The Other Side of Animation 244: Encanto Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Only counting their canon-animated films, from the beginning to now, The Walt Disney Company has made 60 animated films. That’s incredible, and the fact so many of them are influential classics, award-winning staples, and pop culture fixtures is impressive. Not all of them are great, and some are really bad, but considering the context of the time period they were released, you can understand what was going on behind the scenes with them.  Still, to have a pretty good overall batting average is what a lot of animation studios hope to have. While the number of amazing films doesn’t wash away a lot of the problematic and troubling elements the company has, I’m glad to have been able to see the different generations of Disney films be released and see how things have changed for the studio for better or for worse. How about we see how well their 60th animated feature turns out? Let’s dive into the world of Encanto


Co-directed by Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, and Byron Howard, and co-written by Charise Castro Smith, and Jared Bush, the story stars Mirabel Madrigal, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz. She is one of the many children of the Madrigal family in Colombia, a family who has been blessed with many of the members having their own “miracles” that make them special. One sibling can shapeshift, another is super-strong, or can hear from miles away, and you get the idea. Mirabel, on the other hand, has no powers and feels like a disappointment among the family members. One night, after the celebration of a new sibling getting the power to talk to animals, Mirabel gets visions of the house falling apart and the magic leaving the family. What is going on exactly? Why does no one talk about Bruno? What is going on with the house and the magic? 



The first thing to really notice about the overall story is how smaller-scale and personal it is. There’s no “this will be the end of the world as we know it.” plotline or something that could change the face of the earth as we know it. A mass majority of the film takes place either within the magical house or adjacent to it. It doesn’t turn into a globe-trotting adventure, and instead becomes a more intimate story about family and legacy alongside the stress and pressure brought upon by the previous generations. The “miracles” you see within the film are not just a creative quirk given to a majority of the family members. Instead, the powers represent the different struggles of certain members of the family. For example, Luisa is super-strong, but her gift is also causing immense stress of having to carry the weight and legacy of the family on her shoulders. Pepa and her ability to control the weather via her emotions create so much pressure to always be sunshine and peachy and never sad. Isabela has to be constantly perfect, and while she looks like she does it effortlessly, there is some real turmoil under her facade. Camilo can shapeshift, but you can look at it as a perspective on both finding out who he is and having to have a certain look to help with the image of the family. The execution here reminds me of something you would see in something via Pixar or in something akin to a film from overseas. While they could have spent a little more time expanding or exploring some of these ideas, I love that they went in this direction with the powers and the main conflict being the bond between the family members. 

It’s also, simply put, nice to see the team make a film that’s entirely focused on a family. It’s not Mamoru Hosoda’s level of focus, but the fact that they keep the family as the main focal point and don’t really leave some of the members out as secondary characters is great. They have done this before, where they introduce a whole family, but most of them get sent to the background. Here, while some family members get more focus than others, the overall family still plays an important part to the story. The igniting point still might be Mirabel and her relationship with her grandmother, but how many animated films have you seen that keep the family as the focus? Even Pixar has been hit-and-miss with the family dynamic in their films. 

Animation-wise, Disney is always going to be showing off how much they spent on their animated films. The time and care that goes into their animated films show why they are at the top of their game. The gorgeous color palette makes this one of the most visually stunning animated features of the year. The designs are also improving from the usual Disney look, and while some of the typical Disney designs are there with the eyes, the fact the main cast has so many different body types is impressive. The voice cast is also great. You have a film full of Latinx and Colombian representation, and for the heck of it, one cameo from Alan Tudyk. Still, outside of that, we have an incredible cast that includes Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Wilmer Valderrama, Angie Cepeda, Jessica Darrow, Diane Guerrero, Maria Cecilia Botero, Rhenzy Feliz, Carolina Gaitan, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Ravi-Cabot Conyers, and Maluma. Of course, this is a musical, with a score by Germaine Franco, and songs by Lin Manuel Miranda. Out of his two animated offerings this year, Encanto has the better song list than Vivo, and I enjoyed Vivo a lot for its music. 

