If you haven’t already added Encanto to your must watch list, do it now. While I have a special place in my heart for Belle, Raya, and recently, Elsa and Anna, Encanto might be my favorite Disney movie.
Before reading on, there might be a few spoilers.
First, let’s talk about the musical genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda. He has gifted us with some amazing songs in the past few years and his work with Encanto is no different. He has a way of bringing the audience to their feet and dance along!
The movie really embraces the cultural background of the Columbian family and traditions. Growing up with a large family with an emphasis placed on the matriarchs as the leader of the family, resonated with me. Alma, has the constant reminder that she is the one who must guide her family. The reminder that there are generational expectations – and hence, internal struggles, throughout the film reminded me of my upbringing as the eldest child.
While there is not one actual villain in the film, the struggles of each family member is what propels the character development.
The principal character, Mirabel Madrigal, struggles with disappointing her family, having not received a “gift.” In the Madrigal family, the expectation of having a gift to give back to their relatives and the community, is a heavy burden that she carries with her from the onset of the film, as the village children repeatedly as her what gift she has to offer.
The eldest sister, Isabela, carries the heavy burden of being “perfect” all the time. As the eldest of four children, I feel this to the core.
There is an expectation from day one that you should and will perform at your best, that you are setting the example for your siblings. This is an expectation that I carry with me to this day with everything that I set out to do. I am only now starting to realize that – no, you do not have to be perfect. As Isabela realizes in the film, once you reach this realization, you feel “free” and she sings that “So much hides behind my smile…What could I do if I just knew it didn’t need to be perfect? It just needed to be? And they’d let me be?”
The other sister, Luisa, sings about the pressure that is placed on her to be the “strong” one of the family, both literally and figuratively.
This character, I know is every single mother, especially at this point in time as we move into our third year of this ongoing pandemic. Luisa sings that “under the surface, I feel berserk as a tightrope walker in a three-ring circus…I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service.” How many times have we felt this way in a day? Too many to count, I’m sure! Moms are juggling schedules, last-minute cancellations, school closings, jobs, meals, and on top of it, is the societal pressure of doing this without cracking under the pressure. Moms shouldn’t have to feel this pressure alone, as Mirabel points out in the film.
The last character that I am in love with is Bruno. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, his song will be stuck in your head for weeks! This Madrigal family member is considered the black sheep, the outcast. His gift doesn’t make the family happy, and for that, he “disappears.” We do learn that he loves his family, but from afar, since he became the outcast. You cannot help, but love him for trying to do what’s best for the family.