A thorough look at the Encanto characters and the Family Madrigal:
I saw Encanto in theaters opening weekend and immediately fell in love with the movie. When it came out on Disney+ a month later I was so excited to watch it again – and even happier to see that everyone else in the world was on board with my excitement once they watched it!
Sure, I’ve been singing the songs pretty much nonstop, but the bigger thing for me is the time I’ve spent thinking about this movie. The themes and characters are so realistic and complex and important. The representation and culture is both beautiful and much needed. I could probably write a lot of different things about Encanto, but for now I think I’m going to go with the Encanto characters.
When it comes to books, movies, and any sort of storytelling, I’ve never had a particular “genre” that appeals to me the most. I will read or watch almost anything and fall in love with it if it has great characters. That’s by far the top thing I look for in a book, and I’m learning the same is true of movies. If I read or see something and can feel empathy with a character, or multiple characters, it’s a winner for me.
Encanto has done this in so many ways. Realistically I don’t want to see a sequel or anything because I’m afraid it won’t be done well, but I would love to explore all of these Encanto characters more. Maybe a spin-off with some of the more minor family members we didn’t get to know as well?
I’ve discussed my mental health struggles/journeys/issues (it’s still hard to figure out the right language) on the blog before, and I saw a lot of that in the Encanto characters as well. I have a feeling this movie might be more impactful for people who relate to the themes because of personal struggles, but I think there are so many realistic issues that people face in these characters… there’s probably “something for everyone.”
Guide to Encanto characters and the Family Madrigal
If you’re a visual person a family tree might be helpful to kick things off! I based it from Mirabel’s perspective (as the main character), so the descriptions like Tio (uncle) and primo (cousin) are all in relation to Mirabel. I find this useful to keep track of all the Encanto characters.
Song: Waiting on a Miracle
Relationships: daughter of Julieta and Augustin, granddaughter of Abuela, sister to Luisa and Isabela
In my head I have occasionally been referring to Mirabel as a “squib” (if you’re a Harry Potter fan you’ll get the reference). She’s the only person born into the family without magical powers. And it’s impressive in the beginning how positive she can be and how supportive she still is of her family despite that. Then we get to “Waiting for a Miracle” and realize that Mirabel is suffering inside because of it as she finally confesses “I’m not fine, I’m not fine.” Not because she doesn’t have a gift, necessarily, but because of the way her family treats her as a result.
When she is talking with the kids in the beginning of the movie, a little girl says “If I was you, I’d be really sad.” And she replies, “Well my little friend, I am not. Because the truth is, gift or no gift, I am just as special as the rest of my family.” Yet later Mirabel also sings that she “can’t keep down the unspoken invisible pain.” That’s a pretty devastating line if you think about it, and clearly she is sad. Maybe you’d call it being in denial (as the one sassy kid responds), maybe it’s toxic positivity, or maybe even imposter syndrome. But whatever it is, Mirabel has a lot of feelings that she’s kept inside for a very long time.
But just because she doesn’t have a magical gift doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a gift, talent, or something really special to share. It might be because of her non-magical perspective, but she’s the only one who starts to pick up on the fact that there’s cracks in the magic – cracks in the Family Madrigal. We learn that everyone in the family has some pretty bad struggles, but it’s really only Mirabel who can look past their gifts and what’s on the outside to see them and appreciate them for who they are on the inside. And that’s a pretty special gift I’d argue is better than any magic.
Gift: Super Strength
Song: Surface Pressure
Relationships: Mirabel’s sister (daughter of Julieta, granddaughter of Abuela)
Luisa is super strong, so everyone expects her to do everything and fix it all. She quite literally takes everything onto her shoulders. She’s always working for others and never gets to relax… and the pressure is too much. Even when Mirabel tells her it’s okay to not overdo it, she’s just not able to ease any of the pressure, even on herself. She says “Mirabel and I were having this little about how I was carrying too much, so I tried not to carry so much but I realized it was putting me behind and I knew I was gonna let everyone down and I felt really bad.”
I think Luisa’s song and situation is relatable for people, especially those in our society who work too hard and feel like they need to be responsible for everything (and the happiness of everyone in their family). Maybe it’s the main “breadwinner” of the family, or the one who always gets things done. Surface Pressure was the song that stuck with me the most because I have felt extreme amounts of pressure the past 6 months or so to do everything. And like Luisa, while there is some outside pressure much of it comes from myself and my fear that I will let people down.
I’ve struggled with anxiety most of my life and it can get very bad, and this is very similar to what Luisa is going through. Ultimately Mirabel helps her by recognizing how hard she’s working and that she can rely on other people to help get the jobs done too.
Gift: Grows flowers
Song: What Else Can I Do?
Relationships: Mirabel’s sister (daughter of Julieta, granddaughter of Abuela)
While Isabela’s power is technically growing flowers everywhere, her gift is basically being perfect, graceful, and beautiful. And there is a massive feeling of expectation and pressure from perfectionism. Isabela has spent her whole life trying to make sure she is everything her family expects her to be (which is a lot!). Not only that, but it means she can’t really be herself. Abuela is constantly telling Isabela how perfect she is, which has to put a lot of pressure on her (there’s that word again!).
