About a year ago Encanto, a movie by Disney about a multigenerational Colombian family who were given magical powers, was released. It showcases family and the challenges and complexities that are associated with one as well as the joys and bond that encase it.The movie was pretty well received by audiences and its soundtrack became viral on different social media sites. The main allure of this movie, however, was the contrasting portrayal of its characters compared to Disney’s other movies and how every member of the audience was able to relate to at least one character. This movie was able to stir something in everyone’s chest, whether it be the cultural and generational struggles that resonated with people or the physical appearances of the characters that made people feel represented.
Disney, a world-renowned entertainment company, anticipated success and created merchandise for the movie prior to its release. Out of all the characters in the movie, a trio of sisters became the main focus of Disney’s marketing team. Out of these three women Isabela, Luisa, and Mirabel, Disney expected Isabela and Mirabel to be more popular as Isabela had the ability to grow flowers and was perfect while Mirabel was the main protagonist. The executives of Disney didn’t believe that Luisa would sell well as she was not the typical portrayal of a feminine character in a children’s movie. Luisa has a broad and muscular frame as well as the gift of strength, different from the petite and slender appearance of typical Disney women. She is not the type of woman that society would deem attractive because the “ideal” woman would be delicate and petite. She would be domestic and enjoy feminine things. These expectations are built by traditional gender roles along with the sexism and misogyny that shapes society.
“Luisa is, to be frank, the most beloved character for a reason, no one’s seen anything like her before.”Jessica Darrow (Voice of Luisa) in an interview with Out Magazine
Their assumption was wrong and their belief was flipped upside down when the movie released and parents started to purchase more and more Luisa toys. They were proven wrong by the same generation that society has started to put its expectations on. It was like a game of chess, the game of supply and demand in which all companies participated in and which knocked Disney off its pedestal. Because the opposite of what they thought would happen happened, and surprised them all.
Children were drawn to Luisa’s character. As the target audience, their opinion mattered the most, and they decided that Luisa was better than Isabela or Mirabel. This is because they were bored with characters that looked and acted nothing like them. Luisa is more realistic and has flaws. She is open, vulnerable, and has insecurities as most people do. Isabela is perfect, molded that way by societal expectations as well as her grandma’s expectations of her, such as how a bonsai tree might be molded to its gardener’s idea of perfection and beauty. As a result, Luisa became popular and Disney, not anticipating this, was woefully unprepared for the demand for Luisa merchandise.
Imperfection is what makes humans people. People are not perfect and children can see that. They notice that they have flaws and weaknesses. Adults understand that nobody is perfect but they try their best anyway. That’s what separates adults and children. Kids are immersed in the societal expectations of them, but they still have the innocence to be able to not submerge themselves into the rabbit hole of BEING perfect. They still hold on to the hope of being able to be themselves, latching on to any representation they can find. That’s why they love Luisa. They see a woman being able to be strong and muscular while still being feminine, as well as someone being able to cry and show emotion while still being strong. Luisa’s character breaks down the societal expectations that have started to creep into children’s lives and prove that what has been doesn’t have to be.