Meriel examines Disney’s new Colombia-set animation that explores themes of difficult family dynamics and fulfilling self actualisation within that tension.
Encanto, Disney’s 60th animated feature film, is a family dramedy that takes place in Colombia. It follows the Madrigal family, who live in a magical house that grants each of them their own magical gift, which they use to help their community. The only one not to receive a gift is Mirabel, (Stephanie Beatriz) the film’s protagonist. When cracks start appearing in the charmed house and the magic appears to be fading, she is determined to save her family and their gifts, indeed it is her destiny.
Full of warm vibrant colours, the film is a visual masterpiece with many details of Colombian culture added with care. Each member of the family has their own room representing their gift, from a vast floral meadow to a mystical dune. Encanto also excels from a musical perspective. Lin Manuel Miranda, who contributed substantially to the Moana soundtrack, writes the songs, all of which are either extremely catchy or emotional and add to the story profoundly. The songs are accompanied by creative visual sequences, with several being elaborate music videos in their own right, which I can easily see being successfully adapted to the stage.
"The film is a visual masterpiece with many details of Colombian culture added with care..."
Much of the family dynamic is very wholesome, particularly Mirabel’s relationships with her mother and her little cousin Antonio. No matter their amount of screen-time, every character is memorable, with their gifts reflecting aspects of their personalities. Mirabel’s empathetic mother, Julieta, can heal injuries with her cooking while her aunt Pepa can control the weather with her emotions. Mirabel herself is a very likeable protagonist who loves her family fiercely and only wants to help them. Her conflict isn’t necessarily that she doesn’t have a gift, it’s that she wants to be as useful and valued as the others are to her Abuela, who runs the household. Mirabel’s story includes many poignant moments that will resonate with anyone who has felt like they are not good enough and desire to prove themselves to others, whether that be in a familial situation or otherwise. However, she also learns that her gifted sisters Luisa and Isabela have their own struggles, despite Luisa’s vital importance to the townspeople and Isabela being viewed as the golden child by Abuela. Even some of the gifts themselves can cause unfortunate repercussions. During the film, Mirabel enlists the help of a family member who I can’t talk about here (seriously, there’s a whole song about how they must not be mentioned), whose gift caused them to be ostracised by the community.
Ultimately Encanto is a story of a family learning to better support each other, realising they all have different strengths and weaknesses. With engaging characters, combined with cinematic animation and memorable music, it becomes an epic tale that builds up to a heartfelt and emotional payoff.
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