Stephanie Beatriz, Maria Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Jessica Darrow and Diane Guerrero, with Mauro Castillo, Angie Cepeda and Wilmer Valderrama.
The Madrigal clan lives a magical life in the mountains of Columbia. No, literally. The Family Madrigal is magical, every mother, father and child possessing a unique gift to better home, hearth and familia.
Fifteen-year old Mirabel is the only Madrigal to have never presented any magical powers. The magic manifests itself in childhood, and Mirabel has gone without the wonders her family has enjoyed all her young life.
However, when a mysterious force threatens the magic of the Madrigal family it becomes fast apparent that only Mirabel possesses the power to set things right again.
Not magic. Power.
Let’s talk about the Disney Formula, shall we? And yes, it involves princesses.
Also, fair warning. This is going to be one of the longest installments that sometimes dapple RIORI. In a fashion it’s out of respect for K, my ardent Disney fanatic and very cute ohana. I would be remiss to not say I labored over this installment, kind of like a 24 hour C-section delivery. Let that sink in a bit.
I really dig most of Disney’s “princess flavored” big screen output. From Snow White to Frozen those movies’ flair is like a sore d*ck: you can’t beat it. From Sleeping Beauty to The Little Mermaid to Beauty And The Beast (the first ever animated movie given an Oscar nod for Best Picture, BTW) Disney has been synonymous with quality in their animated movies, not to mention setting the gold standard for all other animation studios, CGI and otherwise, silver screen or streaming. Especially if the movie stars a princess. Refute me.
The following is an excerpt from Megan Lunny, once a high schooler from Doylestown, PA, who dissected the Disney princess formula best, or rather the monotone message such films project. Ms Lunny is now a graduate of Columbia University and at this time of writing interning as a communications expert at what I can only call a pro bono legal firm. Chances are she’s pretty good at making constructive arguments. Don’t take my word; I just stumbled upon the info. Anything more I could note about this woman would be close to a LinkedIn profile, and here at RIORI I have no networking budget. I have no budget period.
Here are Lunny’s words that encapsulated the “Disney Formula” from the mid-Teens, and for the very few out that may dare ask, “Yo blogger. How did you find out about this?” The answer is simple: LinkedIn. Right. Anyway according to Ms Lunny:
“It was the Disney Princess Formula: P = D + G; a Princess is the sum of some deep-ridden Desire—adventure, tail-less-ness, freedom—and a Guy who satisfies this desire. Sometimes Disney’s writers—in a contrived attempt at Girl Power—wrote the Brave Princess, or the Smart Princess, or the Warrior Princess…” ¹
Cut to the quick, right? If you’re curious check out the entirety of Ms Lunny’s theory click here. I’ll wait…
Her “contrived” thing stuck with me. Sure, a great many of those princess movies fed the warm fuzzies in all of us, but after you’ve seen a zillion of such movies (and if you’re paying attention) there begins a wafting of deja vu. “I’ve seen this before.” Almost like perusing every diner menu you’ve ever perused. All of this seems all too familiar. Almost rote. Despite how yummy Reuben sandwiches are they are all the same sandwich.
Consider Ms Lunny’s exposition, or rather a Disney formula exposé. Or just plain screaming the emperor is naked. Ms Lunny’s hypothesis stated stuff I’ve noticed all along regarding Uncle Walt’s myriad “princess stories.” Simply put no girl—no matter how strong-willed or capable—can overcome her circumstances without some male hero entering the picture. Never. Even strong female types like Belle or Ariel or Jasmine or even Snow White can’t get out from under the rock that they stumbled under without a prince’s assistance to set things right. That and there are many, many villains whom are female that can’t wait to get their claws into something their “princess” may possess worth wanting. The Wicked Queen, Malificent, Lady Tremaine, Ursula, Mother Gothel, Cruella DeVil, Madame Medusa (I’ve done my homework). Hell, even Meg from Hercules (though not a traditional female antagonist) is a fallen woman that only our titular demigod can save at a price. What’s up with all the implied misogyny anyway? Was Walt just following the straight line with all those adapted fairy tales, or something more sinister? Mr Disney was a married man, and had two daughters (one of whom was adopted), so raising two girls—and all the “fun” that goes with it—most likely influenced him and his staff as to what would endear a female audience, them dragging Dad/brother/boyfriend to the cinema on opening night. Still it leads me to wonder.
