© The Walt Disney Company (Germany) GmbH

U.S.A. 2021

Opening 25 Nov 2021

Directed by: Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith
Writing credits: Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Jason Hand, Nancy Kruse
Principal actors: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow

“A place of wonder, Encanto…open your eyes.” Concealed high in the mountains of Columbia, the fantastical Madrigals live in a colorfully marvelous town in a vibrant Encanto. Blessed by a magic candle’s extraordinary gifts, their flower-festooned hacienda-style abode magically grows exponentially to accommodate the expanding familia. Every child receives a remarkable gift that inadvertently benefits the charming, neighborly community, from healing powers to Luisa’s (Jessica Darrow, voice) mighty strength, to controlling weather, and Isabela’s (Diane Guerrero, voice) flower power, to shape-shifting, magnified hearing, creature communicating, and Bruno’s (John Leguizamo, voice) clairvoyance. Family Matriarch Abuela Alma’s (María Cecilia Botero, voice) established custom is fiesta precedes the gifting ceremony, followed by celebrating. Today is a gifting-day; truth be told, everyone is somewhat nervous because of last year. Overly excited, lovable Antonio (Ravi Cabot-Conyers, voice) reaches out to favorite cousin Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz, voice) whose encouragement and joking hides personal regret at having no magical powers. His gift is phenomenal; Mirabel decamps to the hacienda. Flabbergasted, she discovers it in peril and the magic candle sputtering. Convinced she must prove herself and for once empowered by her normality, Mirabel (tries to) figure out how to save her magical family. Perhaps, that in itself can make a difference.

Walt Disney Animation Studios, founding in 1923, is the longest-running animation studio in the world, and this musical coming-of-age animation celebrates its 60th. The charming computer-animated film combines sagaciously interspersed themes, humor, a female protagonist and uniquely imagined characters, and nods to Colombian culture and writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s oft-used theme of magical-realism, while diversifying its storytelling. Directed by Byron Howard (Zootopia, 2016) and Jared Bush (Zootopia, 2016); Bush co-wrote the original screenplay with Charise Castro Smith, who also co-directed. Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights 2021, Hamilton 2020) wrote the music that includes eight original Spanish/English songs, while Germaine Franco (Coco, 2017 co-composer) scored the film. The lively, poised Voice cast is fabulous; their emotivity is inspiring. Kudos to Production Design (Ian Gooding), Art Direction (Camille Andre, characters, Mehrdad Isvandi, environments), Special Effects (Can Yesilyurt), Visual Effects, and Animation Departments, et al.

Encanto’s rollicking good fun swells with colorfully vivid animated vibrancy, delightful music that will have you rocking in your seats, and its big-hearted, feel-good story. It is the beauty and magic of Disney at its most awe-inspiring, entertainingly best. (Marinell Haegelin)

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