Disney animation has had a hard time bringing the magic in the past few years. Ever since the critical and commercial success of “Moana” in 2016, none of Disney’s animated offerings have been able to quite live up to the company’s high standards. Now, five years removed from their last success, Disney’s “Encanto” has hit theaters and breaks the studio’s trend of mediocrity with a film that is exciting, emotional and creative.
Disney has had a number of missteps in the past five years before “Encanto.” None of these films were horrible, but they were all only middle-of-the-road movies. First there was “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” a sequel to 2012’s “Wreck-It Ralph.” This film had great characters, but a lackluster plot and overreliance on cringeworthy internet humor made it fall short. Then came “Frozen II,” which had some good songs but tried to unnecessarily expand its universe and add lore no one was asking for. Finally, Disney brought us “Raya and the Last Dragon” earlier this year. The movie featured a creative world but unfortunately that world was filled with relatively unmemorable characters. These films demonstrate Disney’s inability to quite put all the pieces together and deliver the full package. But now, “Encanto” corrects these films’ mistakes and rights the ship going forward.
“Encanto” is centered around the Madrigal family and their magical home. Each member of the Madrigal family has an amazing gift, like super strength or shapeshifting. Everyone, that is, except for Mirabel. Mirabel, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, was not given a gift like everyone else. Mirabel soon learns that both the family home and their magic is at risk and must take matters into her own hands to keep her family together.
“Encanto” does everything right that Disney has struggled with in recent years and that starts with the incredible musical sequences. The songs themselves are average for the most part, but the choreography and visuals of all of the songs more than make up for it. Almost all of the songs opt to show exciting, creative visuals that are much closer to “Friend Like Me,” “Zero to Hero” or “Be Our Guest” as they avoid the literal interpretations of the characters singing and instead show off some truly incredible sights. It’s not just the songs that have great visuals though. Throughout the movie, the animation is truly stunning. One element in particular that really stands out is the animation of the Madrigal’s house, which is alive with magic. The way that the animation makes a house shrug, dance and make jokes is nothing short of magical. “Encanto” is a visual treat that never stops bringing fantastic moments.
The positives don’t stop at the visuals. The animation is paired with a whole host of charming characters that, from the main character to the smallest side-character, are bursting with memorable personalities and unique characteristics. Mirabel serves as an excellent protagonist and Beatriz plays her perfectly, running the gamut of every emotion under the sun. Mirabel’s story has a surprisingly small scale, which fills the film with incredible depth and maturity for a Disney movie. There is all sorts of wild magic involved, but the film never loses track of the fact that family drama is at the heart of the story. Basically every element of “Encanto” works in harmony to deliver Disney’s most satisfying film in years.
“Encanto” is the complete package. It carries all of the strengths of Disney’s modern offerings, while correcting all their shortcomings to create a must-see film for the ultimate Disney fan and the cynic alike. Everyone is bound to find something they like from “Encanto.” With this success, Disney has shown that they’ve still got it and set the blueprint for animation going forward.
“Encanto” is now playing in theaters.
By Ben Lindner