Encanto Co-Director Breaks Down This Emotional Ending
“Encanto” is Disney’s latest animated classic, a story of family and hope in Colombia, where the Madrigal family were endowed with magical powers. With a handful of new songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda and absolutely stunning animation, “Encanto” is a new favorite. It’s also surprisingly complex, with its early 20th century setting allowing real-life tragedy to punctuate the magic of the storybook. And the ending is even more complicated – and requires a proper deep dive.
Warning: Huge spoilers for Disney’s “Encanto” follow. If you haven’t watched yet, come back now!
The story so far
“Encanto” is a tale of magic. During the prologue, we know that a magic candle was given to Alma (María Cecilia Botero) following the death of her beloved husband. (The film takes place in the ‘first part of the 20e century, ”according to the filmmakers.) The candle gave her family transcendent gifts and created a safe haven for her family and others, with mountains towering in the distance, ensuring everyone’s safety.
When we join the family, it has grown considerably – the family tree has grown many branches. But our main character is Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), a young member of the Madrigal family and apparently the only one who hasn’t received a gift. Still, she has a great relationship with the Enchanted House (she has a distinct personality) and she takes care of the children before they receive their gift (when they receive their gift, they also get their own room, which has special features. magical qualities, able to expand to accommodate their unique abilities).
The night her nephew Antonio receives her gift (he’s able to talk to animals, including an unamused capybara), she has a shocking vision of the casita creaking and the magical candle going out.
While she thinks she’s the only one seeing this, her super strong sister Luisa (Jessica Darrow) notices it as well. This puts Mirabel on the path to reconnecting with his estranged uncle (emphasis is on strange) Bruno (John Leguizamo), whose gift is to see the future, and who “disappeared” many years ago. By meeting and befriending Bruno, she attempts to stop all that happens to magic, before it is gone forever.
But before she can complete her mission, the flame of the magic candle goes out. The house becomes calm. The mountain range that surrounds their community cracks, leaving their village exposed. Could the absence of magic signal the end of the Madrigal family?
What happens at the end
Mirabel connects with Abuela Alma, her grandmother, who Mirabel says has always been too hard on her. (Alma blames Mirabel for the calamity.) She explains that her beloved husband was murdered while they were trying to escape. Mirabel understands her grandmother better and her grandmother understands Mirabel better. Together, they return home, where each of the family members, all non-magical now, step in to fix the house. They come together, not because of their powers, but because they love each other. Once the house has been repaired, they give Mirabel a doorknob with an “M” on it. She puts the doorknob on the front door and turns it and the house regains its magical glory (and the powers revert to the family members). It turns out that Mirabel’s gift saved the family (and the casita). No, you are crying!
What that means (with director’s commentary!)
There is a key part of the “Encanto” world that is not reconstructing, in particular the mountain range which now has a large crack. When TheWrap asked directors Byron Howard and Jared Bush and co-director Charise Castro Smith if this was key to the film’s finale, Bush confirmed it was. Then Castro Smith elaborated.
“It was always that concept of when that kind of terrible founding moment happened to the family, they were locked up and protected, but they were also kind of closed off from their past,” Castro Smith (who also co-wrote the script with Bush) said. “It was really intentional that the mountains didn’t close in completely, as they are now able to see their past and interact with it in a healthy way without blocking it. So you caught a very important detail there.
In narrative terms, the openness of the mountains means that more people can visit or live in this perfect slice of Colombian soil. Which could also mean great things if the story of “Encanto” is developed or elaborated on in the years to come (considering how many Walt Disney Animation properties are relaunched for Disney +, that seems likely). Perhaps an answer will be found to the question of what a stranger would think of the Madrigal family and their magical abilities.
“Encanto” is in theaters now and on Disney + this Christmas.