Sinister? No. Business-minded? You betcha. It was always about the bottom line with Walt. I mean, c’mon, the image of a princess is akin to a Jungian archetype: The Innocent, the second of the twelve. Bear with me. Told you this would get long.
Archetypes are littered throughout Disney’s animated output. And why not? They are the foundation upon which all dramatis personae are made. Famed psychologist Karl Jung used archetypes to implement the idea that some images and/or roles are universal. He cemented his theory of society as a result of a “collective unconscious.” To put it plainly, some things are understood as they are on an instinctual level. Such examples are the ideal of the mother, the child, the adversary and the wise one. Virtually all of Disney’s animated films follow this hierarchy (consciously or no). Hedging such bets—as well as being vital to this closed-ended arguement—Disney heroines are children, regardless of species. Even though the studio is adept at creating a proper three act movie the cast are all ciphers reimagined film for film based on Jungian archetypes. The hero, the wise one, the child…the formula? I’m probably overthinking this, but perhaps I’m compensating for the other 90%.
Seriously, maybe Jung’s concepts might have informed Walt with his oeuvre and perhaps such may be why Lunny’s theory is so presently potent. Same sh*t, different movie. No matter how clever Disney has spun it the princess formula has run its course. To wit, how come an under-employed cook made a connection between Jungian psychology and Princess Jasmine? There may be a bunch of you out there who’ve also toppled down the rabbit hole and ignored there was no bunny in the first place.
In the endgame, we’re talking true and tired. Being a “princess” is no longer a starring role—it’s more like a pejorative these days—and the House Of Mouse has had some difficulty in accepting some few hints. Conducting business now often blurs the longview. Hey, when comes down to the bottom line why change lanes? The princess palette brings in the bucks at the box office. Ain’t broke, don’t fix.
I’d like to believe that in recent years Disney has considered, but never outright declared that their formula has become threadbare. Again, I dig princess stories (EG: The Princess Bride, The NeverEnding Story, Star Wars: A New Hope, etc) but have grown yawning of “princess stories” if you catch my drift. I am sick of the “damsel in distress” schtick and demand more proactive heroines. We’ve had many notables over the past few decades. Consider Joan Cusack “accidentally” holding Working Girl together. Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens, confronting many nasty demons. Or even the wispy Trinity from the Matrix movies, who goes all John Woo on yer ass once she jacks in. Or even in anime with the capable, mixed vag female team of cyborg hunters in BubbleGum Crisis: Tokyo 2040. These are examples of strong-willed women who are still female and buck the all too tired trend of needing others—male or otherwise—to get sh*t done. That’s the key for me to a have a solid movie heroine: independence. Closest example I can think of recently with Disney was the resourceful Rapunzel from Tangled. Her “knight” was a scoundrel/fanboy and her weapon of choice wax a frying pan. Heck, Ripley improvised too. And we could all do worse.
Let’s backtrack now. Step backwards in Danny’s bootprints. I think I might be getting to a point. That and I really like Dunkin’ Donuts’ fat free blueberry muffins.
…What began as an experiment as well as a revolution in animation with Snow White way back in 1937 set the stage. The Disney Formula: feisty damsel in distress needs a prince of sorts to sweep her off her feet and/or protect her from the evil machinations her innocent circumstances invited. Then again, Snow didn’t have to eat that apple. Aurora understood to steer clear of spinning wheels. Ariel wanted to be with Eric at the risk of her unable to even chat with him. Cinderella knew she was running a risk crashing Charming’s ball against her stepmom’s stern words. Even Belle waltzed eyes wide open into that cursed palace if only to get away from that dolt Gaston.
You hear what I’m screaming? Precious few Disney heroines stand their ground and principles for the choices they make. Most are reactionary, sometimes pawns of a wicked female passive-aggressively waiting for their knight in shining armor. Or again with Tangled some hapless scoundrel getting caught up in mix, by wit, grit and trying to outrun some sh*t. Disney, try as they might, can’t shake old habits no matter how much of their fans scream not again. In the long run up to now the Disney Formula is (as of this screed) f*cking 85 years old, and has become as tired as Rip Van Winkle sleeping off a bender.
