Encanto is Disney's latest offering, first hitting theaters in late November of 2021 before becoming available on Disney+ just a month later. Filled with colorful, magical imagery and stunning, catchy music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Encanto is another hit from Walt Disney Animation Studios, falling into theme with Disney's newer age of more 'woke' titles, including Luca, Frozen and Tangled.
Following the story of the magical, fantastical Madrigal family, Encanto is a tale of family and the magic inside us all. Utilizing metaphor throughout the entire film to heighten the story of Mirabel as she navigates her role as the only non-magical member of the Amazing Madrigals, Encanto truly thrives with its incredible attention to detail.
What Is Encanto About?
The story begins with Abuela Alma and her husband Pedro fleeing their native Columbian village from colonizers to protect themselves and their three infant children. After Pedro tragically sacrificed himself to save his family, Alma received a gift by way of a magical candle, instantly shielding her and her people from the approaching enemy. Over the years, as her children and grandchildren came of age, they each received their own individual gifts from the candle aligned with their personalities and natural strengths. Abuela preached that the Madrigal family gifts must be used to better serve their community, to honor the gift they received so many years ago. This system worked, granting each member of the family gifts until it was Mirabel's turn to receive hers -- and she didn't get one.
On the surface, Encanto appears to be a tale about the pressures of living up to family expectations even in the face of adversity. However, the plot runs much deeper than that, revealing underlying themes of generational trauma and abuse, the effects of colonization on native culture and ultimately, self-love and acceptance. Upon first viewing, it's easy to get caught up in the catchy songs and bright and colorful visuals, but it's these very details that provide the entire backbone of the film.
Each Character's Costume Reflects Their Gift
The outfits that the Madrigal family wears are not only traditional and colorful, but each one features subtle hints that directly correlate to the wearer's magical gift. Isabella, the inherently perfect grandchild with the ability to make flowers bloom, wears a lavender-hued gown embellished with intricate floral designs. Luisa, empowered with enhanced strength, has dumbbells on the bottom of her skirt while Tía Pepa, whose mood affects the weather, wears sun-shaped earrings and even has sun rays on the collar of her dress and little drops of rain on the bottom of it. Mirabel's costume is a combination of nearly everyone's designs, with her outfit featuring flowers like Isabella's, and also adorned with butterflies, similar to Abuela's dress. This also mimics the design of the magic candle that powers their Casita and gives everyone their powers.
The Symbolism of the Butterflies
Butterflies are abundant within Encanto, and their metaphorical meaning shines throughout the film. When first receiving the gift through the magic candle at the beginning of the movie, Abuela and her fellow townspeople are instantly shielded from their enemies by mountains and walls, quite literally cocooning them in safety. The song that underscores Alma and Abuelo Pedro's first meeting is Los Origuitas, which translates to "two caterpillars," both growing and evolving from two separate people into a fully-fledged family. Butterflies are also featured heavily within the design of Casita itself, which could symbolize how the house serves as the protective cocoon of the Madrigals.
Butterflies also symbolize Mirabel's transformation and ultimate acceptance of herself. Since not receiving her gift as a child, Mirabel's mantra has always been "make your family proud." She strives every day to be helpful to her family and her town despite the fact she doesn't have super-strength, the ability to shape-shift or heal others, desperately trying to regain Abuela's approval and acceptance. Throughout the film, Mirabel evolves like a butterfly in her own right, helping her family break down their emotional walls and showing true vulnerability while discovering that even though she doesn't have powers, her presence in her family is the true Madrigal gift.
Encanto's music also plays a huge role in the film's overall atmosphere. The upbeat musical numbers feature thrilling percussion and sweeping ensemble vocals that drive the story, fueling it with a traditional sound and interweaving certain musical motifs throughout the film to help solidify the storyline even further. It's nearly impossible to catch all the tiny details within the film with one watch, but fan responses have proven Encanto has solidified its place as a beloved Disney offering, making it truly the gift that keeps on giving.
To witness the magic, Encanto is currently streaming on Disney+.
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