The latest Disney Animation film, Encanto, directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush, became a surprise hit weeks after its release. It hit theaters on November 24th, 2021, a month before its addition to the Disney + platform.
This musical follows a Colombian family who finds safety in Encanto's magical village after being chased out of their home. The magic of Encanto blesses every Madrigal child with a supernatural gift to help their community– that is, all but Mirabel. However, this doesn't mean she isn't gifted; When the magic is threatened by an unknown force, Mirabel might just be the only one who can save her family.
This movie has eight original songs composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, an award-winning singer-songwriter. The songs are performed by an entire Latino cast, including Carolina Gaitán, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Diane Guerrero, and Stephanie Beatriz.
Each song sounds different, which appeals to a broader audience. This album is a blend of cha-cha, salsa, hip hop, and pop. It was mainly inspired by 90's Colombian music. As always, Lin-Manuel mastered the art of lyrics. Not only does he tell the story through his songs, but he brings it to new depths. "Dos Oruguitas" is the most meaningful song on the album. The lullaby tells the story of two caterpillars afraid of letting go. They fear the changes ahead, but "the world will never stop changing". They need to embrace this as it leads to "nuestro milagro," meaning ‘our miracle’. The lyrics then change from "dos oruguitas" to "ay, mariposas" [oh, butterflies], showing that the caterpillars needed to be separated to evolve and have a better future. This song is a metaphor for Abuela's origin story. The use of a butterfly is significant because, in many cultures, it represents endurance, change, hope, and life. This is the story of the community of Encanto. Throughout the film, we can see many butterfly symbols, such as a detail on Mirabel's dress.
"Dos Oruguitas" was nominated for the Best Original Song Academy Award. However, it was far from being the best hit on the album. The song that broke Disney's records was "We Don't Talk About Bruno". It took about two months since it was released to grow in popularity. But on January 31st, it climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became the first chart-topping song from a Disney animated film in 29 years. It even broke the record of Aladdin's "A Whole New World," which stayed No. 1 for only a week in 1993. Surprisingly enough, that means it surpassed "Let It Go" from Frozen, which I'm sure we all heard to the point of annoyance after its release in 2014.
"We Don't Talk About Bruno" is an unexpected hit due to its traditional musical formula. The song would mark the end of the first act in a staged musical as the music reaches its climax. To achieve this, Lin-Manuel Miranda required the participation of the entire cast. He gave each character a respective melody, then layered them up. It makes for organized chaos, which heightens the stakes for the second act. This technique of layering different pieces is the songwriter's signature. It can be seen in his other musicals like Hamilton, with "Non-Stop," and In the Heights, with "Blackout."
The song's success can be attributed in part to TikTok, where it's been trending for the last month. The various melodies allowed people to each have a favourite moment. In addition, it caught the attention of many creators for its very danceable and dramatic lyrics such as "I'm sorry, mi vida, go on" and "grew to live in fear of Bruno stuttering or stumbling". For this reason, many dances and trends were created on the platform with "We Don't Talk About Bruno".
With its fandom still growing., the heartfelt story of an immigrant family is profound enough to keep an audience of any age entertained. The bright images, colourful Colombian fashion, and playful approach to the movie appeals to most children. Yet, it approaches darker themes, such as Isabela's need to be perfect or Luisa's fear of cracking under pressure. The morals shared in Encanto are ones that many adults can relate to. Moreover, the animation of Encanto is remarkable as it includes various skin tones, hair textures, and body types, giving a voice to many who, before Encanto, couldn't find a representation of themselves in Disney's characters.