Disney’s ‘Encanto’ celebrates cultural representation

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Fair use image by Disney

Each member of the Madrigal family, including Mirabel, the main character is pictured. The story of this magical family quickly became one of the most successful Disney movies yet.

Lauren Guinee, Business Editor and Copy Editor

Disney’s new release, Encanto, features a young girl, Mirabel, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, who was born into a Columbian family living in a magical house. Released on Nov. 24, 2021, and then streamed on Disney+ on Dec. 27, 2021, Encanto has been the most successful animated movie at the box office during the pandemic with $223 million in ticket sales around the globe. Every member of the Madrigal family except for Mirabel, the main character, is blessed with a supernatural gift. Mirabel’s role in the family is to save the family’s blessing and keep her family together, despite not having any powers, and being the first to learn of a family secret.

While other Disney films have offered various glimpses of cultural diversity, Encanto provides a more immersed and complete cultural experience for the viewer. Encanto is set in a small, authentic Columbian town and shares customs and traditions from Columbian culture. Many people predict that this movie will be a turning point for the film industry. They are hopeful that cultural diversity will be more widely accepted on screen.

“I would love to see more children’s movies do a good job, like Encanto did, of showing the beautiful aspects of different cultures and customs and also diversity because Encanto is very much intentionally showing the diversity of the people of Columbia,” Spanish teacher Kirsten Carter explained.

“It draws attention to people who speak Spanish or people of that culture,” freshman Lucy Noah Kramer added.

Encanto uses music throughout the film to tell a significant portion of the story and keep viewers engaged. The musical soundtrack, composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, has broken records and is considered an overall musical success. Encanto’s, ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ has surpassed ‘Let it Go’ from ‘Frozen’ as the biggest animated Disney hit in the last 26 years. A total of six songs from the soundtrack have entered the singles hot 100 and the album hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in January.

It manipulates your feelings and emotions and helps you see characters in different lights depending on what they play.”

— Kirsten Carter

“The music really fits each character, and it fits their spirit and their gifts,” Carter said. “It manipulates your feelings and emotions and helps you see characters in different lights depending on what they play.”

Disney has created a world of seemingly perfect characters as the movie opens. Besides Mirabel, each character has a strength and a purpose, and all are widely accepted by society. As the movie progresses, however, viewers start to understand that although each of these characters has a special gift, they are also suffering from great hardships as well. Each gift that these characters are blessed with bring forth an equal counterpart that is negative.

The characters’ powers are able to be interpreted as some of the real feelings that we experience as human beings. Whether this is the identity crisis seen by Camilo or the extreme pressure put on Louisa to please the community, each character can increase the ability of the watcher to relate to the characters and learn from their hardships, junior Kaia Bjork explained.

Encanto can be enjoyed by people of all ages. The movie appeals to different ages in different ways and it allows each viewer to interpret the message of the movie in their own way.

“The first time I saw it, I watched it with my own teenage kids, and my six nieces and nephews. I was able to see it from a sophomore perspective to an eight-year-old. Every single one of them and my husband and I both loved it. We probably understood it in different levels or had different perceptions about how the characters were living and interacting, but every single person loved it,” Carter said.

Despite an overall theme of the value each person and their gifts bring to the community, some characters are more downplayed than others. Therefore, it is hard for viewers to understand their gift and appreciate the impact it may have on the community.

Bjork explained how the one big weakness she found while watching the movie was “the lack of demonstration for how some of the overlooked powers of the people still created a positive effect.”

Encanto has set new expectations for cultural diversity in the film industry. The film has been praised for aspects that allow any age to enjoy the film and its amazing soundtrack that keeps viewers interested in the movie. The movie is a fun, lighthearted film that is a must watch for your next family movie night.