, and I agree that this means my take on the exact portrayal is limited at best.
Overall, while Encanto does not have the scope or sense of adventure seen in other recent Disney movies like Moana (2016) or Frozen 2 (2019), its heartfelt focus on family, gripping animation, and catchy songs secure it a solid place in the upper echelons of Disney’s catalog.
i will come back to Encanto see you again soon, impatient to relive the magic.
Featured Image: IMDB
Did you find Encanto really magical?