Written by Maria Athayde
Encanto is the 60th film produced by the Walt Disney Animation Studios and a welcome return to form. This is the best animation put out by Disney since 2016 Zootopia. It is another hit for Lin-Manuel Miranda who has a story credit for the movie.
Encanto is a generational tale set in Colombia rooted in magical realism. As defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica, magical realism is a “chiefly Latin-American narrative strategy that is characterized by the matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastic or mythical elements into seemingly realistic fiction”. This style immediately stood out to me and made me reminisce about my own youth and experience with magical realism literature and its brilliant authors like Jorge Amado, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of my favorite book of all time One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Isabel Allende. But never before Encanto had I seen this magic brought to life, on screen, in such a moving way. The movie per se tells the story of the Madrigal family and their magical gifts, their small town, and the real meaning of family. Encanto is a delight on every level, from the animation style, to the songs, and use of color.
This movie is everything I wanted it to be and more. It expands the “Latinidad” that was missing from this year’s In the Heights, another Lin-Manuel Miranda project. I know it is cliche to say but you can’t be what you can’t see. Representation matters. Movies like Encanto and In the Heights are important. Even in a small way it shows us that we matter. A 2019 report, from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, found that an average of 4.9% of popular movies had Hispanic or Latino speaking characters between 2007-2019. The same report highlighted that these popular storytellers are predominantly male and white and that behind the camera “of the 112 directors across 2019” movies 1.8% were Hispanic or Latino. Hopefully, the success of these movies serves as a wake-up call to Hollywood who hasn’t caught up to the diversity push to advance Latino stories on screen.
Encanto is currently playing in wide theatrical release.