Is ‘Encanto’ on the Mount Rushmore of Disney movies? A discussion

OPINION: Disney’s latest release seems to be a runaway success with the kids, but has it jumped to the head of the class? 

If you have children—maybe even if you don’t—you probably spent an inordinate amount of time watching the latest Disney film, Encanto this holiday season. It’s a story set in Colombia, where a young girl—MIRABEL!!! MIRABEL!!!—has to find the magic within to save her family’s specialness. Like all Disney films, there is death, true love (of sorts) and straight bangerific jams. Like another Disney movie full of straight ethnic bangers, Moana, the songs in Encanto were penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton, In The Heights, Vivo, etc. fame. And honey, Lin-Manuel knows how to pen the jams. 

The kids love this movie. So much so that I may have literally discovered the actual numerical value of 50-11 times. I’ve seen Encanto that many times. Just today (and it doesn’t matter what day you read this, I promise) I’ve watched it three times. The entirety of every day of my life in this current era is filled with random, voluminous yellings of “WE DON’T TALK ABOUT BRUNO!” People named Bruno far and wide are probably annoyed to no end these days. If I knew a person named Bruno, he’d never hear the end of it. 

It snowed in the Washington, D.C., area recently and when I went outside to shovel snow, I didn’t listen to Ice Cube’s Death Certificate album as is my usual snow shoveling custom. No, I listened to the Encanto soundtrack. I have attempted to work “We don’t talk about Bruno” into various conversations and there isn’t a parent alive who doesn’t know what I’m talking about right now. I haven’t been this engulfed in a Disney moment since Frozen, and that’s saying something. That Frozen phenomenon was something. But things hit different when you know the food in the movie would have seasoning, if you know what I mean. 

Recently, I took to the social media streets to see just how prevalent Encanto was in homes far and wide, and the barrage of responses (hundreds) proved to me that I was right: Encanto has hit the phenomenon stage. If it were closer to Halloween, kids would be dressing up as all of the characters in this movie (I’m guessing Mirabel, Isabel and Bruno would be crowd favorites). The soundtrack is getting run in cars while we all make our way through this Omarion variant. One common discussion point that kept coming up was that the songs in Encanto rivaled that of both Moana and Coco

Now, hear this and hear this good: that is no small statement. Moana and Coco are literal top-shelf movies. I watch Coco by my lonesome. It’s also probably no coincidence that most of the best movies with the best songs are all…hmmm…ethnic. Just you wait until we finally get a Disney movie (with humans) set in West Africa; a Disney afrobeats soundtrack will literally be bumping in clubs all over the diaspora. 

Well, this Moana and Coco and Encanto discussion got me to thinking if Encanto has made it onto the Disney movie Mount Rushmore. In order to have this entirely subjective and highly divisive conversation, we have to get something out of the way that is going to make this kind of unnecessarily confusing. Encanto is the 60th film to be made by Walt Disney Animation Studios, which includes films like Aladdin, Frozen, The Lion King, Moana, Zootopia, etc. But doesn’t include the Pixar films like Toy Story (and the franchise), Cars, Monsters, Inc., Up, Coco, Finding Nemo, etc. For the sake of this argument, and to make my own life more difficult, we’re putting them all in the same bucket, since Pixar is a subsidiary of Disney. Most people I know don’t spend much time making distinctions, so let’s just say Disney/Pixar is Disney for the sake of this discussion. 

“Encanto” (Courtesy of Disney)

Also, just so I can get my own opinion on the record, I don’t think Encanto is on Mount Rushmore. It might be on a tier right below. At least I don’t think that I think it has. I suppose we’ll know by the time we’re done here. 

At first blush, if I had to pick four Disney movies off the top to hit that Mount Rushmore, I’m thinking Toy Story, Frozen, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. But that’s at first blush. Let’s blush some more. So look, I think Toy Story is a given no matter what. So we have three slots to fill…maybe. I could argue that Frozen was such a moment that it is also a given, except I actually think Moana is a similar enough but better story. Olaf is a much better sidekick than Heihei, but I preferred all of the songs in Moana more. I mean look, “Let It Go” was a MOMENT. But man, “How Far I’ll Go,” is some inspirational music. Also, Moana has “You’re Welcome” and I can listen to “Shiny” over and over again. Shouts out to my guy, Tamatoa; I hope somebody finally flipped you over, bruv. 

So yeah, I might be controversial already but so far I’ve got Toy Story and Moana. I think I have to put The Lion King in here, right? I mean they made a whole second live version of it and then added Beyoncé to the mix. Basically, they went to the well twice with the exact same movie and then got greedy by adding one of the world’s most popular artists and it worked. So yeah, I think we’re sticking with The Lion King in a slot. 

Aight, so we’re at Toy Story, Moana and The Lion King. Who gets that last slot? Encanto is not better than Coco or Frozen. Or Up. The music is better than most but is the movie better than them? Eh. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting Encanto above The Little Mermaid. I mean, it’s Ariel and Sebastian. So what Ariel doesn’t have a mother and gave up her voice for a man? Those are the breaks sometimes, right? Frankly, I prefer Aladdin to The Little Mermaid, though. But I’m not sure Aladdin rises to the Mount Rushmore level, and The Little Mermaid gave us worlds like “dinglehopper” and “snarfblatt,” and I didn’t even have to look them up to get them right. So I’m inclined to keep The Little Mermaid

This is a struggle for me because the soundtracks for Coco and Encanto whip The Little Mermaid’s ass, and while The Little Mermaid gave Disney new life (seriously look at the string of fails before it) that old guard doesn’t quite hold up the same as the new films, which are better in almost every way. But does Coco beat out Frozen??? Man, this is hard. It does in my heart, but Frozen made over a BILLION and was like the biggest Disney movie of all time for years. 

Aight, here is my final list: Toy Story, The Lion King, Moana and Frozen. That was way too hard and I’m already wondering if I even believe this is my list. Like, I want to put Coco in there so badly. And Up. And the family Madrigal. But I won’t. I will chill and go listen to the Encanto soundtrack again. 

Fight your auntie(s), bro. 

What’s on your Disney Mount Rushmore? 

Panama Jackson is a columnist at TheGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors. He is pretty fly for a light guy.

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