The Extraordinary Magic of Normality
by Emma Chen
Years ago, the main character of what is destined to be a Disney classic like Encanto (2021) would have been Isabela, the attractive girl who can create flowers to her liking and is adored by everyone. Instead, Encanto's main character is Mirabel, an ordinary girl with glasses, and no powers, contrarily to the rest of her family.
It is to save the powers miraculously given to the Madrigal family that the young girl will embark on a symbolic journey to find out more about the prophecy of the destruction of her family’s magic.
In doing so, she will discover what lies behind the apparent ideal life of the Madrigals, from the pressure to which her big sister Luisa - capable of lifting mountains and moving churches, as she sings - is subjected to, to the cage of perfection Isabela is forced into. As obvious as it may be, the message is clear and genuine: the family talents represent the patterns of strength, beauty, and behaviour we are exposed to daily. However, since humans are not born with the same skills and characteristics, we constantly feel inadequate and mediocre.
Indeed, Mirabel embodies the ordinary heroine, who manages to save the magic of the Madrigals thanks to the determination and love she feels towards her family and not thanks to incredible powers.
While it is family love that pushes Mirabel on her quest, it is worth mentioning the lack of romantic love, absent in others of the latest Disney productions such as Moana or Brave. This confirms Disney's new approaches to pursue greater inclusiveness, jointly with the choice of a Colombian background and a more realistic body representation of female characters like Mirabel. Even though the plot itself is not very original, and at times there are hesitations in the story (as if it did not know how to end) the symbolic value of Encanto is undeniable and admirable. The film aims to deconstruct the superhero figure that hugely attracts today's public, enhancing the extraordinary normality of Mirabel instead. Furthermore, the absence of a villain shows that the Madrigals' battle is psychological: they must learn to live with their gifted powers without letting them take over and become their entire identity.
Last but not least, a special mention to Encanto's soundtrack. Songs like Surface Pressure and We don't talk about Bruno, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, are able to entertain the audience and explain the film's statement more than descriptive sequences could ever do. Together with powerful animations rich in details and colours - particularly the floral theme that is recurrent throughout - the melodies create a memorable and engaging atmosphere, leading the audience to experience intense emotions and ultimately overlook the narrative simplicity of this 60th Disney animated product.