The legacy that Walt Disney Animation Studios has left since they debuted on the film scene with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937 is probably one of the most impressive I've ever seen. They're a studio whose films are filled with so much life, joy, and heart that they've been entertaining audiences both young and old ever since Walt Disney took a huge gamble on making feature films that ended up paying off very well. It's now been almost eighty-five years since the fairy tale film debuted at the since-demolished Carthay Circle Theater and sixty animated films have since left the studios doors and leaped onto the big screen with their most recent film being "Encanto", a film that is once again another delight from the studio. The film is a wondrous delight that continues to show Disney Animation's strive in their famous Disney Revival era and is filled with a lot of life, color, and heartwarming moments that will entertain any audience member young or old. It was a film that I really was surprised by.
In an enchanted village in the mountains of Colombia, a family named the Maribels have been blessed with magical abilities after Abuela Alma (María Cecilia Botero) was given a magical candle that formed an enchanted house and gave her three children magical abilities. Most of the family members have a unique ability all except for one named Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). While most of her family can do amazing things like heal with cooking, control the weather, bloom flowers everywhere, have enhanced hearing, can shapeshift, have super strength, and even talk to animals, Mirabel is the one member of the family (apart from her uncle and father who were married into the family) that was not given a magical gift and starts to question her place in the family, especially with the way Abuela treats her. One day, she soon discovers their magic house has begun to crack and her family members are starting to lose their magic gifts and Mirabel soon embarks on a journey through the house trying to find the answer on how to save it, even if it involves finding her estranged and banished uncle, Bruno (John Leguizamo), a prophet who can see the future.
This was a film that definitely surprised me a lot. It comes from director Byron Howard who also previously directed other very good animated films like "Bolt", "Tangled", and "Zootopia". The latter one is truly special for me since it made a huge impression on me when I first saw it and was that film that really got me thinking a lot about animation and wanting to watch more films and explore how it's done. Five years later, he and Jared Bush have once again made another terrific animated film that will join the ranks among Walt Disney Animation Studios catalog and stand tall with other modern classics. Going into the film, I was not expecting the story to be as simple as it ended up being, but I think that's what helps truly make it special. Despite the plot to try to save the house and losing the magic, the film is mostly kept in one location which helps since the house is filled with a lot of life and personality with Mirabel's cousin Antonio, having a large room that is a jungle, her sister Isabela having a room decked with flowers left to right, and her uncle Bruno having a large room mysterious with a giant stairwell and lots of sand. It really helps give the audience a lot to care about the house since it really is gigantic and has a lot of abilities. The journey that Mirabel undergoes to save the house was also one I really resonated with. The message is one that truly stands tall especially for anyone who is confused about their place in the family and wondering if they belong and it's what helps make the ending really work. It's certainly a heartwarming film and I really got emotional watching it. As far as the animation goes, this film is absolutely gorgeous. If there's one thing that really stands out from this film, it's the colors. There is a lot of colors bursting out from this film with reds, pinks, yellows, greens, blues, and it is so gorgeous to watch. There's a lot of Mary Blair's influence in the film with the warm colors and elaborate set designs that reminded me of "Alice in Wonderland" and especially the film made after Walt Disney's goodwill trip to South America like "Saludos Amigos" and "The Three Caballeros" and I could tell the filmmakers really wanted to do something that looked like a film she would work on and it definitely paid off. I also love other small details in the animation like the flickers that come from the magic candle and the way the house moved and interacted with others which is what helped give the film is such a fun identity. It's filled with so much life and wonder and is really what helps elevate the musical numbers in particular. The songs are once again top-notch work from Lin-Manuel Miranda who excelled with his songs in other animated films like "Moana" and "Vivo" and he once again brings his A-game to the table here. Songs that really stood out to me included "Waiting for a Miracle" where Mirabel sings about what her place in the family is like and the funny "We Don't Talk About Bruno" where the family is keeping hush-hush about the estranged and shunned uncle. His magic touch is evident throughout the film and it's another reason among others why he is one of the best songwriters working today. This leads me into talking about the characters that are also exceptionally memorable and have a lot of unique qualities. Mirabel is a relatable protagonist and despite being not being blessed with magic, she still stands tall among the family especially since she does love and cares about them despite feeling left out. I also found the other family members funny like Mirabel's aunt Pepa who controls the weather and constantly has rain clouds floating over her head when she's mad or stressed and her cousin Camillo who can shapeshift into other people and constantly tricks others into thinking they're the real person. I also found Bruno and Alma appealing as well once we could finally see inside who they are and what they represent and they had some great moments on screen. I think the only downside I had with the characters is that because there were so many of them, I felt like they weren't given enough time on screen to shine as they could. This was something that Disney Animation was able to excel at in "Zootopia" which also was littered with tons of memorable characters but gave them enough time on screen to make an impression without overstaying their welcome. I wanted to see more of certain characters in this film as I feel they weren't given enough time as they should, but I still think most of these characters really worked.
In all, "Encanto" is a wonderful film. The story is simple but has a lot of heart and a great message, the animation is filled with amazing colors and great passion, the characters are all fun and memorable even if I wanted to see a bit of them more, and the songs are once again great numbers from Lin-Manuel Miranda. This is yet another great animated film from Walt Disney Animation Studios that I really recommend seeing. It's a great film for families to see and I'm certain Disney Animation will continue to make more great animated films that will inspire others into the future.