top of page

Fall Apart to Reunite, an Encanto Retrospective

WARNING: This article will contain major spoilers for the movie Encanto, so please read this at your own risk.

We may not talk about Bruno, but everyone's talking about Encanto.

Premiering in November of last year, Disney's 60th animated feature garnered critical acclaim for its catchy songs, colorful animation, and a moving story. But, it was when it hit Disney+ a month later when the hype train really got going. The internet exploded with all kinds of Encanto-related content. This ranged from fanart and fanfiction to dancing and singing along to the songs to deep analyses of the characters. So what made this movie touch such a nerve for so many people?

Well, the best place to start is the summary: In the mountains of Colombia, there exists a magical place called an Encanto, where an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, call home. Each family member is 'blessed' with a special 'gift…' except for one: Mirabel. When the magic is threatened, she may be the family's last hope. That's basically the 'cliff notes' version: The real meat of the story is when literal cracks start forming in the casita, and resourceful Mirabel investigates further, hoping to be of some help to her extraordinary family. It turns out that these cracks are, in fact, a manifestation of a broken family.

A family that appears to have it all, but under the surface, doubt, fear, and rampant miscommunication have set in. Where her tio Bruno, whose gift is foreseeing the future, has supposedly disappeared and has become something of a family boogeyman as his premonitions are very rarely…well, good. Her sisters are cracking and chafing under the pressure to appear perfect. Where Abuela Alma expects only the best, so their miracle won't be taken for granted and that they won't lose their home as she lost hers. Obviously, there's so much more going on here than expected.

That's probably the biggest draw that's brought audiences together: the family dynamics. Despite her lack of a gift, Mirabel is clearly the beating heart of this family. She is different from the bouncy, hyperactive Disney heroines that have cropped up recently simply because she can have moments where her character can breathe and express how she feels. This comes even with the slightest twitch of a smile. Her family is full of equally colorful and memorable characters: her older sisters, golden child Isabela, and strong-but-sweet Luisa get to let loose with their own songs about their deepest feelings and desires. Her aunt, uncle, and cousins have wildly different abilities and personalities, from nervy tía Pepa, whose weather patterns fluctuate as frequently as her mood, to cat-like Dolores and her super hearing, to shapeshifting theater kid Camilo. Then there are Mirabel's parents, accident-prone Augustin and soft-spoken Julieta, whose power is literal healing through food. There are so many faces in this family; it's no wonder real-life people, young and old, have been able to see themselves in any one of them.

Then, of course, we have Bruno and Abuela Alma, the cornerstones of this fractured family dynamic. Bruno's gift seemed like a curse, as his earworm of a song demonstrates: no matter what he saw, they always saw the worst in him. It turns out, however, he was a superstitious recluse who only wanted to reconnect with his family. Alma may seem steely and unflinching on the outside, but these only hide the sadness and fear she endured fleeing her original home with her husband and children, only to lose the former. Thus, the miracle occurred, and she wanted only to protect what was left of her family. Instead, she held them too tight, with practically no room to grow.

We see butterfly symbolism throughout the movie, as they are often the harbingers of a major story beat. This culminates towards the end of the movie, where Alma and Mirabel reconcile at the river where the Encanto was founded. In the montage delving into Alma's past, we hear the song 'Dos Oruguitas.' The lyrics tell the story of two twitterpated caterpillars who must ultimately separate to become their new selves. It is here where it becomes clear that, like a caterpillar's body breaking down and reforming itself, the familia Madrigal has become its best self. It only took the tenacity of one particular mariposa - Mirabel- to set it into motion.


bottom of page