I don’t know about you, but from a person who loves animated movies enough is enough already. If any of you out there in Disneyland haven’t picked up on Mickey’s treadmill yet I suggest you squeegee your mind’s eye and watch some flicks from the upstart studios with lesser budgets but bigger cojones to create “alternative” animation. More irreverence, less fluff (unless relevant to the plot). To wit I’d like to believe that Ms Lunny was a fan of the Shrek movies.
One more thing. The more recent sanitizing practices when Disney strays away from the source plot, some very interesting twists are left out. Fudging with the source material for the sake of sanitizing (Disney is notorious for this). Stuff that might earn a flick more pathos and ultimately more rewarding in the end. For example, in the original fairy tale Cinderella there were no fairies to set her up right. She cultivated a magic tree that collected all sorts of useful things in its branches. It was only after the tree spruced (ha!) up Cinderalla’s wardrobe to get right for the ball, it was chopped down out of envy by the nasty stepsisters. Despite this setback, the Prince still went on his foot patrol (ha ha!) with that slipper, looking for his ultimate date.
Here’s the twist. We know that Cinderella and the Prince lived happily ever after, but ‘Rella held no ill will against her siblings and mother. Sh*t was rough with a lot of sour grapes. She got lucky, and encouraged the Prince to find some nice bachelors from his court to be wed to Anastasia, Drizella and even cranky, old Lady Tremaine, thereby fixing a broken family. No hard feelings. The moral of the story is that family makes us stronger, and it’s never some sort of competition to be the first at anything. Hey, we all hang together through life. If there were a moral to Cinderella’s adventure it was to be gracious and not selfish.
That was the moral of the story I did not see in the film. Downbeat? Kinda. Satisfying? Yep. A change of pace? Could’ve been if not for that dang formula.
To quote Jerry Seinfeld, “What is up with that?”
Back to the 21st Century now and Disney dragging a limb. Encanto‘s Mirabel is no different a specimen, yet not designed to be. She’s awkward, a shrunken violet compared to her magical sisters, the ugly duckling amidst the bevy of swans. It takes the desperation of the Madrigal family to coax the help of
REDACTED and turn the tables at Casita. Sure, Mira figures it out, but not alone. Never alone. The other characters need to shine, sometimes overpower our heroine. It would betray the (let’s face it) Disney ticket selling machine. There’s a dynamic here that is the house style, so why fix what ain’t broken?
I cannot stress this enough: it’s tired. And tired is a polite way to say predictable. And predictable is a polite way to say in a rut. And that sucks. Sure, back when Ariel got all bold in standing up to her overbearing father so to get to know (Prince) Eric out of love it was a breath of fresh air. Having a Disney princess take the bull by the horns for once. It made a great story and a timeless movie, which I still enjoy today. Then the formula percolated, right around the “Kiss The Girl” scene. The Little Mermaid was cut in 1989. You follow? As of this writing that was 35 years ago. Taylor Swift was yet to crawl out of the womb. Feel old yet? You should, but not 85 years old old.
Enough. Let’s consider this week’s installment. Over the past few years—after the original Frozen appeared in wide release—the Diz Biz has been straining to escape the formula. Sure, my beloved Tangled took an offbeat tack, but in the end Rapunzel was a
REDACTED princess. At least Flynn Rider was REDACTED trying to save her naive ass went against formula. And hey, Princess & The Frog had our competent Tiana, but she wasn’t really a princess, dig. That and she’s black! Score! Now go away!
No matter how it spins Encanto was Disney’s answer to Pixar’s Coco. Similar plot: get to the bottom of things regarding the almost forgotten black sheep of the family who is the fountainhead of wisdom escorted into the light by a determined, misfit family member. Spin it to win it. Coco was far less pretty not to mention more convoluted and opened-ended than Encanto, to be sure. Still what made Encanto “unique” was our hero was a heroine, not a princess. Perhaps an heiress apparent, defiantly the black sheep and struggling against the spirit of Uncle Walt to create another cash grab classic. A twist on a tried-and-true plot device? Perhaps, but streaming the thing was what I was after. I hoped it would be finally that new twist, Prince Charming all absent. Our heroine being a linchpin of the plot sans any hide or hair of some chiseled hero with perfect hair and nothing to hide.
