Even though she doesn’t have the official title, Mirabel Madrigal from Disney’s Encanto stands in the same place as a Disney Princess. And just like we saw with Moana before her, a pattern of futile denial hangs over her and the rest of her family.
Let’s ask the blunt question: What defines a princess? I’m not talking about the personal traits that all of Disney’s leading ladies have in common. I’m talking about matters of function. A princess is a girl or young woman who is an immediate family member of the ruling King or Queen with at least a near-direct shot to succeed the throne. While Disney’s Encanto makes no mention of official titles, it cannot help but depict the Madrigal family as a pseudo-royal family. Abuela is the reigning queen, and Mirabel stands–at the end of her film–as her successor chosen by Casita and accepted by Abuela.
Let’s go a little deeper:
Abuela: Queen, and Head of La Real Familia Madrigal
Other than the fact she carries herself with such dignity, Abuela Madrigal’s actions are that of a queen throughout the entire movie.
She gathers people together to form a new community, thanks to her family’s sacrifice and miracle that she and her people find their land to call home. The people continue to look to her and her family for leadership and protection from the world outside their realm. While she is no dictator, her word is the law, and the family does its best to live aligned with it.
Abuela and her family are elevated above the rest of the people through miraculous means, and the Madrigals’ royal bloodline is illustrated through the miraculous gifts they are given while the other townsfolk and even the spouses remain giftless. When we see Antonio receive his gift, the moment is celebrated as an understanding that the royal legacy will continue. We also see the family go oversee the courtship of one of their “princesses” to a man from a family the monarch deems worthy.
Then there is, of course, the royal family’s “castle,” Casita. The Miracle’s physical form, Casita, is a castle among the Madrigal’s village, standing as the largest and most impressive household. It even has a spooky tower and secret passageways in the walls, for crying out loud! In proper royal fashion, all three generations of Madrigals live in the castle, including Mirabel.
Mirabel – Princess, and Queen to Be
Mirabel finds herself to be one of the Madrigal princesses. But because she was supposedly not given a gift, she finds herself rather disenfranchised, just like the princesses that came before her. What Abuela and the rest of the royal family do not understand, though, is that Mirabel is called to an even greater position in the family: Casita’s chosen successor to Abuela. Bruno’s vision literally show’s the foundation of the entire family being directly connected to Mirabel, but it is also a fitting role since Mirabel proves she actually has the most active power over the family besides Abuela.
Mirabel seems to be the only one besides Abuela who can influence the family to do or say certain things. Mirabel pushed Luisa to open up about her stress that got her family to talk about Bruno, and that got Isabela to grow a jungle’s worth of flora besides roses. That is a mighty active influence worthy of a queen.
Everybody–even Abuela–is too distracted by Isabela’s all-but-arranged engagement to Mariano Guzmán to see it. Sure the match was “perfect,” and yes, Isabela’s marriage to Mariano would ensure that the Madrigal magic continued to flourish. But was it best in terms of “keeping their house in order,” as they used to say?
While Isabela, Dolores, Luisa, Camilo, and Antonio were all princes and princesses in their own right, they all had different “jobs” to fulfill based on their powers, from listening and talking to animals to bearing the load and being a symbol of perfection and beauty. Leaving Mirabel powerless removes any vocational distraction and helps her see her true purpose – the future Matriarch of the Madrigals.
They may not have the actual titles, and all of the “pomp and circumstance” of a traditional royal family, but in their roles, the family proves to be of royal stature.
Disney’s Encanto is available for streaming now on Disney+.