We realize how extreme the situation is when Isabela finally confesses to Mirabel that she doesn’t want to marry Mariano. She yells “I was doing it for the family!” It’s clear that she’s never told anyone this or even come close to hinting at the truth (or anything else she might be keeping inside that feels less than perfect). When she’s finally able to express herself to Mirabel you can see the amazing revelation she comes to. While singing “What Else Can I Do?” she talks about how “so much hides behind my smile” and how she spends her time making “perfect, practiced poses.” Wow, that doesn’t sound like much of a life. It’s exciting to see her finally embrace the things that are a bit different or what others might consider messy or imperfect. She clearly has so much joy, passion, and potential once she’s set free.
Song: We Don’t Talk about Bruno
Relationships: Son of Abuela (triplets with Julieta and Pepa)
Bruno can see the future – but everyone assumes the worst from what he says, to the point where he chooses to leave the family completely. In many ways it feels like a sort of “shoot the messenger” situation, but I also think it touches on blame a bit and our tendency to want to blame someone or something for the bad things that happen to us. I find Bruno one of the most interesting of the Encanto characters.
Perhaps that goes back to all of the pressure, expectations, and the perfectionism that are present in the Madrigal family – if we’re meant to be really good at something but a mistake is made, there’s so much pressure to find an excuse somewhere else. Look at Pepa, who starts off the song “We Don’t Talk about Bruno.” Knowing Abuela and the pressure she put on Isabela to marry Mariano, we can only imagine Pepa was experiencing a lot of those same expectations on her wedding day. Was it really just Bruno who caused her to get upset and the weather to change, or were her own emotions involved already? Instead of admitting to Abuela that she might be struggling with her gift, it’s certainly a lot easier to blame Bruno completely.
Dolores also gives us some insight into the fact that Bruno’s prophecies may not have been as straightforward as they seemed. She sings “It’s a heavy lift with a gift so humbling / Always left Abuela and the family fumbling / grappling with prophecies they couldn’t understand.” We see later that at least some of Bruno’s prophecies are open ended, or confusing, or even “out of order” as he says when he gives Mirabel another prophecy. That’s a pretty intense “gift” to deal with.
It’s all too much for Bruno and he leaves. Not because he couldn’t take it, necessarily, but because he felt like his gift and his existence was causing them pain and stress. He tells Mirabel, “My gift wasn’t helping the family. But I love my family, you know?” It’s devastating to hear that he thinks he’s better off apart from his family, but also to know they way that they treat him and his disappearance. Even just this idea that “we don’t talk about Bruno.” That’s a pretty toxic attitude when it comes to a member of your family.
Gift: heals with cooking
Relationships: Daughter of Abuela, mother to Mirabel, Luisa, and Isabela, married to Augustin
Julieta is a healer thanks to her gift, and we can definitely see how caring she is. Julieta at times feels like the only member of the family who sees past all of the expectations and loves everyone in her family no matter what, especially Mirabel. In many ways her gift feels like the “best” one because she can heal
Julieta may be a more minor among the Encanto characters, but she’s an important one. She’s strong and stands up to Abuela when it comes to Mirabel, and truly believes Mirabel is just as special as anyone else. She realizes Mirabel is struggling and wants to help her and show her that she is worthy, but it’s hard to fight against the general feelings in the family. I can only imagine the sort of pain that Julieta goes through seeing Mirabel suffer so much (especially at the hands of Abuela). Julieta can heal people physically, but she can’t heal the pain in her daughter’s heart – and that has to be a pretty big burden to carry.
Gift: “controls the weather”
Song: We Don’t Talk about Bruno
Relationships: Daughter of Abuela, mother to Dolores, Camillo, and Antonio, married to Felix
Pepa is one of the side Encanto characters that intrigues me the most due to her “gift.” It certainly seems like more of a cruise than a gift. When Mirabel introduces her Tia Pepa in the first song, she describes her gift as “her mood affects the weather.” So it’s not even that Pepa can control the weather, it’s almost the opposite… that if she doesn’t control herself, everyone else feels the results of that.
Of course we are coming back to pressure again. Can you imagine the amount of pressure you’d feel if you made it rain, thunder, or hurricane every time you get upset, sad, or mad about something? It not only affects you, it affects everyone else too. As a person with anxiety I see a pretty clear parallel here too. It can certainly feel like a thunderstorm when you have anxiety.
When Pepa starts to get upset she mumbles to herself, “Great – now I’m thundering. And that thundering will lead to a drizzle, and a drizzle will lead to a sprinkle… ‘Clear skies, clear skies’.” Pepa has this totally unrealistic expectation to be happy all the time because if she’s not it will “ruin” things like parties, etc. I’m starting to wonder if maybe the family Madrigal was given a curse instead of a gift!
Gift: super hearing
Relationships: Daughter of Pepa and Felix, sister to Camillo and Antonio
Dolores can hear everything. Mirabel describes her as being able to “hear a pin drop” and that she can “hear this whole chorus a mile away.” Have you ever thought about what it would mean to be able to hear pretty much everything? We see it represented in a somewhat comedic way when she overhears Mirabel’s prophecy and can’t help but gossip about it. But it certainly seems like it could be quite a burden.