Okay, there was something to hide, or remain hidden being a better phrase. Despite the creaks and cracks Encanto did manage to score a few firsts long absent in Disney’s catalogue. I may be a cynic, but I always give a wide berth to questionable movie exploits. Especially animated stuff. Encanto might’ve been one of them. But still, hey, Disney animation! We’ve had 85 years worth of expectations.
There is a fine example of the malign regarding the revolving door of princess movies. If you’ve ever read the delightful and witty Olivia picture books then you might recall our porcine protagonist lamenting about having to dress up as a princess for a theme b’day party. Young Olivia’s dilemma somewhat mirrors Ms Lunny’s argument. It read like this:
“Why is it always a pink princess? Why not an Indian princess or a princess from Thailand or an African princess or a princess from China? There are alternatives. And on Halloween,” said Olivia, “what did all the girls go as?”
Olivia: “PRINCESSES!” ²
Disney’s had growing pains since the turn of the century, and in only fits and starts that the studio has been trying to inject 20th Century sensibilities into their 21st Century animated films. Better late than never? It’s rather been more like a see-saw than a carousel for a long time. Then again there is hope. Recall how I mentioned Mirabel needs her supporting cast to define her role in the Madrigal Clan? I kinda trolled you a bit. Disney’s growing pains are still creaky, but the “formula” can still be tooled with. As with Encanto.
Please, Mirabel, be strong and prove me wrong…
The Madrigal family are imbued with magic, but it was not always this way.
Grace to only what could be called a miracle, at a time of great sacrifice the powers that be bestowed an never-ending glow from a mystical candle—an encanto—to not only protect the family, but also bestow magical powers to the children when the time is right. Magic to aid the community, to protect all and imbue joy.
All is great and good under the encanto, which is why Mirabel (Beatriz) feels so left out of…everything.
You see, Mirabel is the only Madrigal who never inherited any magical powers. But instead of being the odd one out, she’s perpetually in overdrive trying to keep things shiny and bright, if only to outshine her worth to the Madrigal matriarch, her kind yet stern abuela Alma (Botero). She’s keeper of the encanto, and all too well knows Mira tries her best, but…the girl is powerless. What to do?
Until one day the mystical casa of Familia Madrigal starts to sputter out its magic for no identifying reason, Mira gets on the case. This isn’t about faulty magic. It’s about a faulty family.
Just ask the guy we no longer mention…
The curious thing about Encanto is adjusting for return on investment—paired with The Standard—is that the movie didn’t do so hot at the box office. This is in relation to earned Disney revenue. Almost all of Walt’s animated flicks break the bank. Encanto only managed to break even. Over $400 million at the domestic box office. This was Disney money, and only about half of its original budget. Encanto just limped by, which is why it’s here under RIORI‘s lens. I repeat, a Disney movie. That was not a hit and met with dicey reviews. Is the sky falling? Will there be lunch tomorrow?
Recalling my recalling my recollections about the tired and true formula from hours ago, Disney is going through growing cramps, trying to squeeze its way out of a trite plot device and attempt—in a broken-wing phoenix way—to redefine its princess parable predicament. This began in earnest with The Little Mermaid introducing a slew of films starring capable princesses, but still often relegated to supporting characters if not wallpaper. Or worse, a fallback into being a plot device (think Meg from Hercules). Ugh. Better thinking, but still too feminine and still playing it safe. More like hedging some bets. In the end run though, Disney’s 90s to 00s output worked, and was more thoughtful about where the heroine fit into the story at large and not relegated to being just a damsel.
Then came Frozen, Tangled, The Princess And The Frog and, yes, Encanto, which openly tooled with bucking the house style. Disney was getting better, growing hip to current pop culture trends. Doing so breathed some much needed life into the studio, but sometimes with odd results. Encanto is such an odd duck. We have no princess, the conflict is vague in execution, and there are no defined antagonists. At least on the surface. This may be a first regarding Disney’s output—despite all the songs and spectacle—Encanto is a mystery movie. An existential “whodunnit?” It’s not about an overt threat that may upset the natural order of things like Hades or Jafar attempted. Encanto is all about identity, and not tossing Gaston from the parapets.
