the poster for Disney's Encanto
Screenplay by: 
Charise Castro Smith & Jared Bush
Story by: Jared Bush & Byron Howard & Charise Castro Smith & Jason Hand & Nancy Kruse & Lin-Manuel Miranda
Directed by: Jared Bush and Byron Howard; Co-directed by: Charise Castro Smith

Genre: Institutionalized (Family Institution)

Encanto is a miracle of a movie, not only because of its powerful story about the institution of a unique family, but because it uses its song lyrics to move us through the beats.

Opening Image: A young Mirabel opens her eyes as her Abuela (Maria Cecilia Botero) shows her a solitary candle, the source of the family’s miracle.

Set-Up: Long ago, Mirabel’s Abuela and Abuelo were forced to flee their home, but when Abuelo was killed, the candle became a magical flame that would never go out, giving the family members Gifts and an enchanted home, a casita, in which to live. Upon coming of age, each family member would open a door and receive a Gift to help the family. Now, Mirabel prepares to receive her Gift.

Little Mirabel clasps her hands
Mirabel is told that the Gift she will receive will be as special as she is… the Theme Stated.

Theme Stated: When Mirabel asks what magical Gift she will be given, her Abuela tells her, “Whatever Gift awaits will be just as special as you.” This is what Mirabel will come to learn: what do our abilities say about us, and what defines who we are? At the ceremony, though, Mirabel doesn’t receive a Gift, and her family is stunned. In this institution, she is somewhat of an outsider.

Set-Up (continued): In the present, Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) happily lives with her family in her thesis world. The characters are introduced through song, with Mirabel singing about each of the members of “The Family Madrigal”:

This is my family
A perfect constellation
So many stars and everybody gets to shine[…]
My tia Pepa
Her mood affects the weather
When she’s unhappy
Well, the temperature gets weird
My tio Bruno
We don’t talk about Bruno
They say he saw the future, one day he disappeared

The song continues to introduce her siblings, cousins, and those who married into the family. It’s clear that there’s a lot to know about the Familia Madrigal, and the Set-Up sets the tone and mood for the story. Still, Mirabel is in a state of stasis=death. As the only family member without a Gift, she struggles. As her cousin Antonio receives his Gift, she laments her situation. In “Waiting on a Miracle,” she sings:

I will stand on the side as you shine
I’m not fine, I’m not fine
I can’t move the mountains
I can’t make the flowers bloom
I can’t take another night up in my room
Waiting on a miracle […]
All I need is a change
All I need is a chance
All I know is I can’t stay on the side

In this “perfect” family, she has six things that need fixing: she wants to have a Gift, she compares herself to her sisters, the family doesn’t mention her tio Bruno, and she questions her potential. She needs to go on a journey through the transformation machine if her family is to stay strong.

Catalyst: As Antonio’s party continues, Mirabel notices that the casita begins to crumble as cracks inch their way toward the candle that provides the source of her family’s magic.

Mirabel debates in Disney's Encanto
In the Debate section, Mirabel questions why she saw the cracks… and why she’s different.

Debate: Mirabel questions what she must do. She interrupts Antonio’s celebration to tell the family, but some write it off as jealousy. When she tries to show everyone, the cracks have disappeared. Her mother attributes the incident as stress from the day and tries to console her, saying that Mirabel is perfect as she is, as special as anyone in the family. But as Mirabel overhears her Abuela speak to her deceased husband, asking for help saving the miracle, she knows something needs to be done. She makes a choice to try and save the family.

Break into Two: In a moment of decisiveness, Mirabel declares that she will save the miracle.

B Story: While the A Story is about saving the miracle, the B Story centers on the relationships with each family member. On her journey, Mirabel will learn to see them as individuals apart from their Gifts, and will see that perhaps these blessings come with a curse as well.

Mirabel and the donkeys
Mirabel learns that having a Gift isn’t all Fun and Games during that story beat.

Fun and Games: Mirabel learns that her sister Luisa (Jessica Darrow), whose Gift is strength, is worried. As Luisa finally confesses her worry, she expresses how the Gifts have their drawbacks. In “Surface Pressure,” she sings:

Under the surface
I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service[…]
It’s pressure like a drip, drip, drip that’ll never stop
Pressure that’ll tip, tip, tip ‘til you just go pop
Give it to your sister, your sister’s older
Give her all the heavy things we can’t shoulder
Who am I if I can’t run with the ball?