We also know that she’s heard Bruno in the house since he left. She may not have known exactly what was going on, but she had an idea about it but probably didn’t feel like she could tell anyone so she kept it to herself. I’d imagine she overhears a lot of things she has to keep inside. Dolores’ other main plotline is that she’s secretly in love with Mariano, who’s planning to propose to Isabela. I assume she fell in love with him because of what she’s heard of him, his life, and his personality. But like everyone else trying to protect the family, she doesn’t allow herself to do anything that might interfere despite what she knows.
The other thing that intrigues me about Dolores is the line she gives when she tells Mirabel about Bruno, and says that he left the family “grappling with prophecies they couldn’t understand – do you understand?” The fact that she recognizes this, I think, indicates some great insight and perceptions that she may not show on the outside.
Gift: shape shifting
Relationships: Son of Pepa and Felix, grandson of Abuela
Camilo is one of the Encanto characters we don’t see too much of, and when we do it’s mostly for comedic relief. He uses his shape-shifting abilities to play pranks on people, or to try and get extra snacks – what teenage boy wouldn’t, right?
But he’s also very dedicated to his family and uses his abilities to help as much as possible – whether that’s shifting into a form that people are more comfortable interacting with, or to make himself taller so he can help hang party banners. When Mirabel describes him in the opening song she says “My primo Camilo won’t stop until he makes you smile today.” So even with the pranks it seems like he has a really good heart, and his jokes are to make people happy.
Gift: talks to animals
Relationships: Son of Pepa and Felix, grandson of Abuela
Antonio is kind of the “example” we see in the story, as we watch him go through the process of receiving his gift. That gift turns out to be pretty cool, as he can communicate with animals! We don’t get to see too much of this gift since it’s so new, but already in the movie he’s able to connect with people in special ways because of that. Animals pick up on things that humans may not, and they can tell Antonio what’s going on. That’s a pretty amazing thing, but I can imagine it could also be a burden in the future at some point.
Gift: non-magical (receiver of original “miracle”)
Song: Dos Oruguitas
Relationships: Matriarch of the family Madrigal – widow of Pedro, mother of Julieta, Pepa, and Bruno
In some ways Abuela is vilified a bit in the movie, but she’s really much more complex and nuanced than that. Yeah, she may be frustrating the way she keeps insisting on the family protecting the miracle and doing everything exactly right. So much of her family suffers from pressure, and there’s no doubt that she’s placing a lot of those expectations on their shoulders.
She sees the miracle, her family, and the whole town almost as her responsibility. It’s the miracle she was given that built this place and if she can’t keep it in tact then, in her mind, everyone will suffer and it will be her fault. That’s also a huge burden and a lot of pressure. I think Abuela sees what she is doing as necessary to help everyone, even if it’s hard on her family sometimes. She sings:
“We swear to always help those around us
And earn the miracle that somehow found us
The town keeps growing, the world keeps turning
But work and dedication will keep the miracle burning
And each new generation must keep the miracle burning.”
It’s not an excuse for the burdens she places on her family, but it does help to understand things a bit better. She has this idea that they have to “earn” the miracle. And because she sees how much it seems to help people, and the town, she feels this intense pressure to keep working to earn the miracle. Towards the end of the movie she finally is able to open her eyes and see what a miracle really means.
Relationships: Married into the family Madrigal – husband of Julieta, father to Mirabel, Luisa, and Isabela
As one of the “outsiders” of the family, Augustin doesn’t have a gift (and unlike Mirabel he never expected to receive one). In some ways he can relate to Mirabel as a result, though he doesn’t have the same expectations placed on him that she has. But he tries to empathize with her: “When me and your Tio Felix married into the family, outsiders who had no gift, never, ever would, surrounded by the exceptional it was easy to feel… unceptional.”
That’s got to be difficult too! But I love Augustin and Julieta together because they complement each other pretty much perfectly. Augustin is very accident prone. We see him getting stung by bees in the beginning of the movie… a lot of bees. He is married to Julieta, whose gift is healing. It’s a perfect match.
Relationships: Married into the family Madrigal – husband of Pepa, father to Dolores, Camilo, and Antonio
Felix is the other person to have married into the family. Compared to the other Encanto characters we don’t see much of him either, but I think we can tell that his character is pretty laidback, easygoing, and funny (I think we can see where Camilo gets his sense of humor from!). I think this is another case of two people who complement each other in their relationships. Pepa has a tendency to be high-strung, anxious, and upset, while Felix helps her balance that a little and relax. I love when Pepa sings about their wedding day and after she describes how awful the storm was, Felix interjects – “such a joyous day, but anyway.” Even though Pepa is working it up to be a very negative thing, he still sees all the good from that day and their marriage together. Sometimes people like Pepa just need that positive influence and reminders once in awhile.
So there you have it – the Family Madrigal and the Encanto characters! Perhaps more than you wanted to know about them or have thought about, but this movie has definitely kept me thinking. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!
Do you have any favorite Encanto characters? Which gift would you most want to have?