Welcome to the Family Madrigal, everyone. Encanto, Disney’s newest animated film has taken the world by storm. Released at the end of 2021, the plot and music from the movie continue to dominate the internet, where a sea of Encanto content remains never-ending. In particular, the film has had a large cultural impact on members of the POC and Latinx community due to its representation of a wide variety of skin colors and hair textures. Many people were ecstatic to see themselves reflected on the big screen for the first time, such as this little boy who was thrilled to see that he looked just like Antonio Madrigal.
Cultural impact aside, the movie is also extremely popular due to its engaging plot. Set in the mountains of Columbia, this movie tells the story of Mirabel Madrigal, a 15-year-old member of the Madrigal family. The Madrigals live in a magical house, and each family member has a magical power…everyone except Mirabel, that is. The movie’s central plot follows Mirabel as she discovers that the family’s magic is fading and sets off on a mission to restore it before it’s too late.
One of the movie’s songs —”We Don’t Talk About Bruno”— has risen to the number two spot on the Billboard Hot 100, beating the record previously set by Frozen’s “Let It Go” (which only made it to the number five spot back in 2014). With a record-breaking upset like that, there’s no doubt that this movie is a cultural smash-hit. And having just watched it myself, I’m confident that I know the reason why;
It’s the songs.
There are eight original songs featured in Encanto: “The Family Madrigal”, “Colombia Mi Encanto”, “Waiting on a Miracle”, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, “Surface Pressure”, “What Else Can I Do”, and “Dos Orguitas”. Each song is soulful, cleverly worded, and beautifully animated. More importantly, they each contain information that is critical to the plot. The end result of the combination of these four elements is that the movie’s songs are visually stunning to watch and enchanting to listen to, all while moving the plot forward in a completely seamless and natural way.
In this article, I’ll be examining three of these eight songs to determine how and why they accomplish this. First, let’s take a look at The Family Madrigal.
This upbeat song follows Mirabel as she introduces some curious neighborhood kids to the various members of her family. As she walks around town with the kids, she explains each and every one of her family member’s magical powers, as well as how the different family members are related to her and to each other. Take a look at this excerpt from the song;
By consistently utilizing this expository format, this song cleverly serves the audience’s needs by informing them of all of this critical information, all while taking them on a colorful romp through the magical little town. Here’s another instance of it happening; "My tió Bruno -we don’t talk about Bruno! They say he saw the future, one day he disappeared." What could have been a long sequence of boring, clunky exposition is instead made catchy and visually interesting through music and the animated demonstrations of the family’s magical powers during the lines of the song that talk about them. It’s a joy to watch and a song that I have personally played over and over again.
Next, let's examine Waiting On a Miracle. This song follows Mirabel as she forlornly sings about her desire to have a magical power like the rest of her family. Take a look at this excerpt:
Through this song, the audience learns that Mirabel is not emotionally okay with the fact that she does not have any magical powers. Especially in this next line: "Can’t keep down the unspoken invisible pain. Always waiting on a miracle, a miracle." This is the audience’s first time learning about this truth, and pairing the exposition with the mournful song and the montage of Mirabel wandering around the house while everyone else is frozen in place hammers home her expressed feelings of isolation and lack of belonging. Again, it's another example of a song pulling double duty to captivate the audience while telling them things they need to know.
And of course, for the third and final song to be examined, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the movie’s now-iconic We Don’t Talk About Bruno. Here’s an excerpt:
The town at large don’t like to talk about Bruno. They couldn’t bear the weight of his strange prophecies, and as a result, they started to fear him and dread his presence. Furthermore, the song illustrates multiple instances of Bruno’s prophecies historically predicting misfortune after misfortune, Take a look at this next excerpt, where a variety of townspeople cry out about their dismal experiences with Bruno’s prophecies: "He told me my fish would die, The next day- dead! (No, no!) He told me I’d grow a gut, And just like he said (No, no!) He said that all my hair would disappear now look at my head (No, no!) Your fate is sealed when your prophecy is read."
So, the audience learns all there is to know about the mysterious, disappeared Bruno while being taken on a tour around the town where all kinds of characters talk about their experiences with him, his own family members included. This is all set to a catchy, rhyming beat filled with characters dancing, and multiple flashbacks to instances of Bruno's prophecies coming true. Put all these elements together and you get a song that tops the charts and gets stuck in your head for days on end.
Yes, the songs are definitely what make Encanto so special. As the audience follows Mirabel’s quest to save the magic, we are saddened by her failures and rejoice in her successes, as we would in any other film. It’s the clever songs that truly elevate this movie to another level.
Go ahead and give Encanto a watch if you haven’t already- trust me, you’ll find yourself starting to nod your head to the beat and maybe even sing along. Disney hit the nail on the head with this one; and I, just like the rest of the POC community, would be extremely excited if the media giant announced that they had plans to create a sequel to this lovely film. Unfortunately, without Bruno around, I have no way of knowing if this will happen. I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that in a couple of years, I will be able to return to the Family Madrigal.