Annenberg Radio

Disney’s Encanto takes a major leap towards cultural diversity

What the new Disney film will represent for the Latinx community

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With the massive success of 2017′s Coco, Disney has brought another Latinx story to the big screen this Thanksgiving, Encanto.

Set in the mountains of Colombia, Encanto tells the tale of Maribel Madrigal, a young Colombian woman who is the only one in her magical family to not have powers. When she learns that their magic is in danger, she embarks on a journey to save her family and their home. Reporter Ayline Rebollo tells us more about the significance of the film in the Latinx community.

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Over the years, Disney has presented a select few Latinx characters in their works. The 1944 film, The Three Caballeros, offers some of the first examples of Disney’s Latinx characters, through its two protagonists Panchito (a rooster from Mexico) and Jose (a parrot from Brazil).

Since then, we have seen the introduction of Elena of Avalor, Disney’s first Latina princess, and of course Coco, a story that highlights Mexican heritage and Dia de los Muertos. Now, the stage is set for the Colombian-based tale, Encanto.

USC film professor Laura Isabel Serna, believes that Encanto will represent a major stepping stone for the Latino community and for Disney, in its goal towards diversifying their stories.

Serna: Latinos go to the movie theater more than any other racial or ethnic group. So I really think that Disney is trying to reach out to Latino audiences by telling stories that are both universal and culturally specific. So Encanto is set in a town that doesn’t exist in Colombia but it has a lot of the markers of Colombian folk culture and food, etc. that makes it both specific and then this universal story about family.

But how is Encanto resonating with the Colombian audience? USC instructor Laura Gonzalez, was born in Colombia and dealt with many stereotypes about her country growing up.

Gonzalez: Part of the reason that I got a big emotion from the movie, is that I immigrated when I was 17, about 21 years ago. And at that time, in the late 90s and early 2000s, there was a huge stigma about Colombians and the drug dealing problems. So seeing ourselves represented in those stories, in a good positive way... it means that they can be proud of who they are or their background.

In a year starring films with minority-dominated casts, Encanto stands on its own as a tribute to the richness and diversity of Latin American culture.

For Annenberg Radio, I am Ayline Rebollo.