There is nothing quite like comfort when you’re sick, so it’s no surprise that I finally got around to my planned rewatch of Disney’s Encanto this month. And can I just say — the movie holds up on the rewatch. It remains entertaining. And more importantly, there are all sorts of little hints and clues that I only fully appreciated on that second pass. A lot of these had to do with color. So here follows a list of the important colors in Encanto and what they say about the characters sporting them.
Yellow is the color of happiness, forced optimism in the face of adversity. We see yellow the most around Pepa and her family — her eternally optimistic husband, her entirely unserious son, and to a lesser extent her cheery but secretive daughter. When Pepa is sad, stormclouds loom, gray and dreary, trying to swamp the brightness of her. Mirabel wears only a spot of yellow, in the flowers embroidering her blouse.
Blue is the color of Julieta and her children. It is serene, calming. Julieta cares for others, and passes her color on to Luisa and to Mirabel, who both spend a lot of their time trying to solve other people’s problems to various levels of effectiveness. Isabela doesn’t wear blue when we first meet her.
Green is Bruno’s color, though it takes us most of the film to realize it. This is the color of his visions, and it’s the color of Mirabel’s glasses — Mirabel, who sees there is a problem that needs solving, even though no one believes her. Green represents clear vision and truth in this film. So much of the time, it is frowned upon or hidden, seen as a threat. Yet it is the heart of what is needed for healing.
Pink is the color of Abuela’s dress. It’s the washed out color Isabella wears when she is trying to be everything her Abuela wants of her. It is the flowers on Mirabel’s shirt — she wants so badly to be worthy of her Abuela’s regard. Pink is hidden under the veil of mourning, in Abuela’s case. And in Isabella’s, it is a box she cannot escape, a perfection she has been taught her whole life to attain that isn’t true to her. It’s not until Mirabel helps her find her own colors — riotous greens, vivid blues, impossible oranges and yellows — that she can be the person she was born to be.
In the end, orange is the color of magic. It’s the color of something that at first glance seems pretty and simple — a butterfly, a candleflame — but is not simple at all. Because that magic, that burning orange, is the product of Abuela’s deep grief. It is the color of her husband, who she lost, who never knew Casita and the safety there. Orange is the color of family — both the ones who are living, and the ones who are gone. It cannot thrive without the acknowledgement of the loss, with all it’s spiteful heat and jagged edges.
It’s tempting to ignore color, to try to make things pretty or austere, like Isabela’s near-white dress. But as for Isabela, it is only through acknowledging the wide variety of color and meaning that the Madrigal’s story can be fully appreciated. Each of these colors is carried by Mirabel except for the last, from the beginning of the film. It is only at the end that she can fully appreciate the costs of the magic her family carries, the grief bound in with the love, and open the door to a new understanding of her life and her heritage. That is the magic of Disney’s Encanto.
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