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Smooth Bananas: Disney’s ‘Encanto’

The movie musical is becoming a rare beast in the modern age of film, but Disney’s latest offering, “Encanto,” proves that a soundtrack can carry a film just as much as the plot or animation.

The film, directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush, stars “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actress Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel Madrigal, the only member of a family where everyone has some kind of magical power. When her grandparents fled violence within Colombia, they were blessed with a miracle candle that created a magical valley called the “Encanto” and gifted each member of the family with a supernatural power. Despite Mirabel not receiving a magical power like her relatives, she continuously attempts to help out even though this creates tension with her grandmother, voiced by Maria Cecilia Botero, the overbearing matriarch of the family. The songs in the movie are composed by “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and the orchestral score was composed and orchestrated by Germaine Franco.

Firstly, the songs in “Encanto” are incredibly infectious and catchy. The choice to tap Lin-Manuel Miranda for a musical about a possibly lesser-known musical culture (Colombian) was an excellent choice because Miranda has a way of interweaving the themes of the plot and the themes created by musical content.

This begins right from the first song in the movie: “The Family Madrigal.” The song features Mirabel introducing her entire family to a group of hyperactive children who can’t remember all the members of the magical family. This is a perfect way to bring the film in because it firmly establishes that Mirabel is the main character, and it also establishes the theme that Mirabel feels quite on the outs when it comes to her family despite how hard she tries. This is exemplified musically by making the music primarily rhythm based and using lots of instruments that can accompany Stephanie Beatriz singing rather than overshadow. Beatriz and several of the other actors in the film have low singing voices and this can provide an interesting challenge when writing songs. You don’t want to make it seem like the music is particularly meager, but you also don’t want to overpower the voices you have. That being said, the actors in the film all have well-developed singing voices and give Miranda a lot of freedom and flexibility to write interesting songs.

One of the main themes of “Encanto” is how generational trauma can be passed down and attempting to heal that trauma before passing it down to your children and grandchildren. The musical score is just another piece of the puzzle. Mirabel’s big showstopping song after her younger cousin receives his magical power is quite powerful despite not being a large and extravagant song. “Waiting on a Miracle” perfectly captures the feeling of being a member of a large family that never seems to get the recognition they wish they had, no matter how hard they try. Other songs throughout the film capture how the other members of the family Madrigal feel about their current family situation and the soundtrack is sure to offer something for everyone.

“Encanto’s” soundtrack receives an A rating.

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