In this upside-down antithesis world, Mirabel sees that the family members aren’t always as happy as they might seem in this institution. Luisa tells her about Bruno’s vision that caused him to leave the family, and Mirabel finds Bruno’s door and enters it, climbing stairs until she finds fragments of glass that contain his vision. In it, she sees herself standing in front of the casita as the cracks form. Back home, she asks her family about Bruno, and they tell her that Bruno would say that something bad would happen, and it would. In “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” they sing:

When he calls your name it all fades to black
Yeah, he sees your dreams and feasts on your screams […]
Your fate is sealed when your prophecy is read

Midpoint: During dinner, Mirabel’s secret comes to light as the whole family learns that Mirabel is part of Bruno’s vision and is the one to destroy the magic. The stakes have raised and the time clocks tick as the casita begins to crack again.

Mirabel and Bruno
As the Bad Guys Close In on Mirabel and the casita, she finds Bruno.

Bad Guys Close In: As the family members’ Gifts begin to act strange, some turn on Mirabel, blaming her. Soon, rats scurry past, carrying pieces of the glass containing the vision. Mirabel follows them into a hidden hole in the wall and finds a cloaked, shadowy figure lurking. Pursuing him, she discovers that it’s Bruno (John Leguizamo), who has lived there the whole time to be close to his family. He tells her of his vision, that it actually had multiple outcomes and Mirabel’s fate was undecided.

Wanting to overcome the external Bad Guys, Mirabel asks him to try again and see if the vision has changed, and after much reluctance, he does. In the vision, they learn that Mirabel can save the candle by embracing her sister Isabela (Diane Guerrero), forcing her inner Bad Guys to surface. She visits her sister, struggling with her jealousy over the “perfect” life her sister leads. As Isabela lashes out in anger, revealing that she does everything for the family, an imperfect plant grows, surprising her. Revealing her Bad Guys in “What Else Can I Do?” Isabela sings:

I just made something unexpected
Something sharp
Something new
It’s not symmetrical or perfect
But it’s beautiful
And it’s mine
What else can I do?[…]
I make perfect, practiced poses
So much hides behind my smile
What could I do if I just grew what I was feeling in the moment?
What could I do if I just knew it didn’t need to be perfect?
It just needed to be? And they let me be?

As the sisters reconcile, the cracks in the casita recede. When Abuela discovers how Mirabel influenced Isabela, she unleashes her anger, blaming Mirabel for everything from Bruno’s leaving to the cracks in the house to Luisa losing her strength. She says, “I don’t know why you were not given a Gift, but it’s not an excuse for you to hurt this family.”

Mirabel and her grandmother face each other
As Mirabel confronts Abuela, the magic begins to die.

All Is Lost: Mirabel says that no matter how hard she or any other family member tries, they will never be good enough for her Abuela. The cracks become larger and the casita crumbles, the candle losing its light. The whiff of death envelops the family.

Dark Night of the Soul: Crying at the riverbank where her Abuela was first given the magical candle, Mirabel laments. Soon, Abuela sits next to her and tells Mirabel why she’s tried to hard to protect the family. Mirabel comes to understand the struggles Abuela endured as a young mother, and tells her Abuela, “We were given a miracle because of you. We are a family because of you. And nothing could ever be broken that we can’t fix… together.” Mirabel makes a sacrifice of her pride and wish for a Gift, seeing her Abuela’s struggles and realizing why the family is so important.

Break into Three: Abuela tells Mirabel that she had asked her husband for help, and he had sent her Mirabel. In her synthesis world, Mirabel sees that she doesn’t need anything else to help others. As Bruno arrives, Abuela embraces him, and they go back to the family.

Finale: Amidst the ruins of the home, Mirabel gathers the team and executes the plan through the song “All Of You”:

Look at this home, we need a new foundation
It may seem hopeless, but we’ll get by just fine
Look at this family, a glowing constellation
So full of stars, everybody wants to shine
But the stars don’t shine, they burn
And the constellations shift
I think it’s time you learn
You’re more than just your gift

Mirabel's hand touches the door knob
As Mirabel places the doorknob in the door, the house—and family—are transformed.

The family works together to build the house, and in a high tower surprise, they ask Mirabel to put the doorknob on as the final step, reflecting her Gift ceremony:

We see how bright you burn
We see how brave you’ve been
Now see yourself in turn
You’re the real gift, kid, let us in

Mirabel digs, deep down and executes the new plan, seeing herself as perfect without a Gift.

The Familia Madrigal, whole and united.

Final Image: The Family Madrigal stands together for a picture, not perfect, but now whole.