Encanto is the 60th canonical animated film for Disney and it is an absolutely wonderful addition to the long history of animated masterpieces. Encanto is directed by Jared Bush (Zootopia, Moana) and Byron Howard (Zootopia, Tangled) and co-directed by Charise Castro Smith (The Haunting of Hill House). Charise Castro Smith and Jared Bush also wrote the screenplay for Encanto. And the film features an absolutely amazing soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Encanto introduces a magical Colombian family, the Madrigals. Each member of the Madrigal family has been given a magical ability when they came of age by the magic of their home, signified by an ever-burning candle. From super strength, to shape-shifting, or the ability to talk to animals, and more, except for Mirabel. Mirabel is the only member of the Madrigal blood line who was not bestowed a magical gift and thus has become the black sheep of the family.
Although she works hard to prove her worth in the family its clear she is putting on a brave face to hide the disappointment and insecurity this has caused. When her younger cousin is bestowed his magical gift Mirabel is the only one who notices a problem with the magic. She takes it upon herself to discover what is causing this problem with her family’s magic and find a way to fix it in hopes of proving herself to her Abuela Alma, a seemingly impossible task ever since she was not bestowed a magical gift.
Mirabel is an absolutely fantastic new Disney heroine with humor, heart, and awkwardness that makes her a truly endearing and relatable hero. Stephanie Beatriz’s voice acting is phenomenal as she infuses each moment with pathos or hilarity brilliantly. The entire cast brings their characters to life with John Leguizamo’s Bruno as another standout. Leguizamo incorporates insecurity, love, and doubt into Bruno while still bringing plenty of comedy into the mysterious uncle. Even the house is a character within itself, the personality shining through in every scene. While Mirabel may not have been given a magical gift the love that her home has for her is clear throughout Encanto giving her an intriguing ally in her journey.
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Encanto moves away from the classic fantastical quest of a hero defeating a monstrous villain. Instead Encanto is focused on the Madrigal family as Mirabel must discover secrets that her family hides in a much more nuanced and introspective tale. Over the course of Maribel’s investigation of what is affecting the magic she discovers secrets about her sisters, her Uncle Bruno, the original black sheep of the family, and even the tragic truth behind the creation of her home.
The powers themselves are brilliant in how they flesh out each character. Playing into the stereotypical roles in a family dynamic, with the strong older sister, the golden child, the loving mother who can fix any ailment with her cooking. But what might be most fascinating is the pressure these powers put on each character. With such a large cast it’s impressive that Encanto manages to give each character at least a moment to shine although some are much more developed than others.
ENCANTO FEATURES TRULY REMARKABLE ANIMATION AND OUTSTANDING MUSIC
The animation in Encanto is truly stunning. Encanto brings the Colombian village and La Casa Madrigal alive through lush colors and impressive attention to detail. From the individual bricks that make up the floor of the Madrigal’s homes to the lavish magical rooms that nearly every Madrigal was gifted. The character design alone stands out with each of the Madrigals clearly looking related yet simultaneously distinctive. Mirabel’s facial expressions are so rich and nuanced that they are reminiscent of live action in a way that other animated tales can lack.
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The music is used as part of the storytelling in a truly spectacular way. Offering insight into the characters and progressing the story or deepening the mystery of what is causing trouble with the Madrigal’s magic. “The Family Madrigal” quickly yet memorably manages to introduce the entire Madrigal clan and what each of their powers are. “Waiting On A Miracle” gets to the heart of Mirabel’s insecurities when it comes to her family and her place within it.
“Surface Pressure” and “What Else Can I Do” give Mirabel new insights into her two older sisters and allows them each a vulnerability that they were lacking. While “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” cleverly gives Mirabel a new clue in her quest to solve what is happening to the magic while also setting up a dynamic bond between Mirabel and her long-lost uncle. Encanto is brilliant in making the music integral in telling the story as well as developing characters and relationships.
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Encanto is a truly unique Disney film in its lack of villain. Encanto is not a tale of good versus evil where the heroine is on a mission to find and defeat a big bad. Instead Encanto focusses on the dysfunctions of this family with important lessons of self-worth, perception of others, familial expectations, and finding one’s place in the world at its core.
Encanto is the next installment in a long line of Disney animated films with a heroine at the center, but part of what makes Mirabel unique is how she discovers her own power while surrounded by a literal super powered family. Encatno is a tale full of nuance and pathos with trauma and the difficulties of family expectations at the forefront. The film is full of heart, humor, gorgeous animation, and truly magical musical numbers making it another standout animated Disney adventure.
Encanto hits theaters November 24, 2021. Are you going to see Encanto over Thanksgiving weekend? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media and check back with The Illuminerdi for more Disney and Encanto.
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