Social media posts of young children reacting to seeing characters in the new Disney movie looking like him have gone viral. Community members from the University of Miami share their views on animated film and why it’s important for everyone to see diversity in film.
Emma Gomez, 8, has seen Walt Disney’s animated film “Encanto” 13 times. She loves singing and dancing to the catchy song from the movie “Let’s not talk about Bruno” and she knows the rest of the soundtrack by heart.
“He even asks me to act in the film while he’s falling asleep,” said his mother, Marcia Gomez, a lecturer at the University of Miami School of Communication.
Emma is not alone. The film received three Academy Award nominations and its catchy song, “Let’s Not Talk About Bruno”, surpassed Frozen’s “Let It Go” to # 4 on the Hot 100 chart.
But “Encanto” has also received enormous praise for the accurate way it portrays the Madrigal Hispanic family and the portrayal of its many characters to fully represent the complexity of Hispanic culture.
The film tells the story of the Madrigal family. They live in Colombia and their children each inherit a magical gift, all except Mirabel, one of the youngest grandchildren.
The animated film sparked a wave of social media posts, with photos and videos of kids smiling next to the film’s main characters because they see themselves in them.
Hannary Araújo, mother of 2-year-old Manu Araújo Marques, shared a BuzzFeed video of her daughter watching “Charm” for the first time. In the video, Manu watches TV and sees the protagonist, Mirabel, and immediately recognizes her. “It’s me, Mom!” exclaimed the little girl, according to BuzzFeed. Manu looks just like Mirabel.
Most classic Disney animated films feature a white princess who eventually finds her prince charming, according to Gomez. Moving away from the traditional portrayal of a princess in need of saving is also a message that is important to highlight for children, but especially for girls, Gomez pointed out.
From “The Princess and the Frog” to “Mulan” and “Moana”, Disney princesses have slowly appeared in different races and sizes and with stronger characteristics. But “Encanto” not only features Disney’s first all-Latin cast, but a main character wearing glasses. Additionally, the film features many of Mirabel’s relatives who are mixed race.
“I feel like Disney did a good job of being authentic and representing different versions of the Hispanic look,” Gomez said. “We come from different races and some of us have straight hair and others have different curly hair and features.”
Camilo Rodriguez, a lecturer at the Frost School of Music, was born in Barranquilla, Colombia. He saw “Encanto” with his 10 year old nephew and enjoyed the movie.
“It’s a bit unique because Colombians don’t always get the best representation in movies and the great Colombian movies usually involve [drug lord] Pablo Escobar or drugs and many Colombians are reluctant to see them, “he said.
But in “Encanto”, Rodriguez found the music of the accordion and cumbia (musical rhythm and dance) of his childhood and at times he could hear the musical rhythms of the Barranquilla carnival. He had never heard those sounds in a movie before, he said. The music and lyrics of the animated film were composed by Germaine Franco and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Another song from the film, “Dos Oruguitas”, received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
Rodriguez was also drawn to the word “Encanto”, which translates as enchanted, but has undertones of magical realism, a literary genre in which magical or supernatural elements become part of everyday life.
“I loved the way the ‘Encanto’ house is alive,” he said.
Vanessa Bonilla, a young woman who is president of PorColombia, a student organization of 230 people that organizes events to celebrate her ethnicity, loved the film.
“I was very afraid to go see ‘Encanto’ because I’m a huge Disney fan and a lot of my Colombian friends felt the same way,” she said. “If they had misrepresented Colombian culture or used stereotypes, my love for Disney would have changed. But luckily, they represented our culture beautifully ”.
He particularly enjoyed the way the film captured the essence of Colombian family life, where extended family matters.
“Mirabel is very attached to her cousins, her tias (aunts) and uncles in a way you don’t see much in the United States,” she said. She also thought that the authentic way the film portrayed Colombian food – buñuelos, arepas and ajiaco – gave the story an authentic flavor.
Most of the characters in the film have a gift that makes them special. Luisa, the middle madrigal sister, is described as the “rock” of the family.
Gomez identifies with Luisa. “She carries the weight of the family on her shoulders and she removes the obstacles,” said Gomez. “I feel like I play that role in my family.”
Gomez said he believes the film has an impact on a large audience because it deals with universal issues, such as family and self-acceptance.
“It struck a nerve with its overall message that we must accept ourselves as we are and accept that we all have gifts even if we don’t feel we have them,” he said. “The film is about hope, family and acceptance of ourselves and all of our unique gifts.”