Now, there are a few nit-picks that build up over time. Personally, the film should have been longer. Disney is gonna Disney, and for some reason, most of their animated fare is always 100 minutes. Not to say there needs to be a regular runtime for certain animated films, but they could have easily expanded upon the story and themes a little more to really dive into the story. It would have also helped pace out the songs due to how many there are and how close they can be to one another. It might be the fact that Disney, even though they are pushing themselves a little further now than in previous films, is still feeling like they are held back by their own identity as a brand. It’s going to start hurting them once other studios start going outside of their own boundaries as Sony has. There is much more competition these days, and Disney needs to remember that they can be beaten at the award game if they are not careful. Hopefully, they can, but this is just the animation critic side of me coming out. 

Even with the small complaints, Encanto is quite possibly the best Disney animated feature in ages. It, at the very least, might be my favorite animated film from Disney in a good long time. It doesn’t quite beat a few other animated films of the year, but it’s going to be in the top five. That is, unless some other films come through my animation-loving targeting. Now then, next time, we will be covering  Back to the Outback, the final Netflix animated feature that they are willing to tell you about. I mean, there is also Green Snake and the other animated films they are bringing over, but unless you hear it from them, you won’t know. Either way, we have some animated films to talk about this month! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential.

The Other Side of Animation 230: Vivo Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

Sony Pictures Animation has had quite a year, hasn’t it? The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Wish Dragon, the upcoming release of Hotel Transylvania 4, and with a lineup of other amazing and promising projects coming down the pipeline, Sony Pictures Animation is experiencing a renaissance of artistic creativity that has matched the likes of Disney and Pixar at their peaks. It’s nice to see a studio like Sony find their route through the sea of animation and result in some of the best or more interesting animated films for the past few years. They are doing what every studio should do by diversifying the experiences that you can’t get from other studios. Don’t try to make a Disney-like experience. If I want a Disney experience, I’ll go to Disney. Luckily, Sony Pictures Animation is so distinct that you won’t have a problem seeing them craft something other studios have turned down for some reason. For example, let’s talk about their newest film, Vivo. 


Directed by Kirk DeMicco and Brandon Jeffords, this new animated feature was born from a passion project by Peter Barsocchini and a failed pitch from Lin-Manuel Miranda with songs written by Miranda and his collaborator Alex Lacamoire. It was originally pitched at DreamWorks Animation after Miranda’s play In the Heights was a hit, but due to DreamWorks getting restructured in 2015, the pitch fell through. Later greenlit through Sony Pictures and set for release back in November 2020, Vivo was delayed due to the pandemic. Afterward, Sony made a deal where their animated films and live-action films will make it to the streaming service Netflix. So, where does this land on Sony’s recent streak of animated films? Well, you will have to read to find out. 

The story revolves around a young Kunkajou named Vivo, voiced by LIn-Manuel Miranda. Vivo lives with his owner Andres, voiced by Juan de Marcos Gonzalez. They live in Cuba together and play music. Their life is perfect until Andres gets a letter from a previous love interest named Marta Sandoval, voiced by Gloria Estefan. Marta requests that he come to Miami for her last performance so they can see each other again after so many years have passed. Unfortunately, Andres passes away before he can make the trip. At the wake, Vivo meets Andres’ grand-niece named Gabi, voiced by Ynairaly Simo. Vivo decides to go to Florida with Gabi and her mother Rosa, voiced by Zoe Saldana. Vivo then attempts to communicate with Gabi to take Andres’ last song to Marta’s final performance in Miami, and it is up to Gabi and Vivo to get there in time!

Let’s talk about the animation first. Something that Sony Pictures has tied their name to in terms of their visual style and art direction is experimental and groundbreaking innovations and snappy movements. So, What does Vivo bring? Well, due to it being a musical, the animation is still snappy, but it matches more with the music, so the movements are slower-paced to sync with the tunes. It still has the distinct Sony Pictures Animation elements with the human designs, but it doesn’t go as far as Spider-Verse or The Mitchells. With that said, it didn’t need to go that route since it still has its distinct visual look that I can’t match to other animated films that are out there. As per usual though with a Sony animated film, it does have some very vibrant and unique animated sequences that give a unique 2D CGI look using bright neon colors that make certain moments pop. It’s such a cool-looking movie, and I’m glad many of Sony’s animated features tend to have their looks. I adore these 2D/CGI moments in the film that don’t feel like they are trying to copy what another one of their films did. In terms of the voice cast, I adore it all. Lin Manuel Miranda is still growing on me as a lead actor and just an actor in general, but he brings a charm to the character with a certain innocence, and his comedic timing is getting better. I also enjoyed his singing. I know he doesn’t have the best voice, but for how the song was written and set, he passes with flying colors. Ynairaly Simo is also good as Gabi and brings that energetic “I dance to the beat of my own drum” spirit that encapsulates the character. The rest of the cast does a fine job as their respective characters as well, including Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, Michael Rooker, Brian Tyree Henry, Gloria Estefan, Leslie David Baker, Nicole Byer, Katie Lowes, and Zoe Saldana, all making for a memorable cast that has their own identifiable moments. The music by LMM and his co-writer is really good! It’s nice to see a strong musical from someone other than Disney for once. I know other studios have tried, but they tend to try and feel like a Disney musical rather than be their own type of musical. I found myself humming a lot of the tunes as I worked on this review and when I was at my job. 

