Disney’s ENCANTO – The Characters, The Music and Our Review
Have you ever felt so different from your family that you figure you just don’t belong? Have you tried everything in your power to prove that you are just as good as everyone else in your family? Maybe you are the Golden Child who can do no wrong or maybe you’re the one everyone comes to for help. If this sounds like you then you are going to want to see Walt Disney’s 60th animated Film ENCANTO!
ENCANTO tells the tale of an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a magical house. It’s set in a vibrant town, in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto. The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift from super strength to the power to heal—every child except one, Mirabel. But when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is in danger, Mirabel decides that she, the only ordinary Madrigal, might just be her exceptional family’s last hope.
Meet The Madrigals
The Madrigals are a very big family and it can be hard to keep everybody straight so here is a run down of everyone in the family.
ABUELA ALMA (voiced by María Cecilia Botero (ENFERMERAS, HER MOTHER’S KILLER, UNDERCOVER LAW)) is the matriarch of the Madrigal family. Her steadfast determination and unwavering hope led her to the magical Encanto, where she raised triplets Julieta, Pepa and Bruno. To her surprise and delight, each of her children was blessed with a magical gift upon their fifth birthday, and the tradition continued with each of their children— except for Mirabel. Abuela values the gifts given to each of her family members, ensuring that they are used to benefit and protect their community, and to honor the sacrifice of Abuelo Pedro.
JULIETA & AGUSTÍN (voiced by Angie Cepeda (A NIGHT IN OLD MEXICO, LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA) and Wilmer Valderrama (NCIS, ONWARD)) are parents to three daughters, Isabela, Luisa and Mirabel. Julieta is blessed with the power to heal. Her magic is found in the food she lovingly prepares for all who need it. Agustín is somewhat a fish out of water, having married into the magical family. Awkward and accident-prone, Agustín always has the best intentions— especially when it comes to his daughters.
MIRABEL (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz (BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, IN THE HEIGHTS)) is the only child in her extraordinary family who wasn’t blessed with a magical gift. She’s determined to prove that she belongs—denying to everyone, including herself, that she feels all alone, even in her own house.
ISABELA (voiced by Diane Guerrero (DOOM PATROL, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK)) is pretty much perfect, with an abundance of grace and poise—not to mention a magical ability to make plants grow and flowers bloom. “Isabela is the perfect golden child,” says producer Clark Spencer. “Lots of families have that child who is absolutely perfect. But as a result, they’re left feeling they can’t be anything else but perfect. You aren’t allowed to get less than an A on the test, or come in second in the race, or have one hair out of place.”
LUISA (voiced by Jessica Darrow (DISNEY TELEVISION DISCOVERS: TALENT SHOWCASE, FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES)) hardworking and determined, was given the gift of super strength. She is the goto person for all of the heavy lifting. The character, therefore, had to look the part. According to associate production designer Lorelay Bové, artists were inspired by world-class athletes. “We looked at bodybuilders, weightlifters, shot putters,” she says. “Luisa is muscular and athletic.”
PEPA & FÉLIX (voiced by Carolina Gaitán (NARCOS) and Mauro Castillo, Singer) are Mirabel’s quirky aunt and fun-loving uncle, and are parents to Dolores, Camilo and Antonio. Pepa, one of Abuela Alma’s triplets, was gifted with the power to control the weather with her emotions. The forecast is often unpredictable, however, as Pepa’s emotions are far-reaching and ever-changing. “Pepa is so fun,” says Merino. “She’s that amazing emotional friend or aunt who’s all over the place.” Pepa’s husband, Félix, provides a grounding force for his deeply passionate wife—he’s easygoing and often the life of the party.
DOLORES (voiced by Afro-Latina singer/actress Adassa ) is Mirabel’s cousin and is usually the first to know the town’s biggest secrets, most compelling drama and juiciest revelations. She can’t help it: she was blessed with extraordinary hearing. Whisper if you will, but Dolores can still hear it. According to codirector Charise Castro Smith, Dolores is based on that member of many families who always has the scoop on everyone else. “She began as the family gossip and evolved from there,” she says. “We thought it would be funny if she was a very quiet and reserved person who happens to know everything.”
CAMILO (voiced by Rhenzy Feliz (RUNAWAYS)) was born to entertain. Throw in his magical gift that allows him to switch up his appearance to be whomever he wants to be in the moment, and he’s secured his place in the spotlight. Says head of story Nancy Kruse, “If someone needs an extra helping hand—someone tall or someone small or someone just like you—he can transform himself and take your place,” she says. “But more often, he does it to bring humor to a situation that desperately needs it.”
