I have watched Encanto five times since it hit Disney+. If you’re a parent it’s quite possible you’ve watched it even more. This is the next Frozen and for that reason alone it should probably win our 2021 Golden Cage for Best Animated film. It also happens to be just plain good on so many levels.
Encanto had a bit of an odd life. Disney released it straight to theaters with no digital release and it didn’t do all that well. COVID was coming back and parents weren’t bringing their kids out to theaters at all. It was probably a miscalculation by Disney. It looked like this would be one of Disney’s sleeper animated films. Then, however, the film hit Disney+ and exploded. “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” skyrocketed up the charts, becoming the number one song in a Disney movie ever. It might not get Lin Manuel-Miranda his EGOT but it is certainly a hit. Once the audience and the film were in the same place it was hard not to fall in love with Encanto.
The obvious factors for why this film is so good are there. The animation is stunning, the music is fantastic, and the story of love conquering all connects. But under the surface (drip, drip, drip) the film hits some powerful moments while also deeply connecting with cultural influences. There’s an undercurrent here about generational guilt and expectations that is profoundly deep and powerful. Encanto doesn’t just look at a magical story about a girl saving her family but at the structure and power of family, the impact of forced immigration, and the ways that responsibility and guilt can change us. It is, in short, more than the sum of its parts and in that way truly captures magic.