I just made something unexpected.
Something sharp, something new.
It’s not symmetrical or perfect,
But it’s beautiful and it’s mine.
What else can I do?
The joy of creating something new and exciting transcends artforms. Be it music, writing, drawing or magically creating flora, there’s a distinct joy to creating things that’s really hard to describe. Disney movies have often been inspiring. I remember watching Tarzan as a kid and just loving the music, feeling like I wanted to put something into the world too. When I was a child I watched many Disney movies. The little mermaid, Tarzan, Lion King, Pocahontas, Snow White. I could keep going as I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a majority of Disney’s animated movies that came out before the year 2000. After that I kind of stopped watching them. I was 8 or 9 and it didn’t interest me as much anymore. I definitely wouldn’t go to the cinema to watch a Disney movie anymore and by the time the newer ones were readily available I was a teenager. The only “new” Disney movie I’ve seen is Frozen, and although that was a perfectly adequate movie, it wasn’t anything fantastic. Encanto is the first Disney movie I’ve seen in a long time that renewed that joyful feeling inside of me. So let’s talk about it today. It may not be anime, but I hope you’ll forgive me for skipping a week and talking about this western animated movie instead. This contains minor spoilers.
Part 1: The story
Encanto tells the story of Mirabel Madrigal, a young daughter of the Madrigal family. Their family had to escape from their old village a long time ago, when her grandfather was killed. A magical candle then appeared to save them, and every member of the family has gotten a gift since that day. Mirabel’s mom can heal with food, her aunt controls the weather (using the word control loosely here), her cousins and sisters have super strength, transformation, creating flowers, crazy good hearing and controlling animals. And her uncle Bruno, well, we don’t talk about Bruno. Mirabel didn’t get a gift when it was her time to get one, and it’s been weighing on her. Of course it has. When people’s powers start having a bit of trouble and the house they live in starts showing cracks it’s Mirabel’s time to figure out what the hell is going on. And the key to all of this is probably her uncle Bruno, the one they don’t talk about. His gift is that of visions. That’s a gift that rarely goes well.
Part 2: The characters
The characters in this show are Colombian. At the very least the Madrigal family is, I don’t want to make unnecessary broad assumptions. We focus solely on the family. There’s some other characters that get a line or two, but the movie doesn’t waste time on anyone outside of the main family. The three children of Abuela each get a little bit of screen time and are used for some jokes and funny moments. The focus lies on the grandchildren, Mirabel’s generation.
Luisa is the strong one. She can carry pretty much anything and does all of the hard physical labor in town. She lifts things, moves donkeys around and is even seen relocating an entire church at some point. Under the surface she has doubts though and is a human just like everyone else.
Dolores has super hearing. This is not the place to go into the details of all of these gifts but I’m willing to bet that having this gift in real life would drive you completely insane very quickly. Being able to hear everything around you all the time would suck. Dolores seems to be okay though.
Camilo can transform into other people and seems to be very laid-back and humorous. He even transforms into his father at some point and makes fun of him.
Antonio is the youngest kid. He gets his gift during this movie and is the movie’s way of showing us how the ceremony works. He’s a very nice kid who cares about Mirabel and shows this.
Isabella is perfect in every single way. She makes perfect flowers and never does anything wrong. She gets along poorly with Mirabel.
Mirabel is the main character. Without a gift but with a strong bond with the house itself, Casita, she is the one who has to be up to the task and save the family. And for this she needs her uncle Bruno. Bruno saw a vision a while ago and then vanished. We find out that he’s not actually really gone as the movie progresses and he becomes a focal point of the movie as well.
And last but not least is Abuela. She’s the matriarch of the family and the one who’s trying to save the family as well, but mainly does so by hiding the fact that things are going wrong.
I think overall the characters are well written, even the ones that only serve a small role seem to be well fleshed out. They all have their own lives and moods and behaviors and they really feel like family, albeit a somewhat dysfunctional one.
Part 3: The songs
The selling point of any Disney movie, be it old or new, is the music. Some of my favorite songs of all time come from Disney movies. Tarzan, Lion King, Hercules, Brother Bear and many more have created songs I could perfectly sing along to word for word. And this movie definitely adds songs to that list. The soundtrack is partially handled by Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose work I’ve talked about a little bit before (Hamilton mainly). He has a recognizable style and it’s great. “Surface Pressure”, “We don’t talk about Bruno”, “Dos Oruguitas” and “What else can I do?” are quickly becoming some of my favorite Disney songs. I’ve watched some RoomieOfficial videos where he talks about the songs as well and he seems to think they’re good too. I’m no musical expert, I just like the sound of certain songs or the message the lyrics have. That’s why so far “What else can I do?” is my favorite song. It’s a song about breaking the norm and creating what you want and not what you think other people want you to create. Be yourself and express yourself is such an important message to send. And many of the songs have nice messages. I’m less inclined to find meaning in Dos Oruguitas since I don’t speak the language, but I can tell you that it sounds absolutely beautiful.
Part 4: The finishing touches
Let’s quickly talk about some of the other things. The film is quite short, and could probably do with a little bit more room to breathe, but on the upside it also doesn’t waste any time. I’ve seen enough movies that feel dull at some point or another so it is also kind of nice to have a movie get right to the point.
The voice acting is great. I’m not very familiar with Colombian culture, but everything here looks very colorful and nice. The people seem so welcoming, so if it’s representative of Colombian culture it’s painting a very lovely picture.
Mirabel is voiced by Stephanie Beatriz who I primarily know from portraying Rosa Diaz in Brooklynn 99. It’s a very different role but she performs it amazingly and is very believable. I found all of the other voice acting to sound very natural as well.
And the animation, well, it’s a Disney movie. It looks amazing, it’s extremely detailed, there’s fun hidden stuff and like I mentioned earlier it’s very colorful.
My final thoughts are pretty obvious at this point. I had an absolute blast watching this movie and it convinced me to try and watch a few more western animated movies. I’ve had some recommendations thrown my way, so I best get on that soon. Overall I’d highly recommend you watch this movie and then play the soundtrack on repeat afterwards, like I’m doing. I’m listening to it as I’m writing this. Thanks for reading.