At this point, everyone with a Disney+ subscription (and some of you who've bummed a login off a friend) has fallen in love with Encanto. The House of Mouse's latest animated hit follows the family Madrigal, a Colombian family who serves their town thanks to their magical powers. Behind those powers is a moving story of generational trauma and the power of familial love, scored by original music by Moana and Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Fans of the film can't get enough, propelling the soundtrack to the Billboard Hot 100 and taking over TikTok with renditions of the songs "We Don't Talk About Bruno" and "Surface Pressure," among others. We also love to discuss the family's powers, not to mention the thematic meaning behind Mirabel's quest to save their miracle. Here's our explanation of the meaning of Encanto.
What does 'encanto' mean?
Per SpanishDict, encanto translates in English to charm or enchantment. It can also be used as a term of endearment, or to refer to a charming person. In the beginning of the film, Abuela and Mirabel describe the entire valley where they live, including Casita and the town, as a place of wonder, or an encanto.
You could imagine the townspeople using the word in multiple ways, either to refer to the family Madrigal's collective power or the magic inherent in the valley. For the sake of this piece, we'll refer to the overall magic of the family and Casita the same way they do in the film, calling it the "Miracle."
How did the Madrigals get their powers?
The story of Encanto begins when Abuelo Pedro and Abuela Alma—having just welcomed the triplets Julieta, Pepa, and Bruno—are forced to flee their hometown. After Abuelo was lost, the candle Abuela was holding became a magic flame, and created a valley encroached with mountains, as well as Casita, to be a refuge for Abuela, her family, and the other displaced people traveling with them.
Once Julieta, Pepa, and Bruno came of age, the Miracle gave them each a power to help the family and the town. Then the magic passed to the next generation, giving each grandchild a power. Until it was Mirabel's turn.
Why doesn't Mirabel have powers?
Each Madrigal gets their power during a special ceremony at the age of five. They go up to their designated door in Casita and touch the doorknob, awakening their power. At the same time, Casita builds a room that's the perfect manifestation of their power. We see this when Mirabel's younger cousin, Antonio, gets the power to talk to animals and a "bigger on the inside" jungle room.
However, when Mirabel had her ceremony, she didn't get a room. Instead, her magic door disappeared from the top down when she touched the doorknob. Since she didn't get a power, she stays living in the family nursery and spends her time with the neighborhood kids, though she still tries to help out the family as much as she can.
Her failed ceremony is also the unknown catalyst for Casita's cracks, as Abuela later asks Bruno for a vision about the magic. He sees Mirabel destroying the Casita, and hides the vision and flees into the walls. It turns out he misread the vision, which really showed that Mirabel can either save or destroy the Miracle.
What happens at the end of 'Encanto'?
Spoilers for Encanto ahead. After Mirabel's fight with Abuela, the two women have an emotional discussion that reveals Abuela's trauma from having to flee her home and losing her husband. It seems that this is the first time Mirabel hears the whole story, and she forgives Abuela for being so constrictive, understanding that the matriarch's perfectionism comes from a fear of having to lose her family again. The pair then go back to the fallen Casita, where the family reunites, including the estranged Bruno, and the townspeople gather to start rebuilding the Madrigal home.
Once the house is rebuilt, the family reveals that they made a special M doorknob for Mirabel to affix to the front door. When she does, power returns to Casita and the rest of the family, and everyone gets their happily ever after (and hopefully Mirabel gets her own room besides the nursery).
One of the best things about Encanto is that we never get concrete explanations for most of the mechanics of the power. We aren't told why it was threatened or why it was saved; instead we just see Mirabel's actions and how she brings the family together and helps heal (or start the process of healing) old wounds. The same could be said for why we never learn why Mirabel didn't get a power or how she brings back the magic in the final scene. It's the best example of "show, don't tell," letting the emotional lessons of familial love sink in.
Of course, not offering an explanation gives viewers a lot of room to think, so there are some great fan theories for what Mirabel's power could be. Many fans have concluded that her gift is to keep the family, and the Casita, together and thriving. Perhaps when the door disappeared at her ceremony, it's because some power from the house flowed inside of her, to be used to animate Casita again after it crumbled. Or maybe it has to do with her special relationship with Casita, which is why she speaks to it like a real person. Either way, the family and Casita only regained their powers because of Mirabel's determination and love. Keeping her family together and whole is her true power.
Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.
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