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Encanto’s Director Explains Why The Madrigals Have Gifts And Not Superpowers

Luisa singing in Encanto
(Image credit: Disney)

When Encanto was released last year, fans took to social media to express just how much they related to the various songs and characters. Some were even calling for the Disney production to head to Broadway after the animated film secured an Oscar win at the 94th Academy Awards. What viewers seemed to like a lot is that each member of the Madrigal family had a unique gift, which was at the core of their personalities and strengths. Though some may question why their magical abilities are not referred to as superpowers. Co-director Jared Bush has now explained the interesting reasoning behind this distinction, and it totally makes sense.

Encanto centers around the Madrigals and the wonderful abilities that they use to help their community. Sounds like a family of superheroes, right? Well, not exactly.  When responding to a fan who wanted clarification regarding the family's abilities being called “gifts” instead of “superpowers,” Jared Bush explained on Twitter that it was a conscious choice. He even listed three distinct reasons, one of which does involve heroes:

Yes. Three reasons - 1) 'gifts' felt more like how special talents and abilities are described in a family context, 2) miracle—>gift felt like a more natural progression, 3) 'powers' felt too superhero-ish and we wanted to avoid that connection as much as we could.

This totally checks out, as the origin of the brood's abilities falls more in line with the trope we see in many ancient mythologies rather than what would be seen in many comic books. In this case, a God is moved by a human’s plight and bestows upon them a gift that will help them out of whatever dire situation they find themselves in.

Jared Bush's mention of the term "gifts" being more fitting of the family context makes a lot of sense here as well. After all, Encanto is all about those kinds of dynamics and the negative impacts relatives can unknowingly have on one another. This is arguably another aspect of the movie that a lot of fans seemed to relate to. 

The filmmaker is probably right in thinking that having the special abilities be called superpowers instead of "gifts" would change the way that we looked at those familial bonds. Sure, a movie like The Incredibles is entertaining and super fun, but it gives off totally different vibes than the Colombia-set musical did, even though both Disney films center on a family with a variety superhuman (or magical) powers.

Still, there were other reasons that the movie resonated with audiences. Colombian culture was lovingly depicted represented, and even the youngest of viewers could adorably see themselves represented in the characters. It also presented honest interactions between loved ones that are rarely seen in mainstream animated films. The very conscious decision to call the central family’s abilities “gifts” instead of “superpowers” might just be a small aspect of the movie, but it's a key reason why the flick is fresh and stands as one of the great animated films to hit theaters in recent years.

Encanto is  available to stream (right alongside Marvel superhero content, coincidentally) for anyone with a Disney+ subscription.

Carlie Hoke
Carlie Hoke

Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside.  While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.