ANTONIO (voiced by Ravi Cabot-Conyers (#blackAF, JUSTINE) is shy with a huge heart. He has a special connection to Mirabel, relying on her for comfort and courage—especially on an important day when his cousin finds him nervously hiding under his bed. Daniel Rice, director of cinematography lighting, says the lighting in the scene helped convey the underlying emotion. “We start out with neutral to cooler lighting, but as Mirabel gets through to him, we slowly bring warmer light into the scene—the audience won’t really notice it, but they’ll feel it—they’ll feel the bond Antonio shares with his cousin.”
BRUNO (voiced by John Leguizamo (CRITICAL THINKING)) the third of Alma’s triplets, has been estranged from the Madrigal family for as long as Mirabel can remember. According to head of story Jason Hand, whose wife’s family hails from Ecuador, Bruno’s choice years ago to actually leave his family is huge. “It’s a very big deal—especially for a tight-knit Latin family like the Madrigals,” says Hand. “The whole idea is that you stay together no matter what. That makes Bruno such an interesting character—he’s a bit of a tortured soul.”
Casita – At the center of the Madrigal family, casita is the source of the magic of the Encanto—a single candle that has been burning since Abuela Alma and her three babies made their way to what would become their home and community.
According to head of effects animation Erin Ramos, the candle helped form the shape language of the film’s magic. “The flame influenced everything we did,” says Ramos. “The candle’s eternal flame creates orbs that look like boca created in a picture, but we call them ‘foca’ since it’s not a lens effect. That helped inform the shape language of the magic of the Encanto.” The candle both protects the family and holds the magic that provides each child with a special gift, creating a magical door through which their gift is manifested. Says Bové, “These doors deliver the magic to the family members. The directors wanted them to be glowing, magical doors that were reminiscent of the candle’s flame.”
ENCANTO – Music Tells the Story
Music has always been an essential part of the way an animated movie flows and Encanto is no different. There are 8 original songs written By Lin Manuel Miranda. These songs help move the story along. Here is a breakdown of how each song moves the story along:
“The Family Madrigal” (performed by Stephanie Beatriz, Olga Merediz & cast) introduces the audience to the large extended Madrigal family. The song also introduces the idea that—unlike the rest of the children in her family—Mirabel did not receive a magical gift. Lin Manuel-Miranda: “The song shows Mirabel when she is putting on her public face. It’s a big contrast to the way she feels in ‘Waiting on a Miracle.’”
“Waiting on a Miracle” (performed by Beatriz) is designed to reveal the inner-most thoughts of the protagonist—in this case, Mirabel. “If anyone ever says writing a Disney ‘I Want’ song is easy, they’re lying,” says Miranda. “A lot of the story work throughout the whole film is clarifying as specifically as possible what the journey is for our main character. It takes a lot of work from every department to finally find that answer in a way that the character can sing about it. There were many drafts before we found the song.” According to the songwriter, “Waiting for a Miracle” showcases Mirabel’s feeling of being an outsider in more than just the lyrics. “Her song is in a different time signature than the rest of the family,” says Miranda. “Every other song is 4/4—with really driving rhythms that you could hear at a club. But Mirabel’s song is in 3/4—which is a characteristic rhythm of a Colombian bambuco. She’s literally out of rhythm with the rest of her family.”
“Surface Pressure” (performed by Jessica Darrow) illustrates Mirabel’s older sister Luisa’s true feelings about the super strength her gift affords her. “It’s about how she’s very cool on the surface,” says Miranda. “There’s nothing she can’t handle. But under it all, there’s a lot happening—there’s just no time for those emotions to be expressed. So, I just wrote the most badass reggaeton song I could write with these crazy internal rhymes—and then blew it up to expose the vulnerability of her character.”
“We Don’t Talk About Bruno” (performed by Carolina Gaitán, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Diane Guerrero, Beatriz & cast) is a family gossip song, says Miranda. “Every verse and every stanza introduce a different character. They’re all riding the same musical landscape, but they ride it completely differently. Everyone sings the same chord progression with a totally different rhythm and a totally different cadence.” Adds Elizondo, “There is a cross-blend of genres between hip-hop and Colombian music on this song that I think works very well. There are also a lot of great characters that are featured that builds to a huge climax with all of them performing and singing at the same time. To be honest, I’m not sure how Lin pulled off so many lyrics and melodies being able to work all together. The choreography on this song is off the charts and there are also so many comedic moments. I think it’s going to be a highlight of the movie.”
“What Else Can I Do?” (performed by Guerrero and Beatriz) for Mirabel’s oldest sister, Isabela, who struggles with her role as the golden child—always 24 striving to be perfect but never quite reaching her goal. “Isabela is stepping out of her traditional role,” he says. “I was really inspired by the ’90s rock en español movement. When I was a teenager, the best rock music was actually coming out of Latin America, and it was in Spanish.”
