I'll admit, after I watched Encanto the first time I had a lot of feelings. Myself, being an empathic cry baby I did get teary eyed at multiple points throughout the film. I loved the color, the music, the animation. My feelings at the end were focused on how Abuela nurtured this mindset within the family that Mirabel was a burden, and I believe she could out-baddie a few Disney villains (I'm looking at you Lady Tremaine). The apology and hug at the end did not suffice as a resolution to the years of making the young Madrigal an outcast within her own family as far as I was concerned. In this way though, the film was not for me. Literally. This movie is about a LatinX family, and as a white 5th generation American woman with german ancestry, this movie is not for me because it's not about my culture.
I did watch the film a second time. This time I found myself looking forward to a character I thoroughly enjoyed the first time around, but my feelings for had been pushed to the side due to my focus on my distaste for Abuela.
That character was the strong woman herself, Luisa.
I LOVED her song in the first movie. Surface Pressure is one of those songs I wanted to hear again and again.
The movie Encanto, is well made, but for me it's the reaction around Luisa that makes the film so incredible. She has become everyone's favorite character, and the response has left Disney unprepared for the cry for Luisa merchandise.
Disney has made themselves into the billion dollar business they are by marketing feminine slender princesses to little girls. Thus, perpetuating for much of the 1900's that being "feminine" and "skinny" are what a woman needs in order to be valued.
Much of the brainwashing we've undergone to form opinions on what is and isn't "acceptable" for a woman's physicality is perpetrated by what the media tells us - this includes the House of Mouse.
So it makes sense that Disney could not have foreseen the immense popularity the "big strong lady" would have with children. If you look at the Disney store online you can see that they thought children would preference the oldest sister Isabella, as her style matches those of traditional Disney princesses with her long hair, feminine features, and svelte figure. There is no Luisa specific merchandise at all available for fans of the breakout character, while Isabella has her own garden room play set, and hair play doll. For those seeking Luisa items they are only available with play sets featuring many of the characters and are much more expensive.
With Encanto, animators had to fight for Luisa's look in the final movie. One of the animators has said, "I think we all just wanted to do it in a way that worked well with the style and really made sense for the character and I'm really proud of the way that she turned out."
This outpouring of love for this particular Disney character says a lot about the change that has come about for society's attitude toward women. Traditional feminine beauty is no longer the standard for a woman's value as far as Disney fans are concerned. Strength, vulnerability, and a caring heart have long surpassed physical stature when it comes to what children look for in their role models. Traits that so many every day women can relate to.
Perhaps the way fans have embraced Luisa will inspire Disney to continue to feature more realistic characters. Not everyone looks like a Disney Princess, and many of us don't want to. There are so many wonderful, fantastic, intelligent characters out there with stories that should be told and whose bodies should be seen in the every day people we know and love. I look forward to seeing those stories told.