Fantastical, magical, Encanto celebrates strength in family


Encanto hit theaters on November 24, 2021 and earned millions worldwide. The musical received three Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song.

Isabella Whedbee, Staff Support Coordinator

With Encanto, Disney continues to find the magic within seeing your culture on screen.

A warning: we’re talking a lot about Bruno in this one. 

Disney’s 60th animated film, Encanto, descends viewers into the fantastical world of the Madrigals, a Colombian family that was gifted a “miracle” of special powers. The musical adventure showcases Mirabel, the normal yet determined protagonist, and her efforts to save her family’s powers. As of February 1st, The Golden Globe-winning film has grossed over $228 million dollars in worldwide ticket sales, topping the global box office in early December. 

“I loved the movie. It was so captivating,” said senior Isabella Diaz. “The animation style was amazing. I felt the movie accurately portrayed the generational trauma of a family and how Hispanic families work with grandparents that oversee everything.”

On top of the film’s success, the soundtrack, which was composed by Tony Award winner and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, has generated massive amounts of praise. For example, the song “We don’t talk about Bruno” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Streaming Songs chart, surpassing Frozen’s 2014 smash hit “Let it Go.” Another upbeat song from the film, “Surface Pressure,” has also made its way to the top 10, making Encanto the first Disney film to ever have multiple songs on the charts. 

This musical tale is not the first time that Disney has explored cultural films. The 2017 film Coco, was another generational tale that explored the Mexican Holiday Dia De Los Muertos. The Pixar film, Soul, which was released in 2020 on Disney+, became the 4th American animated feature to have African-American characters as the lead. Both critically-acclaimed films received the Golden Globe for best animated Feature Film. 

“I like the increase in culture in animated films,” explained senior Audrey Kennedy. “It definitely gives variety. They incorporate the best parts of each culture such as music and food and family and make them very relatable to everyone who watches them.” 

Just as it is important to have diversity at the forefront of animated films, experts agree it is pivotal to have writers and directors of that same demographic behind the scenes.  The UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report is an annual study that investigates the diversification of the entertainment industry. According to the report, in 2021, women and people of color gained more jobs in Hollywood during the year, involving acting and directing. As a comparison, in 2011, half of all films had the lowest level (less than 11%) of cast diversity, while in 2020, only 1 out of 10 films have low levels of diversity. 

“We’ve been systematically looking at these key job categories and comparing the representation of women and people of color to the all-important bottom line for eight years,” explained Darnell Hunt, co-author of the 2021 UCLA Hollywood Diversity report. “It’s encouraging to see skyrocketing numbers this year.” 

Experts agree that another key factor of representation is ensuring authenticity. Working alongside writers, multiple Colombian historians were involved in the making of Encanto. The consultants advised the directors on the historical and rural landscape surrounding the Madrigals for over 4 years. The movie even contained a set of biologists and architects that verified each scene’s accuracy. 

 “That’s something that we talked about a lot with all of our friends that we met in Colombia … that it had to feel right,” said Jared Bush, director of Encanto in an interview with the LA Times. “And that was something that we were really lucky to have such great partners help us with.”

“Already this year and last year so many animated  films featuring people of color and of different cultures are being put out,” explained Diaz. “It’s starting the movement of more being produced.”

In addition to Disney, other animation studios have taken steps towards more representation.  Sony Pictures Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse was highly considered one of the most successful films of 2018 with $375 million in box office sales. The Academy-Award-winning short film, Hair Love, was produced by black-owned animation studio Lion Forge Animation. This push for representation has expanded throughout movies, television shows, and even children’s books. 

“The future of animation is going to be more diverse,”  explained Diaz. “Once big animation companies like Pixar and Disney do something, others follow suit. Even if their goal is for profit, at least it includes a good outcome towards diversity.”