Disney Animation is going international, exploring the lush world of Columbia in its newest film, Encanto. It’s vibrant, diverse, and magical, begging the question: does the studio have another Disney classic on its hands?
Encanto tells the tale of the Madrigal family, who lives in a magical home that bestows each family member with unique gift when they come of age. Well…everyone except Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). No one knows why the home didn’t bless Mirabel with a gift, but nonetheless she’s constantly reminded that gifts are of the utmost importance to the family. There’s her perfect sister Isabela (Diane Guerrero) who makes beautiful flowers bloom everywhere, her other sister Luisa (Jessica Darrow) who touts superhuman strength. Her aunt Pepa (Carolina Gaitán) controls the weather with her emotions, and her mother Julieta (Angie Cepeda) heals people with her cooking. Even her youngest cousin Antonio can speak to animals.
The family is led by the matriarch, Abuela Alma (María Cecilia Botero), who years ago received a miracle from whence the casita and the gifts sprung. She considers the family’s gifts an honor and has set the example of selflessly using the gifts to bless the town. This emphasis on gifts, however, makes Mirabel feel worthless despite her best attempts to shrug it off. But all things start to crumble, when Mirabel discover that the casita is losing its own magic, which would cause the entire family to lose theirs in turn.
The large Magrigal family makes for quite a large cast of characters, which could be overwhelming. Yet despite this, everyone feels developed and memorable. The family, while empowered with their gifts, feels like a real family. And just as the home begins to lose its powers, we begin to see each family members’ perfect facade crack and peel. Even the magical home where the family resides explodes with personality and humor.
In true Disney Animation fashion, it’s brimming with bubbly music, featuring eight original songs written by Hamilton and Moana songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda. The songs feel very Broadway and have that Miranda hipness and flair. “The Family Madrigal” is a wonderful opening number, introducing each family member and their special ability, while also cleverly presenting the film’s main conflict: Mirabel’s lack of a gift and ambivalent attempts to shrug it off. Other songs like “We Don’t About Bruno” and Mirabel’s “I Want” song, “Waiting for a Miracle,” are powerful, fun, and expertly move the plot forward and no doubt will become timeless classics blasting on future Disney playlists.
The great thing about Encanto is that nearly every part of it feels novel, from the paradisiacal setting with the magical casita to the quirky cast of characters. Even the plot is unexpected. There isn’t a mustache-twirling villain in the traditional sense, but rather, the family’s day-to-day conflict is the main antagonist, which is very refreshing.
Encanto is a delightfully charming animated musical that plays tribute to Latin culture and multi-generational families. Every frame of the film is filled with Disney magic. From its extraordinary visuals and top-tapping songs, you’ll leave filling uplifted and enamored with la familia Madrigal.
Encanto is out in theaters today.
Edited by: Kelly Conley