In Disney’s latest animated feature-film, Encanto, a South American family are granted unique abilities, thanks to the aid of an enchanted candle. However, despite almost every family member being given a special gift (super strength, shape-shifting, etc), young Mirabel is seemingly left out of the enchantment.

Feeling very much like the outsider in her own family, Mirabel longs for the day when she too may develop abilities. But keen not to dwell on the situation, Mirabel remains upbeat at all times and is very encouraging to those who receive gifts.

Then one day, Mirabel begins to notice cracks appearing in the walls of her home, followed by a flickering of the candle. She informs her family of this worrying discovery, which she believes signals potential problems ahead; but they dismiss Mirabel’s words.

But Mirabel’s fears are not without merit, and she soon overhears her grandmother talking about the problems that could befall the family if they lose their abilities. Determined to protect everyone from losing their gifts, Mirabel sets out to find a solution to the problem, but soon learns the answers lie much closer to home.

Image: ©Disney
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Directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush, Encanto stars Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, María Cecilia Botero, and Diane Guerrero. The movie’s musical score is composed by Germaine Franco, with original songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

If you wish to watch Encanto, the movie is playing in cinemas from today. However, if you don’t mind waiting a month, the film will be added to the Disney+ streaming service (at no extra charge) from Christmas Eve.

Encanto has a 30-day exclusive theatrical window, which is why it’s on the big screen right now, and then it gets a home streaming release. So, depending on your location and of course your own individual circumstances, different viewing options are available.

If you do opt to get in early, and watch this movie at the cinema you won’t be disappointed. Encanto is yet another triumph from the Mouse House, and one that is sure to delight the whole family.

Image: ©Disney
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For those keeping track, Encanto is Disney’s 60th Animated Classic, following in the footsteps of such films as The Jungle Book (1967), Aladdin (1992), Moana (2016), and Raya and the Last Dragon (2021). And as with all of those movies, it ticks all the usual boxes you would expect, meaning it includes great songs, superb animation, and a heart-warming story.

However, Encanto isn’t just a cookie-cutter Disney movie, as there are some significant differences. For one, the movie keeps its cute sidekicks down to the bare minimum, meaning there are relatively few wacky animal characters popping up in the picture.  

The film also doesn’t include a major villain. The conflict in this picture comes from within, with the central themes and issues all connected to the family unit.

And this is where the bulk of this movie largely remains: within the family and the local community. This is a small-scale Disney tale, which tells a story about acceptance, understanding, and being thankful for those nearest and dearest.

This is not a movie about scary villains, nor is it about country-hopping quests. This is a film about the family, and about working through long-seated issues.

Image: ©Disney
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At the heart of the movie is Mirabel, who is a likeable lead. She is brave and inquisitive, thoughtful and caring, and the epitome of a Disney hero.

Young audiences are going to fall in love with her. They are also going to adore Mirabel’s family, who all get to show off some fantastical abilities.

But these guys and gals aren’t super heroes, so don’t be fooled into thinking this is a crime-fighting picture like The Incredibles (2004). They are simply ordinary folk who display a specific gift.

One of these gifts involves the weather, another involves plants, while another grants one character the ability to understand animals. All of the characters are fun, colourful, and quirky, yet they are also very human, with a number of family members demonstrating their flaws and insecurities.

One of these characters is Luisa, who has super strength. Her power is both a blessing and a curse – something she sings about in a rather memorable moment in the movie.

Another family member is Isabela, who is deemed to be ‘perfect’ by her siblings. Because of how her family perceive her, she too gets a very memorable scene, and another great song, as she (and Mirabel) work through some important issues.

And it’s at this point that I should highlight just how strong the movie’s songs and soundtrack are, and how important they are for telling the story. While I don’t believe the tunes match the height of Disney’s best (the songs are not quite up there with Frozen (2013) or The Little Mermaid (1989)), they certainly play their part in exploring the characters and themes.

The songs are upbeat and bright when they need to be; they pack an emotional punch when required; and they are always enjoyable to listen to. The sounds fit the story and characters perfectly, and bring something new to the table.

Image: ©Disney
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I also want to heap praise on the animation in Encanto, which is REALLY GOOD. I feel like a broken record here, as this is something that I feel I always say when it comes to Disney movies, but the animation in this movie continues to raise the bar.

Encanto is not only gorgeous to look at, with many vibrant colours popping all over the screen, but it is also an incredibly detailed movie. The level of care and attention on display is second to none, and there are many great visuals.

From the enchanted candle and some spectacular fireworks, down to the expressions on the characters’ faces and even the embroidery on Mirabel’s dress, everything looks incredible. Disney continues to invest heavily in its animated movies, to ensure they push the envelope, and it isn’t going unnoticed.  

As noted above, there are now 60 Walt Disney Animated Classics in the Disney vault, and with the exception of a couple of duds, these pictures continue to shine. Encanto maintains the Disney legacy, then takes it up a level, resulting in a visual treat.

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Are there any bad points about this movie? No, not really.

While Encanto doesn’t make it into my personal top ten Disney movies, there’s no denying it is another great picture from the studio. It delivers time and time again, and the end result is a film loaded with entertainment, lots of heart, and plenty of gags.

Those who love Disney movies will adore this picture. It offers something a little different, while still maintaining all the key aspects of what makes a great Disney film.

If you don’t get chance to catch this one on the big screen, then make sure you watch it over the Christmas period on Disney+. The whole family will love it, and I expect the younger members of the household will have it on rotation throughout Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, and probably most of 2022.

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