Hear me out. This may get weird.
I’ve lamented about the end of trad cell animation over the last decade. However Encanto has proven to me why digital animation is of the now. Encanto was f’n gorgeous. By far the most beautiful modern Disney animated movie I’ve scene to date. K said she loved the colors; I could not argue. The flick gave Pixar a run for the money for being digitally sumptuous. Disney has learned how to use coloring as a character in its own right. What was different this time out Disney used color and shadow to propel the story. This was oddly deliberate considering one of the main characters was a magical house. I’m going to call the spade Encanto a spade. This was a deceptively complex story. The very fact the formula was all but thrown under the bus says volumes. Using setting as a defined character (Casita or no) I can’t recall that ever being attempted, let alone succeed. Light and shade, a reflection of the story.
In addition to that light and shade, a very major aspect of Encanto’s feel is the voice acting. Never have I heard a vocal cast be so…themselves. Disney has always had impeccable taste in casting their voices. I particularly loved the choice of Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor as the rodent orphan hunting duo in The Rescuers. With Encanto our cast is ostensibly Columbian, and their dialogue is so subtly Latin American, even to adopt a Columbian accent (there is one) the Madrigals come across as so natural and not forced. There was no bombast, just conversation, as if hearing regular folks go about their day. Sure, when the encanto began to sputter there was some concern, but never any histrionics like, say, The Lion King. Everything flowed. It was like watching an ep of Seinfeld, minus the bluster. We’re all just talking and sharing and was all so soothing and engaging. The most natural voice acting I’ve ever heard. Good job.
Encanto kind of felt like a cousin to another movie about music, mayhem and finding your way in the world: The Sound Of Music. “How do you solve a problem like Mira?” It was an ugly duckling story, and Mirabel was the misfit. The only member of family Madrigal who never inherited a magic power. This was the detail that drove the story. What’s wrong with Mira? How come she has no magic? And more of the sinister: “Does she even belong here? Is she a true Madrigal?” Taking into account our female protagonist is an awkward 15-year old young woman, all that awkwardness that goes along with adolescence is laid bare. Who here can’t help but relate?
*blogger raises hand, pops bubblegum*
This review, like Encanto, will take some hard lefts. I’ve dissected way too many middling flicks here at RIORI, but I’ve never outright attempted to explain a movie away. As I said, Encanto is a deceptive, complex movie, and if you view it from the princess formula you’ll miss a lot. I did first time around. Correct, Encanto demands a repeat viewing. I actually had to do some YouTube sifting to either affirm or dismiss the true meaning of the film. Admittedly that was kind of fun, namely having your suspicions confirmed/dismissed. Like I said Encanto was an existential mystery. Heavy for an Disney flick, but the studio pulled off the ruse deftly. Not was all as it seemed. and this nagged at me. Just like a good caper should.
For example: a twist I missed at first. Have you ever felt in trad Disney animated films that the songs were just bookends/exposition rather than just…songs, compared to Pixar movies. Randy Newman’s “You Got A Friend In Me” became the theme song for the Toy Story. That’s all, and that’s how it’s always been…since most Pixar flicks stray away from licks unlike the endlessly catchy/bemoaned “Let It Go” from Frozen. Encanto is a Disney film, so we get songs aplenty. This time out it’s not about bookmarks, let alone curtain calls. The songs are indeed madrigals in the center of the scene singing about the significant goings-on within the act proper. Heck, even the aforementioned “Let It Go” concluded Frozen‘s second act. Right on point. For a good portion of the film the songs just burst forth, off guard and you even get the sense that regarding a given scene now’s not the time to get all Harold Hill on yer arse. Like color, the music is a character, too.
Hard left: let’s get old school. I wanna talk about the three act structure. Perhaps you’ve read me flogging about how crucial it is to satisfying films. Disney Studios are ardent adherents (if not drones) to this practice, as should all professional scenarists be in constructing a fully realized final cut. This would be the fully-formed three act structure. No worries. Encanto played by the rules. Quite well. Listen now.
