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blog post cover image time estimate eye icon4min

Animations aren't childish anymore.

I’ve always enjoyed watching animated films since I was younger. Looking back, I can say what I loved most about Disney movies were the animation styles and all the music. It was only recently that I was able to see the plots of these stories more keenly and appreciate them more. I tried watching some of the older movies, but in my opinion the new ones seem more relatable to me.

              A few nights ago, my younger cousin asked me “Do you know what this movie Encanto is about?” I told her I had it and projected it on the television for her to watch. My mother came in and was wondering what we were watching. She made a comment about how she hated animations and how she thought they were only for children. When I heard this, I had to disagree with her and eventually convinced her we should watch it together when she was free.

              Thinking about it, I realized a lot of people have misconceptions about animations. Cartoons aren’t just made for children as their sole target audience. There are so many movies with deeper meaning that is great for all ages. When I think of environmental issues and wildlife conservation, my mind always goes to Wall-E, Rio, and The Lorax.

              After seeing all the fan theories about Encanto, I noticed so many things while rewatching it with my cousin that makes me appreciate the film even more. Other than the obvious theme on overcoming familial trauma and neglect, I saw some things in all the characters that made mental health issues more relatable to me.

              I first began by giving my mother the basic overview of the plot. From what I understood, it’s about an old lady who never truly processed the grief she had when her husband was killed and how it was tearing her family apart. In my opinion, Abuela’s actions affected her family in such complex ways I never noticed the first time.

              I’m not a professional in this field, so a lot of these would be my own opinion, but I think each Madrigal represented at least one problem people face in their daily lives. For example, if a person continuously suppresses their emotions instead of going through the motions, then I think of Pepa always trying to literally hold back a storm. When I look at Luisa, all I see now is someone putting too much pressure on themselves to be there for everyone, every time.

              As for specific mental illnesses, I think they were represented as well. I can personally relate to Isabella because like her, I had put up a front instead of being true to myself and I wound up falling into depression. I think the animators brought out her hidden unhappiness well. I also think Pepa and Luisa have anxiety to keep up themselves together and it breaks my heart to see them struggle like that.

              From so many perspectives, it’s clear that Encanto is a great film that has multiple layers. New observations and perspectives are cropping up about the film almost every time I go online. So, the question that comes up is if the film is that good, why don’t more people watch it? Some people still hold the notion that Disney is just some children’s channel and wouldn’t think twice about watching a cartoon. I know someone who’s adamant about watching it because they think Disney music is too annoying to watch the movie.

All this makes me sad because as an advocate for mental health and mental wellness, seeing people refuse to participate in raising awareness over preconceived notions makes mee feel like progress isn’t coming forth. The truth of the matter is people are coming up with addressing more mental health related issues in new ways, and I’m glad for it. I’m happy to see this new change in the film industry, and I’m proud to say I can name a movie other than Inside Out that covers mental wellness with such depth.

Mbugua Kibe,
April 25, 2022

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