“Dos Oruguitas” marked a first for Miranda: “This is the first song I ever wrote— beginning to end—in Spanish,” he says. “The song, which comes later in the story, is about Abuela and Abuelo’s love story, but I resisted the notion of being literal. I was inspired by the imagery I’d seen—particularly one of a flame becoming a butterfly. I thought, ‘What if I write a folk song that feels like it’s always existed?’ ‘Dos Oruguitas’ is about two caterpillars who are in love but are scared to separate because they’re afraid of changing. It’s about the journey of Mirabel’s grandparents—their realization that sometimes you have to let go, you have to do the impossible.” Sebastián Yatra performs the original song “Dos Oruguitas” in Spanish in the film, as well as “Two Oruguitas,” the English language version of the song, in the endcredits. Born in Medellín, Colombia, and raised in Miami, Latin GRAMMY®-nominated singer/songwriter Yatra says, “It’s always been a dream of mine to be a part of a Disney movie and it really hits the heart when it’s a Disney movie about my country and showing the best of what we have to offer, which is love and family and miracles.”
Tasked with writing a song that would help bring the story to a close, Miranda says “All of You” (performed by Beatriz, Merediz, Leguizamo, Adassa, Maluma & cast) was challenging because the ending of a film must come organically—which often takes time, so “All of You” was the last song written. “It addresses the question of who we truly are—and everybody weighs in,” says Miranda.
“Colombia, Mi Encanto” is performed by 17-time GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY winner, singer, songwriter and actor Carlos Vives, who’s a native of Santa Marta, Colombia. “This song is a celebration of the magical diversity of Colombia,” says Vives. “I can’t wait to see how the music will blend with the images and the characters inspired by the ‘encanto’ of Colombians.”
Germaine Franco composed the original score for “Encanto.” Franco worked closely with the filmmakers and Miranda to create a signature score that complemented the songs and story. According to Franco, the filmmakers sought a score that was unlike anything she’d heard before. “They were looking for something that was different— something more intimate with textures. We talked about what the sound of magical realism might be.”
The score also had to reflect the film’s Latin American setting. Franco says Colombia has “a treasure of music that still exists in the country.” Franco leaned into Mirabel’s journey. “I really identified with her,” says the composer. “I tried really hard to get inside her head to understand how she would feel at different moments, and I would interpret that through the music. I wanted to find ‘la voz femenina’—the female voice of the music of Colombia. I felt that main theme was about Mirabel discovering her own personal true self.” Franco wrote a theme early on to represent the character. “I was just sitting at a piano and came up with a theme for Mirabel,” she says. “I didn’t think at the time it would be her theme. It just felt like her—if she were flying, because she’s always searching for answers. And I thought, in magical realism, anything goes. I could morph it and change it to fit into different scenes. It can be melodic and really emotional, or made into a cumbia, which was really fun.”
All quotes are courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Media Production Notes and Press Releases.
I really enjoyed ENCANTO more than I thought I would. When I first heard the premise of the movie it sounded a lot like COCO to me since that was the last Disney/Pixar Film to deal with a big family dynamic and I really didn’t connect to COCO as much as I would have liked to. I am happy to say that this film is nothing like COCO. The fact that three generations of one family live under one roof is fascinating mainly because my household only has 4 people in it. All the characters of the family are so distinct from one another and that captured my attention. Maribel is so realistic and very much speaks to my people-pleasing nature as she tries to help her whole family.
Speaking of the family, these characters all have special powers except for Maribel. But because their powers resemble the character traits they already have, they seem more realistic and less fantastical. For example, Isabela is the oldest child and considered to be the “Perfect Child” so her power is to make the perfect flowers. Luisa who is the middle sister feels like she needs to be the families’ rock and help everyone out – so her power is strength. These Mystical Powers are symbols for the roles we put family members in whether it be the baby of the family, the “Black Sheep” of the family (We don’t talk about Bruno) or the “Golden Child”. This movie is about breaking all those stereotypes and showing that everyone has a place in their family even if they feel as though they don’t belong. It also drives home the point that you do not necessarily have to have superpowers to save people you love, you just have to have faith and determination and you can do anything.
Music plays a big part of this movie. The songs are catchy, but they have a distinct rhythm and cadence that may prevent them from becoming iconic songs that “Let it go” or “How Far I’ll Go”. Since they were written by Lin Manuel Miranda who is a genius – they very much remind me of HAMILTON songs where you can’t really listen to one song out of the context of the others. In other words, we probably won’t see any of these songs in a Disneyland or Walt Disney World Fireworks show. Instead, these songs are very specifically story-driven and should be listened to as a whole. Much of the story is told through the music, so you have to pay attention like FROZEN 2.
I really do recommend this film for kids and adults alike. Kids will love it for the music and bright colors and adults will undoubtedly see a little of themselves and their family in the themes and message. I do think the themes are a little complex for children under 12. If you can go see it on the big screen, do it! You will get the full effect of the vibrancy of the animation.
ENCANTO opens in U.S. theaters on November 24th 2021. Will you see it in the theater? What did you think? Please let us know on Facebook or Instagram, and join our Facebook Group for family friendly camaraderie.
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