Since Pixar’s Encanto arrived on our screens in late November, its catchy musical numbers, beautiful animation and touchingly real family dynamics have captured the hearts of many. It’s impossible to open up TikTok or Instagram without seeing a fan edit or two, and each of the characters seems to have developed their own loyal fanbase. A long-time fan of Pixar’s stunning visuals and delicious attention to detail in their films, it was only right that I dove headfirst into the Encanto excitement.
Encanto follows la Familia Madrigal, a Colombian family gifted with special powers by their house (la Casita). The family’s matriarch, Alma, establishes the house with her three children in the aftermath of the war, and their village blossoms around it. La Familia Madrigal includes Luisa, gifted with super strength and an invaluable force for good within the community; Julieta, who can heal any wound with her cooking; and Camilo, a shapeshifter. Our protagonist, Mirabel, is the only member of the family without a gift. However, when la Casita is threatened, Mirabel realises the power in her own potential.
Much of the reason for the film’s sweeping popularity is the nuanced relationships between many of the family members. Alma instils a sense of discipline and familial duty, keeping everyone’s gifts in check. Her disapproval of Mirabel is clear; she is ashamed of her ordinariness in a house full of the extraordinary. But as Mirabel battles her own feelings of inadequacy, she discovers that having special powers brings its own problems. Luisa is convinced that without her strength, she is useless, and when Casita’s magic begins to fail and and Luisa’s strength weakens, she despairs – “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service.” The film has become a favourite of TikTok therapists to analyse, and as one notes, this sense of obligated altruism is often felt by older siblings looking to prove themselves. The ultimate message, that the expectations of your family don’t define you, is a welcome and important one to present to such a young target audience.
Another reason for the film’s social media popularity comes in the form of Bruno, Mirabel’s mysterious uncle. His ability to tell the future (often telling the townspeople what they don’t want to hear) doesn’t make him popular. His most recent premonition involved a crumbling Casita with Mirabel standing in front of it, and as a result he was banished to a dark corner of the house. The internet is awash with Bruno fans, who love him for his position as outcast as well as skinny, unkempt cartoon crush.
As always, Pixar’s visuals are magnificent, and large amounts of attention is paid to the little cultural details throughout. For example, Mirabel’s dress is embroidered with emblems representing each of her family members’ gifts, signifying her central role in the family. The film has also been praised for its diversity and the genuine feel of its Colombian setting.
While not as hard-hitting as Pixar’s magnum opus Coco, Encanto‘s celebration of uniqueness and family strength makes it definitely worth the watch.