We might have heard that the ancient Greeks wrote the book—so to speak—on how to create proper dramatic theater in the Western Hemisphere. We call it a play, or a film or even an ep of TV. Cutting to the chase the classical three act structure is “a narrative model that divides stories into three parts—Act One, Act Two, and Act Three, or rather, a beginning, middle, and end.” ³ It’s just that simple, and you’d be hard pressed to ignore movies (especially animated ones) that let things get all wobbly and mushy and stray from the story proper in favor of flash and dash. Think Cars 2, Treasure Planet or (if you wanna get technical) John Carter. That kinda direction just ends up being baffling. I dug John Carter, but took me many layers of onion to peel away to actually appreciate the messy plot. The film could’ve been shorter also; a big film does not necessarily invite a bloated running time. Encanto was big, but not overblown and could have been if not for some shrewd storytelling with a tasteful amount of muss and fuss.
Here’s a key factor to the three act structure. It’s based partially on an audience’s reaction to a movie. Everyone remembers the opening and everyone remembers the ending. It’s not unlike to the crucial parts of a jet taking flight: the takeoff and the landing. The rest in between is essentially just coasting, and like with a movie most drama occurs in fits and starts like turbulence. Encanto‘s directing team understood this, which is why the first and second acts are littering with backstory and clues. I said the movie was an unconventional mystery story, and deciphering the clues makes the mystery fun to solve. As well as the whole “things are not what they seem” stuff.
A probable, ugly truth. That may have been Encanto‘s downfall.
In most Disney films (since their Renaissance) the formula to the tale of the resilient heroine almost always concludes with a big, bold scene of comeuppance. Victory and cue happily ever after. With Encanto that resolution is never really assured. Everything about the Madrigal magic fading and why is blurry, just out of sight. But there are clues if you pay attention. Close attention. I said I had to do some YouTube scanning to confirm my suspicions about the real story about the encanto, Casita and Mirabel’s place within the unfolding drama. In sum while watching the movie I kept asking myself, “Where are we going here?” It was not a question formed out of frustration. According to the box office tally maybe for the audience it was.
Something told me that the generations raised on the formula were all at sea viewing Encanto. Folks know what they’re in for when queuing up for the latest Disney flick. It’s familiar. It’s dependable. It’s all a family affair. It’s comfort food. Encanto was decidedly not your usual Disney fare, and it may have left a bad taste in the public’s mouth. Why? Well first of all the ending was open ended and not a tidy package all wrapped up. Our protagonist’s dilemma was never really resolved; Mirabel started with no magic and ended up with still no magic (at least at first glance). There was no definitive antagonist and the aim of the narrative was vague at best. That and America really had to think to appreciate Encanto. There was no spoon feeding, which I feel is what made the film great and quite a revelation. The directorial team worked hard to give us an earthy, quirky story that had a lot of moving parts. How those parts interlocked made Encanto work, especially when you get an “A-ha!” moment. Took me two viewings, but I got—earned, rather—mine. Even if it also required some Internet sifting.
Okay. The sifting thing—that and trying to write a primer for Encanto without ruining it for you—yielded some interesting results, as well as the movie might be the most avant-garde animated film since Fantasia from the venerable Walt Vault. Not unlike Encanto‘s disappointing takeaway for taking risks I’ll compare it the first Velvet Underground album. That record initially tanked, but everyone who heard it went out and started their own band. I hope Encanto set a precedent for future wily animators.
The miracle of magic from personal sacrifice allows the Madrigal encanto to imbue unique magical powers to its children when they come of age, kinda like the X-Men, but welcome in their community. Under the guiding light of the mystical, never-ending flame no child has ever been denied their gift, until Mirabel comes along. Unlike her pretty and strong sisters Mirabel walks away with nothing, and becomes the misfit of the clan (of which she is all too aware). However Mira keeps on being buoyant, always there to help the residents of Casita with everyday troubles we all face.
There. That’s the setup. Act one. Now pull out your magnifying glasses. Mirabel has no magic…or does she?
This comes into question when the magic starts to fade for no apparent reason. All the magical Madrigals are getting all stressed out, especially abuela Alma. She’s the self-appointed caretaker of the magic candle, and when the crisis goes into full swing she cannot. Just. Let the encanto be. Why?
