“Encanto” wows with vibrant visuals and songs


Graphic by Rosa Caramazza

“Encanto’s” stunning visual animation and enchanting soundtrack contribute to an enjoyable and uplifting movie.

Everyone wants to live up to their family’s expectations. But if your cousin can speak to animals, your aunt can control the weather, your sister can lift buildings and your uncle can see the future, making your family proud can be tricky.

The Madrigal family in Disney’s newest animated film, “Encanto,” (released Nov. 24, 2021) is quite special, to say the least. Their “casita,” an enchanted house gifted to the matriarch of the family by a miracle, gives each young Madrigal a special “gift” or power when they come of age. For example, Antonio Madrigal (Ravi-Cabot Conyers) can communicate with animals, Camilo Madrigal (Rhenzy Feliz) can shapeshift into any person and Julieta Madrigal (Angie Cepeda) can create food able to cure any illness or affliction.

But Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), our quirky and bespectacled protagonist, was not blessed with a “gift” like the rest of her family. When Mirabel finds out that her family’s casita and magical powers are in jeopardy, she takes it as an opportunity to prove herself to her Abuela (María Cecilia Botero) and everyone else that she’s good enough for her fantastical family.

The expertly-written music by none other than Lin Manuel-Miranda, the genius behind “Hamilton,” “In The Heights” and “Moana,” easily stole the show. As the movie is set in Colombia, the music includes strong Colombian influences and a variety of Colombian instruments. The songs are upbeat and catchy, especially “The Family Madrigal” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”

This movie is visually spectacular, as well. Most of the scenes consisted of bright and rich colors, from the flowers growing all over their casita to the tiny embroideries on the women’s dresses. One particularly spectacular scene was Isabela Madrigal’s song, “What Else Can I Do?” During this number, the setting was filled with cascading flower beds and explosions of rainbow-colored powders that added breathtaking visuals to support an already fabulous song.

Mirabel’s two older sisters, Luisa and Isabela, are the best example of the prevailing theme in “Encanto:” living up to your family’s expectations and making them proud. They each had songs that revealed their gifts: super strength for Luisa and the ability to conjure flowers for Isabela. The songs revealed that both gifts actually come with enormous pressures.

Luisa’s song, “Surface Pressure,” uncovers her insecurity that she would be worthless without her gift, and she feels both literal and figurative pressure from her family to carry significant loads. In Isabela’s aforementioned song, she confesses that she also feels the family burden of needing to be perfect and beautiful all of the time.

On the flip side, Mirabel’s own song, “Waiting On A Miracle,” shows how she feels disconnected from her family as the only member not granted a gift and how she continually strives to prove herself a worthy member despite thinking she’s unexceptional.

One subtle element of this movie that I appreciated was its deviation from the typical Disney movie storyline. Usually, in a Disney movie, the protagonist saves the village or family or world just in the nick of time, with a climax that resolves happily. But that didn’t happen to Mirabel; she didn’t end up saving her family’s magic. Towards the end, their casita crumbled, the colors in their town turned muted and their powers diminished. However, it was this literal falling apart of their world that allowed the family to unite closer together to rebuild their casita; The Madrigal family did get the “happily ever after” that we all know and love from Disney movies, only this time it came with a price.

Another subtle and slightly political theme worthy of recognition is that of creating a home from nothing. We learn at the beginning of the movie that the miracle that blessed the Madrigal family was given to Abuela after her husband died and she and her three newborns were forced out of their home. “Encanto” is not only a story about a young woman trying to fit into her family, but it is a story of that family’s matriarch trying to preserve the home that she worked hard to create for her children and grandchildren.

The additional obstacles for the main character and family were untraditional for a Disney movie, but they were an enjoyable surprise nonetheless. The stunning animations in conjugation with the music amplified the powerful themes. “Encanto’s” remarkable visuals, music and story make it a highly enjoyable and incredibly heartwarming family movie that left me, well, quite enchanted.