Before I start my review I’d like to give a shout-out to the little monthly podcast called Talking Disney Classics I’ve been doing with my friend Stanford for the last 3 years. Each month we get together and talk about one of the Disney Classic films. For November I’m extremely proud of the fact we recorded our 59th episode and am now finished with the classic side of the Disney Canon. We have actually recorded Encanto but it won’t post until December.
Over the course of the 3 years we have had wonderful guests on and had great discussions as we let the random number generator determine what Disney film we would be discussing…and we threw in a few bonus episodes in for good measure. I love the podcast and I think you will too.
But let’s talk about Encanto:
Encanto is the 60th film from Walt Disney Animation Studios and their 2nd film released this year. What an incredible world we live in that we get 2 Disney films, plus a Pixar film in one year. I was lucky enough to go to a preview for Encanto when I attended Animation is Film Festival and it was a great experience. We heard from director Jared Bush about how they wanted to tell a multi-generational story and how careful they were to honor the rich cultural traditions of Colombia where the film is set.
I don’t know how others will feel but in this critic’s opinion all their hard work paid off. With Encanto, the Disney team has created a film which will relate to anyone and that should entertain and uplift the entire family.
The most approachable part of Encanto lies within its lead character Mirabel (Stephanie Beatrix). She lives in a magical house called an encanto in a family full of superpowers like her Mother can heal through food, and her sister has massive strength. The only problem is the magic seems to have stopped with Mirabel and she doesn’t have a gift. And yet despite this disappointment Mirabel is a positive and uplifting character that tries hard to keep her family happy.
Who can’t relate to that? Don’t we all feel like outsiders in our own lives and families from time to time? I know I sure did growing up. Despite coming from a loving family I felt different and that I didn’t gel with the people around me well. I remember one day screaming out to my family ‘I’m the normal one. You all are the weird ones”. LOL. While not the most effective way to communicate it put into words the frustration of being a teenager and feeling like the world wasn’t made for me. This is Mirabel.
But not only do we get to know Mirabel. We become acquainted with her entire family. And it’s not a squeaky clean family. These are siblings that squabble, parents who fail to communicate, and even a Grandma character that can be quite selfish at times.
I loved all the characters but I especially enjoyed super strong Luisa (Jessica Darrow) and the outcast uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo). These 2 characters also get the 2 best songs in the show with “Surface Pressure” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”. The songs are of course by Lin-Manuel Miranda and in a very strong year it might be his best work yet. It’s also a standout to have 2 songs completely in Spanish, which has never happened in a Disney film before.
It probably goes without saying the animation in Encanto is stunning. The way the animators used light and color to create the atmosphere and tone is breathtaking. They also did an incredible job making the encanto home become a character within the film. Even something as simple as a floor tile becomes a way for the house to communicate with Mirabel. It’s both charming and engaging. The house also is bigger than the outside would let on. There are passageways to grand vistas and lands that Mirabel must conquer. This helps make sure the audience keeps getting surprised and delighted.
It seems some people had a hard time with Raya and the Last Dragon‘s themes of trust and forgiveness. I took it at face value and didn’t over-think it but I don’t think anyone will have problems with Encanto’s message. It’s themes are so universal focusing on family, self-confidence and accepting others flaws and all. Like I said, even the Grandma character is flawed and needs her family (and the entire town) to make it through the tough times.
We live in a special time for the art of animation. There are so many studios, films and voices fighting for our attention. I sincerely hope a lovely film like Encanto doesn’t get lost in the hustle because it is a wonderful cinematic treasure for the whole family.
8.5 out of 10
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