Ah, the mystery, to which Mirabel gets a big lead from the almost literal skeleton in the closet, Bruno. The Ishmael of the Madrigal clan whom we do not speak of. Again, why?
He’s another misfit because he spoke his mind about the abuse of the magic, and how it might ruin Casita. That and Mira may be the catalyst to either save Casita from the waning magic or ruin everything completely. How?
This is where my sniffing around and my contempt for the worn-out princess plot paid off. I think. You ever hear the phrase, “The Captain always goes down with ship?” Sometimes there is no seaworthy ship. Sometimes its a fellowship, and/or a friendship. Consider this: Mira has no magic powers, at least not in the abstract. However if you applied a sharp eye (like the directorial team hoped I’ll bet) not all that Disney glitters is gold. To be blunt sometimes it’s terra cotta.
Sometimes the most mundane reveals treasures. King Tut’s tomb was buried in an offhand cave in the Valley Of The Kings, and look what we found. The Rosetta Stone? One of Napolean’s foot solders stumbled over it, so to speak. And there was that tale about Alexander Fleming and his sandwich. Boom, penicillin. Why not something obvious by accident could drive a movie? This just encapsulated Roger Corman’s entire milieu, and I’ll answer the former.
Hidden in plain sight. The director’s twisted the audience’s expectation with Encanto and left us up to gather the clues. Most of us Disney fans appreciate being indulged with a familiar, reliable (baby) formula. Encanto made one think, and boy did that sting. Just consider the ticket sales, most lost over Mirabel never getting her powers.
Wrong. Not getting but using. Moving on. You still there?
Without giving too much more away I feel that Encanto‘s eventual outcome reads as thus: why is it when Mirabel is under emotional duress Casita reacts in kind? Why? We’re not allowing Ursula to sway Eric with Ariel’s stolen voice here. Also, why was it when it was Mirabel’s chosen time to grasp the doorknob the encanto‘s erstwhile magic gift sunk into the floor rather than unlocking some magic? And what’s with the endless flapping shingles, cracks in the foundation and kids who need Mira to lean on? Curiouser and curiouser. No surprise, but I suggest you watch Encanto and unravel the mystery yourselves.
That’s enough for now. I’m not jamming my fingers up your collective noses anymore. Yes, this installment has been winding, weird and overall wordy. Then again aren’t all mysteries to some degree? Maybe not. Who knows? James Bond’s exploits never made much sense, yet we still watch ’em.
Encanto is an existential riddle, and only the determined will appreciate it. The film might require multiple viewings to be satisfying, but there’s a lot of cool things to scan. I hope that Disney allows more of this output. Adult films for families. I’m not wishing upon a star, but it would be cool if Encanto‘s execution might be a precursor for more mind-bending animated films to come. Heck, even the promo art holds riddles, even if Olivia is a self-appointed expert on gender roles.
Thank you everyone. I’ll be here until I’m dead. Please, try the veal and be sure to tip your servers.
Good night and no te dejes atropellar.
¹ Lunny, Megan. “Disney Princess Formula Undergoing Much-Needed Transformation.” cbsd.org. http://www.cbsd.org/cms/lib/PA01916442/Centricity/Domain/1522/Disney%20Princess%20Formula%20Undergoing%20Much.pdf. Accessed 20 June 2022.
² Falconer, Ian. Olivia and the Fairy Princesses. Illustrated, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012.
Rent it or relent it? Rent it. Original, lush, engaging, curious and above all different, with no princesses to be seen. Gracias a Dios.
- K: “It’s funny how the house catches everything before the people do.” Very astute.
- I found Mirabel adorkable in an Annie Hall kinda way. It’s all about the glasses.
- “And that’s why coffee is for grown-ups.”
- For the curious encanto translates as “charm” in English. Oddly appropriate.
- “The rats told me everything! Don’t eat those!”
- There is always a Bruno in the closet we never talk about. It’s tradition.
- K: “It’s a Mickey cactus!” Pat pat, there there.
- And also for the curious a madrigal is a lyrical story set to music. Duh.
- “How do I save a miracle?”
KayKay, who made me watch this trifle. She has surprisingly smart taste. Yah.
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