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Story-wise, it’s a film that’s all about how music connects us, family, love, and the legacy you leave in this world. While the story itself has familiar beats and rhythm to the overarching story, the execution still made the journey through the film worth it. Music is such a universal language, and Vivo showed that no matter who or what you are, music connects us. At first, I was curious about why Vivo couldn’t speak the same language as the humans, but I think that helps reinforce the whole “music is universal” message that the film is going for. The studio sort of goes the route of something like Courage the Cowardly Dog where around everyone, he talks like an animal, but when addressing the audience or interacting for the sake of the audience, he speaks English. It’s an incredibly sweet story overall, and it reminds me of a US studio doing their take on one of my favorite films, Chico & Rita. Not only does it take place partly in Cuba, but the same kind of music is played throughout both films. It has, again, a familiar story beat about family, but I think everyone has gone through this situation where they lost a loved one and didn’t get to say something to them. They didn’t get to leave what they wanted to say to them. It’s an overall touching story, and even some bits with the side characters are fun. 

Something that I wish more US animated films would do is step out of their comfort zones when it comes to certain characters and stories. I say this because the film itself doesn’t offer that many surprises, and that’s a shame because I like the overall experience and story, but it’s full of story elements you have seen before. It makes for an experience that’s well-told, but something we have seen before. You know what’s going to happen, and while it’s all executed well, there are elements to the story that could have been improved. The side characters are a good example of this. To me, they fell flat. The main film should be about Vivo and Gabi, but you still want to see the rest of the cast stack up to them or be memorable in some way, shape, or form. Rosa is just a typical caring mom, the Sand Dollars are typical tyrannical girl scouts, and Lutador is a road stop villain. He isn’t there to be important to the story, but more of a challenge that they have to face when trying to get to their destination. Rooker plays him with a devilish charm, but he’s like Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone. No real mention or build-up until you see him. I also wanted there to be more time between Vivo and Andres. It gets to the tragedy as soon as possible, and that was jarring. Even when the trailer accidentally spoiled what happened to Andres, I wasn’t too bothered by it since I felt like something was going to happen, but I wish we either had spent more time with Andres, or Andrew lived and got to see Marta in person before passing. I know you would have to retool the film if the story kept him alive, but I feel like we didn’t get much time with him. It’s a shame since I love Juan de Maros Gonzalez as Andres and would have liked to have seen him in more scenes interacting with the people in the city and for there to be more scenes of just him and Vivo. 

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I think the biggest downfall of this film coming out is the fact it came out after something as big and acclaimed as The Mitchells vs The Machines, and it’s not fair to Vivo to be held up to that high standard. Vivo stands on its own two feet in terms of its own experience. I think that’s something quite nice about the animated films from Sony this year. They all feel distinct and different from one another. Sure, I might have a ranking of which ones I Like more, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have still found so much joy in how many unique offerings this one studio has given us this year. If you have yet to watch Vivo, please do. Netflix has done a terrible job with marketing this film, and it would be a real shame for this to get buried because of Netflix’s asinine algorithm and being overshadowed by other films and shows released that day. I love that we got an original film from the amazing Kirk DeMicco, Lin Manuel Miranda, and the other members of this passionate team. Seriously, do not let this film get buried. Now then, I would take a small break from reviewing, but the work is never done! Next time, I will be writing a review about another CGI animated film that Netflix is burying on the site with Monster Hunter: Legend of the Guild. I’m a little worried about how this film will turn out, but it can’t be any worse than that awful live-action adaptation from 2020 right? See ya next time! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating: Go See It!