The Most Magical Part of Disney’s Encanto Is Its Utterly Relatable Heroine

The Most Magical Part of Disney’s Encanto Is Its Utterly Relatable Heroine
Image: Disney
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There’s no doubt it’s been a grim couple of years. During this time we’ve all turned to things that give us comfort. For me, it was two things – my family and heartwarming animated movies. Disney’s latest film Encanto is both of these things and it’s the perfect movie to lift your spirits.

Encanto tells the tale of the Madrigals, a large extended family who all live under one magical roof. Set in Colombia and featuring the enchanting music of Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, Encanto is easily one of the most vibrant, unique and diverse animated films to come from Disney so far.

Lifehacker Australia spoke with Encanto’s directors Byron Howard and Jared Bush to find out more about Disney’s new magical movie and what we should take away from it.

In Encanto, a magic candle blesses every Madrigal family member with a special gift, like shapeshifting or super strength. Well, every Madrigal family member except one.

The hero of Encanto is 15-year-old Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) who, for reasons unknown, is the only Madrigal to miss out on receiving a magical gift. The directors said it was Mirabel’s lack of special abilities that actually make her the most special.

“The moment we started pitching a story about a magical family where one person did not have that gift, everyone related to that person. Mirabel really became the centre of the movie almost immediately, because we can all relate,” Howard told Lifehacker Australia.

“I think everybody universally has questions about their own self-worth, so it immediately put [Mirabel] as someone you could empathise with.”

encanto movie mirabel
Image: Disney

While Mirabel may stand out thanks to her normality, the filmmakers had quite the challenge on their hands when it came to bringing in such a large family of characters to surround her. The directors explained that Encanto has 12 unique family members, the most Disney has had on-screen at any one time.

To help paint the vibrant family tree of the Madrigals, Lin-Manuel Miranda was brought in to create the music for the film; a process that began when Encanto was nothing but the spark of an idea.

“That’s very rare for your songwriter to come on that early, but it was great for us because we could partner with Lin and really dive into what we wanted this movie to be from the very beginning,” Howard explained.

The back and forth between Miranda’s songs and the creative team ended up helping to shape the large multi-generational family of Madrigals.

“There are moments where the music and his lyrics really helped to define or bring a character into focus,” Howard said.

“The music that he produced for us is really some of his best work.”

Miranda ended up creating eight original tracks for Encanto, all of which are bright, upbeat earworms that are sure to put a smile on anyone’s face. The track ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ is so popular, in fact, that it’s currently ranking in top-hit lists internationally.

Encanto
Image: Disney

Another thing that adds to Encanto’s sense of joy is its location. Set in Colombia, the creative team visited the country and did their research to ensure it was accurately portrayed on film.

“The thing that surprised us the most is how diverse it is, it’s like five or six countries in one.” Howard said.

“Colombia is a crossroads of everything in Latin America, from culture to architecture to dance to family traditions. Ethnicity in families is very mixed and they really embrace that. We thought that was a perfect opportunity with our dozen primary characters in the Madrigal family to really show off different skin types and hair types and different traditions from different parts of the country.”

“We hope Encanto is just the beginning of seeing much more of [Colombia],” he said.

If you haven’t guessed by now, one of the main themes at the core of Encanto is family. The film may be a dazzling whirlwind of magic, music, colour and characters but at the heart of all that, there’s a very normal family. One that’s going through its own trials and triumphs, as all families do.

This theme of family is one of the things that makes Encanto a relatable movie for so many people.

“We want families to be able to go see it together,” Bush said.

“Maybe to take away something different between older and younger, but we want them all to be able to enjoy it.”

HOME SWEET HOME -- The Madrigal’s casita in “Encanto” is more than a house—it’s alive—embodying the same magic that has blessed the Madrigal children for two generations. Filmmakers liken the house to a loyal pet—it is part of the family. The love for one another is mutual. Opening in the U.S. on Nov. 24, 2021, “Encanto” features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
Image: Disney

After seeing Encanto, audiences will likely have a new perspective on their family, particularly following the festive season. When asked what the messages are that audiences should take away with them, the filmmakers pointed to that sense of perspective.

“We don’t always see our families that clearly and our families don’t always see us that clearly,” Howard explained.

“So it’s important for us to try to see that there’s more to our family members, and conversely, it’s important for us to be vulnerable enough to show our full selves to the family.”

That idea of perspective is something that’s ingrained in the film and is one gift that Mirabel does possess, helped by the fact that she is also the only character to wear glasses. In fact, she’s the first protagonist in Disney Animation to wear glasses. Sort of.

“She’s the first Disney heroine,” Bush said.

“I think technically Chicken Little, if you count chickens, has the first glasses. [Mirabel] is the first aside from a chicken, and we’re very proud of that.”

If you need an uplifting, relatable and heartwarming movie to watch with your family this summer, you won’t regret choosing Encanto.

Disney’s Encanto is available to watch now on Disney+ in Australia.

This article has been updated since its original publish date. 

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