Disney’s Encanto handles surprising topic


Avani Munji

Disney’s Encanto released on Nov. 24 and grossed $40.6 million in its 5-day opening weekend. The Sidekick staff writer Yasemin Ragland praises it for being the first Disney movie to handle generational trauma well and include diverse racial representation. Graphic by Avani Munji

Yasemin Ragland, Staff Writer

Warning: Slight spoilers for Encanto (2021)

In December, my parents, younger sisters and I watched Walt Disney Animation Studio’s latest, “Encanto” in theaters, as a matter of fact I’ve known about it since 2020. Encanto follows a multigenerational Colombian family with magical powers/gifts, known as the Madrigals. “Encanto” also shows different family dynamics many people relate to (I relate to Mirabel the most). I enjoyed it way too much (it’s the longest hyperfixation I’ve ever had so far) as did many others, even therapists love “Encanto”. Though there are a few things they could have done better, “Encanto” did win this year’s Golden Globe for Best Animated Movie, which I agree with. 

One surprising thing is that “Encanto” involves generational trauma, which is the main point. Even the short, Far From the Tree, that comes before involves generational trauma. Generational trauma, aka intergenerational trauma or transgenerational trauma is the psychological effects that the collective trauma experienced by a group of people has on subsequent generations in that group. In other words, Generational Trauma is a type of trauma passed down through the generations of a family. Generational Trauma often presents itself differently in individual family members. How does Encanto portray this concept? It starts 50 years before the main events of the film. The beginning of the film shows a young Alma Madrigal (voiced by María Cecilia Botero) and her new husband Pedro being forced out of their home during a violent conflict, along with many other people and their newborn triplets (birth order Julieta Madrigal (voiced by Angie Cepeda), Pepa Madrigal (voiced by Carolina Gaitán) and Bruno Madrigal (voiced by John Leguizamo). 

After the group safely wade across a river, Pedro turns back to hold back the soldiers that forced them out but sadly, the soldiers kill Pedro in front of Alma. Through heartbreak over Pedro’s death, determination to protect her children, and the candle given to her by Pedro, Alma creates a barrier of mountains separating her and the other refugees from the soldiers, along with satiant house known as the Casa Madrigal, simply referred to by the Madrigals as Casita, said candle also becomes enchanted and never goes out. Starting with the triplets, every child born into the Madrigal family gets magical powers/gifts on their 5th birthday via Casita, the candle and a ceremony. Sadly, out of all of Alma’s grandchildren, (Isabela (voiced by Diane Guerrero), Dolores (voiced by Adassa), Luisa (voiced by Jessica Darrow), Camilo (voiced by Rhenzy Feliz), Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz), and Antonio (voiced by Ravi Cabot-Conyers), Mirabel does not get a gift. 

While not much is known about how Alma’s trauma affects Julieta and Pepa other then Pepa having clear Anxiety issues that affect her powers, but Bruno was absent for ten years of Isabela’s, Dolores’, Luisa’s, Camilo’s and Mirabel’s lives with Antonio not knowing him at all. Bruno had left because his powers of Clairvoyance via visions were bad news to everyone, and seeing Mirabel’s future caused him to go into hiding in the middle of the night instead of telling everyone what he saw. Because of having no gift, Mirabel barely helps out around the town, mainly babysitting kids or staying at home with her father Agustín (voiced by Wilmer Valderrama) and uncle by marriage, Félix (voiced by Mauro Castillo). Mirabel expresses through “Waiting On A Miracle” how she feels left out of the family, even Agustín and Félix serve as foils for their wives despite not having gifts either. Luisa shows characteristics of one type of middle child, and she feels like she carries too much. In Luisa’s song “Surface Pressure” (which I strongly relate to despite being the oldest of three), she expresses how she needs to carry not only the whole family, but the entire village, but simultaneously wants to relax real bad.

Even though I didn’t like how Alma treated Mirabel, she was actually the hardest on Isabela. Not only is Isabela the oldest of the Madrigal grandkids, but she’s the oldest of Julieta’s three daughters. I also originally didn’t like Isabela because of her first interactions with Mirabel, but after watching “Encanto” for the second time, I started to understand her, sympathize with her, and even relate to her somewhat. Isabela felt like she had to be graceful, perfect, and princess-like, which affected her relationship with Mirabel. Isabela and Mirabel were originally close when they were younger, but drifted apart, due to Isabela’s pressure for needing to be perfect. Isabela was also betrothed to Mariano Guzmán (voiced by Maluma), even though Mariano was shown to be a nice guy, Isabela reveals to Mirabel that she never wanted to marry Mariano, and that she was doing it for the family. Mirabel’s relationship with Isabela is patched up with a little sisterly bonding in Isabela’s “What Else Can I Do?”, and Isabela proceeds to become her true self, and explores her powers beyond purple, and pink flowers, actually beyond flowers in general. Mirabel (as well as Luisa) is also one of the few Disney animated girls not to have a love interest. Isabela is the second animated female Disney character to decline getting married, after Princess Merida of DunBroch from Pixar’s “Brave”.

Not much is known about how Alma’s trauma affects also Dolores, Camilo, and Antonio, but Dolores is noticeably quiet, under Isabel’s shadow as the second oldest grandchild and was later revealed to have a crush on Mariano. Dolores would have had to resign herself to being Mariano’s cousin in law (sound sort of familiar Hamil Fans?). Camilo also seems to have hidden anxiety issues that affect his powers, like Pepa, he was also confirmed to be in an identity crisis (off screen), which makes sense considering Camilo is seen in the forms of people needed by other people more than he’s seen as himself. Antonio is too young to be affected much, but is shown to have Anxiety over the idea of not getting a gift like Mirabel. While I’m sad that Dolores and Camilo didn’t get solo songs about their problems, there is a potential spin off tv series for Dolores on Disney+ which I hope explores Pepa’s branch of the family more, I’m also hoping the animation will be similar to the 2017-2020 Tangled spin off tv series. There is also a potential Broadway production in the talks, as well as a possible Christmas special. All in all, “Encanto” is a fun movie to watch. “Encanto” stars Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitán, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Adassa, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Maluma, and Alan Tudyk.

Follow Yasemin (@YaziDazi) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.