Encanto... this charming magical musical animated family drama subverts all tropes with its cultural pride
Encanto in a way, actually makes it so unique and great that with rewatches you realize some aspects of what the movie is trying to tell are a lot more subtle through its esoteric means of storytelling. And how do they do that successfully? Well, make it a musical of course!
Encanto is probably the most sophisticated Disney animated flick that some of the messages are not deliberately answered. Encanto in a way, actually makes it so unique and great that with rewatches you realize some aspects of what the movie is trying to tell are a lot more subtle through its esoteric means of storytelling. And how do they do that successfully? Well, make it a musical of course! Yeah, Disney musicals have either been praised by many but also mocked by being too escapist and highly whimsical, it makes every cynic cringe at them. Sure enough, with the songs, they give a perspective of each character but later on, those characters are not what they seem. Like the house itself, Encanto is basically about a family waiting to implode due to external pressure.
The movie tells the story about the Madrigals, a family who are gifted with magical powers except for one, Mirabel, our lead protagonist. As she remains the only Madrigal to not have powers, she and her Abuela Alva often find themselves in tense situations where the latter often worries about her possibly showing jealousy towards her other family members, which isn't the case as we go along. But the family wasn't born with the gifts that grant them their powers instead, they're given to them by a magical candle that does not die out. This candle was found by Mirabel's Abuela when she was young which saved her and her three young kids from the violence they were disposed from their hometown. The candle in return gave them a refuge that becomes their home, their magical powers, and subsequently built a utopian society. But Mirabel discovers cracks within the house, and what she does to save it is what forms the rest of the story.
So, here's something that Encanto does really well; it subverts all the tropes established at first only for it to later serve that thing with a heartfelt purpose. Like the catchy "We Don't Talk About Bruno" basically warns our protagonist that her estranged uncle Bruno, who absconded due to the powers that allow him to see the future, has always been a bad omen for the family. But when we get to meet Bruno, all of those warnings turned out to be false as they were unfortunately perceived as a curse and Bruno comes off as a sad, lonely guy who couldn't face his family due to the overburden of becoming the bearer of bad news. He could've been the twist villain Disney is infamous for creating but much like Mirabel, we see him as a guy who cares more about his family. The same goes for Luisa, her second oldest sister who has super strength and a buff appearance, but she sings quite possibly my favorite "Surface Pressure" where she rants about handling all the weight she has to carry to keep her family's reputation intact, and she laments that this happens to be tougher than moving mountains or breaking stones. This provides vulnerability towards a character who appears to look strong and after the song ends, Mirabel just hugs her as she feels that she may not be alone as with her other family members; her oldest sister Isabela feels under the pressure of being perfect, her parents constantly defending Mirabel from Abeula that she's too harsh on the former and even her cousin Dolores who knows everyone's secret due to her heightened sense of hearing, some of them she just couldn't help but disclose if it involves the worst of the family (might be sad for her to hear uncle Bruno talking to rats within the walls of the house).
...Cause look at Mirabel, she wants her family to be intact and what she does is she confronts those even if they have issues in the past. She doesn't need magical powers to let go of the pressures they're facing, all they need is love and support...
Also, the ending while it does seem a little too clean, it still provides us the message that the one who's discarded as the ordinary one might actually be the one who could end up having the most special gift. Cause look at Mirabel, she wants her family to be intact and what she does is she confronts those even if they have issues in the past. She doesn't need magical powers to let go of the pressures they're facing, all they need is love and support. In the scene where she has the big argument with her Abuela, the house crashes down which is indicated in Bruno's vision, that she could either break or make it (The hologram view of the vision is cleverly utilized, keeping us second-guessing what would happen to her next). And in the end, she does both. She breaks the house inadvertently due to her exposing what her family is going through and fixes it back when they all realize her family is in itself a refuge. It's done so subtly, it comes off as brilliant. Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz) is instantly relatable as the odd member of the family; from her cheerful optimism to her moments of vulnerability, her character does not give up on her family. It also is a statement that Disney has now been showing a lot of care regards to cultural pride like Encanto and Pixar's Coco. Both these movies show how to make stories based on the culture with appropriate representation, and also never feel shallow in the process.