Encanto Introduces A Different Plot in Disney’s 60th Animated Film

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No mistakes! Disney’s Encanto releases a distinctive plot that has rarely been seen before in Disney films, focusing on familial trauma instead of a main villain. Since the release of the film on Dec. 24, 2021, many people have found themselves relating to the film. 

Encanto focuses on the Madrigal family, each member gifted with special qualities that make them valuable to the family with the magic of Encanto. That is…except for Mirabel. Yet, Mirabel becomes Madrigal’s last hope when “La Casita”, the family’s magical home, is in deep danger.

“Our goal was to write about an intergenerational family and not have the central conflict of the movie be some huge quest, but actually the role we play within our families and how we see ourselves versus how we’re seen [by others],” Lin Manuel Miranda said. “[It] was really fun to write songs about how your siblings see you and how you see yourself — and about the black sheep of the family that we don’t talk about, but of course it’s all we whisper about.”

Unlike many popular Disney films such as Aladdin or The Lion King, Encanto focuses on the deep trauma that the Madrigal family holds instead of making the conflict come from an antagonist. 

“The main conflict in Encanto stems from familial trauma itself rather than an established villain, so it’s difficult to root against any character since they’re so easy to empathize with,” senior Thiviya Karuppasamy said. “For the longest time, Disney movies seemed to have a formulaic villain-hero structure, so this is pretty refreshing.

Mirabel is the black sheep, always finding herself getting caught up in situations that pull her further away from the family. She doesn’t hold power like “perfect Isabela” or “strong Luisa”. Even worse, her abuela chooses to ignore the fact that there is dark magic coming for the Madrigals, despite Mirabel’s desperate calls. 

With the year of 2020 hitting hard and revealing cultural diversity problems that have affected society and especially Hollywood, Disney has since brought more and more diverse films into the industry. This includes Mulan, Encanto, Shang-Chi, The Eternals and older films such as Coco and Moana.

Most of the Disney films I grew up watching rarely featured POC characters, if at all, so it’s nice to see much higher standards for representation in the company (and film industry as a whole) today,” Karuppasamy said. 

Even with their long strides in creating more diverse films, they still have long ways to go with representation in cultural films.

“The need to improve representation in Hollywood is a discussion that is as old as Hollywood itself,” Tambay Obenson of IndieWire said. “It’s absolutely critical that consistent efforts to address representation across the industry continue into next year and beyond.”

The film doesn’t focus on just Mirabel, but highlights the struggles with each family member despite having their “miracles”. With songs composed by Tick, Tick… Boom! director Lin Manuel Miranda, the lyrics describe each family member’s struggles through music. Miranda produced eight songs for the film Encanto including “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, “Surface Pressure”, and “Waiting On A Miracle”.

The songs were super catchy, the story was heartwarming, and it was great to see so much diversity,” Karuppasamy said.

According to Entertainment Weekly, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” has surpassed 2014 Frozen’s “Let It Go”, topping as the highest charting Disney animated film song in 26 years. 

“[The] music was good, [the] story was good, and throughout the movie she was trying to teach and tell everyone that they don’t need to be perfect to be strong and that their gifts didn’t describe the best of themselves,” junior Emma Geilmann said. 

For the longest time, Disney movies seemed to have a formulaic villain-hero structure, so this is pretty refreshing.”

— Senior Thiviya Karuppasamy

Though the music hit the right spot for many, some were not as affected by the soundtracks, arguing that the songs were not as catchy as others were in the past animated films. 

“The musical numbers didn’t feel as magical or catchy as past Disney films, and I feel like the whole story arc didn’t really make sense as a whole,” sophomore Nick Boswell said. “It felt kinda rushed and all over the place.”

The Disney+ animated film received good ranks on RottenTomatoes, averaging a 91% on the tomatometer overall with many users mentioning the overcoming trauma, the music, and the film “earned its tears.”

Many found Encanto relatable and realistic with the broken relationship between family members and how the film highlighted that instead of the main character venturing out into an unrealistic world. Its’ message portrays that imperfections become their gifts, and embracing it will only make it their strongest weapon. 

“They don’t need to be perfect to be strong and that their gifts didn’t describe the best of themselves,” Geilmann said. “[Mirabel] was telling them that their imperfections make them strong and who they are. She doesn’t have a gift because she shows that she’s strong and perfectly fine without one.”