Disney heroines have been getting feistier since Pocahontas but the star of this Colombia-set musical isn’t a bum-kicking warrior like Mulan or a plucky princess destined to save a fantasy kingdom. What makes Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) stand out from the crowd is her apparent ordinariness.
In a slightly too busy opening number, the bespectacled teen introduces her superpowered relatives, including a shapeshifting cousin, a super-strong sister and a mum who can cure ailments with her cooking.
These “gifts” were bestowed by the Madrigal family’s enchanted house which sprouted from the ground two generations ago when matriarch Abuela (Maria Cecilia Botero) was chased by soldiers after escaping a burning village with her three babies.
The house went on to bestow a power on each Madrigal child on their fifth birthday. But there was no magic on Mirabel’s big day.
Worst still, a prophecy suggests the little misfit will extinguish the enchanted candle which is the source of its power.
This is the opposite of the “special one” narrative that has powered countless children’s fantasies. And as Mirabel sets out to investigate the troubling prophecy, she has to rely on less flashy “gifts” ‑ curiosity, resilience and compassion.
It’s this psychological depth that makes the story so compelling. And Encanto also shows how far Disney has come since Pocahontas. No one will accuse it of whitewashing history.
The vibrant animation and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s energetic show tunes are deeply rooted in Latin American culture and the refugee experience.
Joyful and triumphant, this could be the perfect festive treat.