Encanto Encanto

Walt Disney Animation Studios released a teaser today for Encanto, its sixtieth animated feature.

The Colombia-set fantasy tells the story of an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live in a magical town called Encanto, where everyone has been blessed with a unique gift, from super strength to the power to heal. Everyone that is except for the Madrigals’ curly-haired, bushy-browed daughter Mirabel, who is thoroughly ordinary. When the town’s source of magic is threatened, she becomes her family’s last hope of keeping the magic alive.

Encanto is directed by Byron Howard (Zootopia, Tangled) and Jared Bush (Zootopia), co-directed and co-written by Charise Castro Smith, with music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Miranda, for the record, is also involved in a second animated feature coming out this year: Sony Pictures Animation’s Vivo, which will release on Netflix.)

Though much remains unknown about Encanto, one thing is fairly obvious: the Walt Disney Company is still on its ethnic kick. Of the twelve animated features released by Disney and Pixar from Moana onward, five have riffed strongly on a specific region’s traditions and culture (besides Moana, there’s Coco, Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, and Encanto). With the sole exception of Luca, though, none of the films have had a director from the region depicted in the film.

While there’s no rule that states directors of films have to be from the region in which a film is set, the Disney Company’s interest in showcasing multiculturalism while consistently having little of it at the highest level of production suggests a corporation that is pandering to specific audience segments rather than authentically engaging with them. If the company’s pattern of behavior isn’t clear from its features, its tv productions like Doc McStuffins and Elena of Avalor similarly have creators who don’t reflect the multicultural diversity that grounds those projects.

Encanto will be released in November.

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