Encanto Ending Explained: Generations, Divided

For Walt Disney Animation's 60th feature-length major motion picture "Encanto," the audience is transported to a vibrant village in the mountains of Colombia and introduced to the extraordinary Madrigal family. Thanks to the magic of their palatial home, each member of the family has been bestowed a unique gift such as super strength, the ability to heal, or shape-shifting. Each member, that is, except for Mirabel Madrigal (played by the delightful Stephanie Beatriz). Now when the house's magic seems to be fading, it's up to Mirabel to save it without any magical powers of her own.

The magical mystery of the family's encanto (which can sometimes be translated as "a magical place") goes back a few generations. So to fully unravel the details, we'll have to dig deep into the story of this film directed by the "Zootopia" team of Byron Howard and Jared Bush and co-directed by playwright and "The Haunting of Hill House" writer Charise Castro Smith. 

In other words, here is your spoiler warning before we discuss the ending of "Encanto". Proceed with caution.

We Don't Talk About Bruno

As Josh Spiegel points out in /Film's review, despite a rich history of memorable villains, there isn't actually a villain in the House of Mouse's latest offering. However, based on how the family talks about him, Bruno Madrigal is painted as the bad guy. Mirabel's uncle is played by comedy legend John Leguizamo and his gift is the ability to see the future. This gift turned out to be more of a curse though, since Bruno had a vision about the family one day, then disappeared. From that day on, the family adopted the policy of "We don't talk about Bruno."

As she looks for answers that could help her in her quest to save her family's magic, Mirabel breaks into Bruno's room, which has been boarded up and unoccupied for some time. After scaling the tower in this massive room (because the Madrigal house is basically made up of many TARDISes that are bigger on the inside), she finds the shattered pieces of Bruno's last prophecy. She also triggers a trap that looks to bury her in sand.

After narrowly escaping his room before becoming a human hourglass, Mirabel finally meets Tio Bruno face to face. He gives her the lowdown on his story, which involves fleeing into the walls of the house and befriending rats so that it looked like he left without actually being far from his beloved family. Since he felt that his gift was hurting the Madrigals more than helping, Bruno just removed himself to make things easier for everyone.

His burden becomes a blessing since Bruno is able to decipher the broken pieces of his vision for Mirabel. According to the reassembled tablet, she will either make or break the magic that has defined the family for decades. In order to save it, she has to reconcile with someone, but it's unclear with who. All Bruno can say is that Mirabel is seen hugging a woman in the vision, so they assume that means that her beef with her sister Isabela (voiced by "Doom Patrol" star Diane Guerrero) needs to be squashed for the good of the family.

Even though it seems pretty clear at this point in the movie that Mirabel needs to talk to her Abuela about everything that's going on, sure, let's deal with Isabela first.

Isabela La Perfecta

The saying goes that siblings are your first friends. At least, that's how it goes for people that aren't the only child. But throughout "Encanto," Mirabel and Isabela are at odds. They have a very Marcia/Jan dynamic going on. More often than not, this feud manifests through passive aggressive jabs at each other, but it really comes to a head when Mirabel unintentionally ruins Isabela's engagement dinner. So once Mirabel realizes that her feud with her sister could be the cause of the family magic fading, she knows that forgiveness may not come very easily.

That's when we get the song "What Else Can I Do?" where the sisters learn that the root of their animosity is that they don't really understand each other. What they come to realize is that they're both trapped by the perceptions placed on them by everyone else. Once they realize that they both don't need to fit into a perfect little mold to be accepted and happy, they see that they have a lot more in common than they initially thought.

However, despite Mirabel and Isabela reconciling, the magic continues to fade from the casita.

Abre Los Ojos

Okay, now we finally get to Abuela.

Alma Madrigal is the reason that the family was able to survive and thrive after her husband Antonio was killed by invading soldiers. Forced to raise her children Pepa, Julieta, and Bruno on her own without shelter, the magic finds the grief-stricken Family Madrigal and aids them at their darkest moment.

This magic creates the house and shields their land from harm. Over the years, Alma acts as the matriarch of the Family Madrigal and the village that grows around their house. In her eyes, she uses the gifts that were given to her family to help the community grow. Everyone thrived and survived in this Colombian town thanks to the foundation built upon Abuela Madrigal's struggles.

But the other side of this coin is that Abuela's mindset didn't grow as her family and the town did. She was very stuck in her old school ways, which put a ton of pressure on her family (specifically her grandchildren) to only fit into the molds that the generations before them created. That's why Mirabel's sisters Luisa and Isabela are afraid to show their true selves to the world because they were worried that they would disappoint the family and let their community down.

Abuela has held so tightly to her outdated and narrow-minded beliefs that it stifled the magical candle that gave the Madrigals their powers. Her grip is so tight that she berates her granddaughter for encouraging the family to be their authentic selves. Unfortunately, even after uncovering the secrets of the family magic and what needs to be done to save it, Mirabel still cannot prevent the familial dynamics and the house from literally and figuratively falling apart around them.

¡Hola Casita!

By now, we know that Bruno isn't actually the villain of this story. There isn't an actual tangible villain in "Encanto." When the house comes crumbling down, we find out that the antagonist of is generational trauma and unrealistic expectations. This notion is eloquently explored in Lin-Manuel Miranda's song "All Of You."

With their house in shambles, the Madrigals stand together in the rubble. They're unsure what to do next, but they're grateful for each other, with or without their gifts. In the song, Mirabel says to her grandmother, "It's time you learn that you're more than just your gift." Then, after seeing all that damage that she inadvertently caused, Abuela realizes, "The miracle is you. All of you." That's when everyone finally sees Mirabel's real power: empathy. She listens to everyone and accepts them for who they are. Furthermore, she builds them up. While it may seem like a small thing that goes without saying, it's not a power that everyone possesses.

Speaking of building up, it can take a village. In this case, literally. After everything the Family Madrigal has done for their community over the years, that community rallies together without hesitation to help the family rebuild their house. And once Mirabel installed the final doorknob to the front door, the house springs to life with magic once again, proving that the real magic comes from the extraordinary people that live in the house rather than the house itself. And with the rifts mended, the magic is returned, with the family back at full strength (or arguably stronger than ever).

The message of "Encanto" is one that should be embraced by all. The story is definitely universal, especially for second and third generational families with immigrant relatives. Acceptance and open-mindedness is a message that the whole family should be welcoming in this holiday season and beyond. 

Be sure to catch "Encanto" in theaters now or on Disney+ on December 24, 2021.