Has ‘Encanto’ brought Disney’s magic back?

Disney has been a household name for generations, producing iconic films that defined so many people’s childhoods.While I enjoyed some of their more recent films, like “Frozen 2” and “Onward,” I don’t think they resonated with all kinds of viewers, like “Peter Pan” or “Princess and the Frog” did. The newer Disney movies don’t typically give me the same feeling as the older films did. 

However, Disney’s newest movie, “Encanto,” was an exception. It was a truly incredible film and it reminded me why I loved Disney animated films so much, not just for the catchy music, impressive animation and inventive storytelling, but for that “Disney feeling” that they evoke. I related not only to the protagonist, Mirabel, but also to her sisters, Isabella and Luisa.

When I first watched the film, I could feel the almost suffocating pressure that had been placed on the sisters by their Abuela. Seeing these characters find a way to escape that pressure was like a weight of my own shoulders. 

In this film, Disney not only gave us high-quality music and animation, but it also dug deeper to connect to a wide audience with struggles that are universally relatable. This movie’s ability to resonate with all types of viewers is a quality that not every Disney film possesses. 

Take “Frozen 2” for example. The film itself is beautiful, the animation was phenomenal and the music was heart-wrenching. Disney also took a risk with the flim by using Anna’s character to dive into the topic of mental health, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and its overall message about how people change over time. I also related to Elsa’s journey of self-discovery. 

However, I couldn’t help but notice that my younger brother and mother didn’t enjoy it quite as much. When I asked my mother for her thoughts on the film, she said: “I really enjoyed the music but the movie was just okay. It wasn’t what I expected them to do with the characters.” 

My little brother, who has a habit of watching Disney animated movies at least twenty times after their first release, didn’t ask to see it again. I asked myself why I enjoyed this film more than my mom and brother.

That’s when it occurred to me that I was 9 years old when the first “Frozen” film was released and 15 when the sequel came out. I had changed so much in those six years, I was able to relate more to the movie’s message of changing as time passed–a message that my mom, who has a pretty stable life with a solid routine, and my brother, a small child who hadn’t really lived much of his life yet, couldn’t relate to.

After making that connection, I began to see Disney movies in a new way. I now understood why I liked some movies more than others. This point was proven again when I watched another Disney animated movie, “Onward.” With two of my favorite actors, Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, voicing the main characters, I thought there could be nothing wrong with the movie. However, after seeing it, I was surprised that I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the adventure story and I did tear up at the thought of the boys getting to see their father again, but I didn’t relate to any of the characters. I am a middle child, but I don’t really have a bond with either of my older siblings, mainly because I don’t see them much. While it was heartwarming to see such a caring and inspiring story and to watch Ian become more confident in himself, I just wasn’t able to relate to the bond between the brothers or the heart-wrenching loss of their father.

 Disney always creates entertaining animated films, but what I think gives a Disney animated movie that feeling of magic is not the world-building or fun characters or even the magic itself. It’s the ability to resonate with not just one type of audience but with everyone, to help people look at their lives and see how they can learn from the characters on screen. This quality makes “Encanto” one of Disney’s best animated movies in years.