Encanto (2021), the first Disney movie inspired by Colombia, has become a huge global success. The Madrigals have managed to charm millions of people around the world highlighting the diversity of Colombia and Latin America.

With more than 250 million at the box office, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film, Encanto marks Disney Studios’ 60th animated film.   With its charismatic characters and captivating soundtrack, which has been number one on the Billboard 200 for eight weeks, Encanto has taken over the world with its magic, diverse characters, music, and representation of the Latin American community.

A Magical Story

Directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush, Encanto tells the story of the extraordinary Madrigal family, who live in El Encanto located in Colombia’s Cocora Valley. Casita, which plays an important role in the story, is the home where the Madrigals have lived in for generations. It was created by a candle with a magical flame that was born in the most difficult moment of Abuela Alma’s life, and its power has provided the family with amazing magical gifts that go from generation to generation. 

From super strength to communicating with animals, controlling the weather, and healing people with food, these different abilities have been used by the Madrigal family to help the people of the town where they reside.

However, the magic forgot one member of the family, Mirabel, who does not have a gift. When she discovered that the magic is in danger, she began to look for a way to save the miracle that once protected her home. 

Opening the Doors to a More Diverse Latin America

With the release of Encanto on November 25, 2021, the Madrigal family reached the doors of people around the world. This traditional Colombian family not only dazzled the audience with their magic but also featured the great diversity of Latin America. 

Despite the directors not being Colombian, the film clearly represented the country’s diversity in the small town hidden in the mountains. The movie highlights the culture, ecosystems, and colorful traditions of Colombia. It dived into situations and behaviors based on Colombian and South American cultures such as families being forced to leave their village due to violence and generational trauma.

Encanto opens the possibility of expanding and understanding more of the cultural cocktail that is South America, from its roots to traditions. Latin American customs are often seen from a Eurocentric and individualistic perspective making it difficult for people that don’t come from the same background to understand that. 

One of the main aspects that the directors and producers wanted to show with Encanto is the complexity of family relationships in Latin American societies. The movie showed three generations that lived in the same house and coexisted on an intimate level. The film portrays that relationships within families are not perfect and exhibits the pressures of making your family proud. 

It also exhibits the authority of women in Latin American culture as they tend to be the heads of a household. These women are the people in charge of caring for and protecting their families and ensuring triumphs for the generations that follow. Abuela Alma is a perfect example of this.  Although her importance and influence on her family and the people of the village might be strange to certain people, her authority as the matriarch makes perfect sense in the context of Latin America. Her efforts and sacrifices are connected to the life of her kids and future generations.

Encanto’s story dived into the various historical traditions of Colombian and Latin American culture. The movie plays with magical realism based on Gabriel Gárcia Márquez’s novels. This genre developed thanks to Latin American culture being so rooted in the traditions of natives and Afro-Latinos. In the film, the Madrigal family has magical powers and a house with a conscience, factors that are not perceived as something uncommon in the community, highlighting what magical realism is all about. 

Taking Over the World

Encanto has become a global sensation. Since its release, the Disney movie has not stopped breaking international records. According to Nilsen, since its premiere on the streaming platform Disney+, in December, it became the most viewed picture among streaming platforms by the end of 2021.

Encanto’s achievements did not end there, the film is recognized not only for its distinctive animation but its exceptional soundtrack. Written by Lin Manuel Miranda, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”—“No Se Habla de Bruno” in Spanish, mixes various dance genres with Cuban folklore, captivating the audience with this fusion of styles characteristic of its culture. The song has over 356 million views on YouTube and has reached the number one position on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, becoming the first Disney song to top the chart since Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” in 1993.

For this year’s award season, the film was nominated for Best Animated Film, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song with the track “Dos Oruguitas,” at the 94th edition of the Academy Awards and the 79th Golden Globe. Although the film did not win for its soundtrack, it took home the award for “Best Animated Film” at both ceremonies. 

Though Encanto does not represent each individual country of South America, it’s a huge step toward portraying and giving a voice to these regions and cultures that for years have been undermined and recognized by narratives settled by foreigners. The Hollywood narrative has mostly focused on the violence and conflicts that have caused tragedies all over the region. 

Latinos have survived incredible violence and abuse, despite it, they have kept their roots and sense of unity, as is portrayed in Encanto, something that comes from surviving and thriving together. 

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