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'Encanto' is thriving on TikTok weeks after its theatrical release. Here's why.

TikTokers said the film not only shows characters who, for the first time, look like them — it also tells stories that mirror their own.
Encanto
"Encanto."Disney

Before Maribel Martinez ever sat down to watch “Encanto” with her daughter, she heard the film’s music on TikTok. Specifically, “Surface Pressure,” sung by the story’s middle sister, Luisa Madrigal.

“Give it to your sister, it doesn’t hurt, and see if she can handle every family burden,” Luisa sings, revealing how she is struggling with living up to the pressure from her family while trying to keep herself intact.

The song captivated Martinez, 23, whose TikTok followers told her she should make videos related to the film and pointed out her resemblance to Luisa. So Martinez posted a video of herself lip-syncing to the song on Dec. 29. It’s now been viewed more than 24 million times.

Martinez and others say they think the movie has found new life on TikTok because many in the Latino community can relate to how the film captures the weight, fear and guilt associated with  generational trauma.

“Not only does it have to deal with how many people deal with pressure ... but it also relates to a Hispanic community where the family dynamic is brought up like that and we’re put under so much pressure,” she told NBC News.

“Encanto,” which means “charm” in Spanish, is Disney’s 60th animated feature film. The film's songs and music are by “Hamilton” composer Lin-Manuel Miranda.

It tells the tale of the Madrigal family, whose members are gifted with magical powers to help their community in Colombia. The story is told through the eyes of Mirabel, who doesn’t have magical powers. When she begins having visions of the family’s sentient home, casita, cracking and the magic fading, she takes it upon herself to save her family and their magic.

The film, which has generated a strong box office performance since its Nov. 24 release, is now getting even more buzz thanks to TikTok, where the hashtag #Encanto has been viewed more than 7.4 billion times.

Weeks after the movie's release, users are creating character cosplays and dances to catchy musical numbers, including TikTok favorite “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” Many have also dissected the deeper meaning of the film’s plot, drawing parallels between their own lives and the family’s struggles.

"For me it's so exciting to watch," screenwriter and director Jared Bush said.

"I'm constantly surprised by a song I've known for two years," Bush said of TikTok users' interpretation of the music.

How the film accurately captures intergenerational trauma

TikTok users who spoke to NBC News about their “Encanto” videos said the film has helped showcase how intergenerational trauma affects Latino and Hispanic families.

Mirabel Madrigal struggles to fit in in a family in which everyone has been blessed with magical powers — except her.Disney

Intergenerational trauma is the “transmission (or sending down to younger generations) of the oppressive or traumatic effects of a historical event,” according to Duke University. In “Encanto,” the character Alma, the family’s abuela, is considered the matriarch. But she is also the biggest source of their intergenerational trauma.

Alma herself has experienced a certain amount of trauma: Shortly after giving birth to triplets Pepa, Bruno and Julieta, Alma and her husband, Pedro, were forced to flee their home. Pedro then sacrificed himself to save his family.

Alma’s expression of overwhelming grief sparks the “miracle” that grants the family its gift: the magical casita. But because of her experiences, she puts immense pressure on her family to “earn” the gift the family was given by serving the community.

Bush, along with director Byron Howard and producer Yvett Merino, attributed the film's accurate depiction of intergenerational trauma to Charise Castro Smith, a co-director and screenwriter.

"Bringing that intergenerational trauma was incredibly important to her. She's Cuban American, and she felt that her family and their immigrant experience, she really wanted to bring that to the forefront," Howard said. "And that became a true north for us."

Moony Rodriguez, who uses they/them pronouns, said they feel the depiction of intergenerational trauma is a major reason so many young people on TikTok feel connected to the film, having never seen their own family’s intergenerational trauma shared so distinctly on screen.

“A lot of time the parents have good intentions, but they don’t realize how much pressure they put on the kids,” Rodriguez, who cosplays on TikTok, said. They noted that their own family’s trauma stems from fleeing Mexico.

Many are seeing themselves reflected in an animated film for the first time

In “Encanto,” the range of characters — from light-skinned Latinos with red hair to Afro Latinos with Black skin to characters with round faces to characters with angular noses — marks the first time many young people have seen themselves in an animated film.

“The movie shows how beautiful all of these people are, how diverse the family is,” Rodriguez said.

In Mirabel’s round face, curly dark hair and soft freckles, Rodriguez saw their own face looking back at them.

“I had never seen a character that looked so much like me on the big screen, especially in animation, especially a main character,” they said, adding that they are working on a full Mirabel costume.

The film’s music also brings a layer of relatability. Martinez said songs like “Surface Pressure,” which focuses on middle sister Luisa’s desire to be strong for her family while buckling on the inside, resonated almost identically with her own story.

After she posted her TikTok video, she said others began opening up to her about the pressures they face and how they relate to her.

“It’s not just a look they can relate to. I think the movie is so big because they see themselves in those characters, not because they look like them,” Martinez said, “but because they feel the pressure those characters feel.”

In a recent conversation with NBC Latino, Miranda said the music is reflective of real-life conversations and experiences, which could point to why young people see so much of themselves in the films. 

“There’s certainly musical phrases that I can point to that are ripped from family conversations that happened in my house,” Miranda said. “I think that’s what people recognize on screen when they see the film. They see slivers of their own experience.” 

Musicals have consistently been popular on TikTok

The popularity of “Encanto” videos on TikTok isn’t entirely a surprise.

Musical theater thrives on the platform, as many Broadway fans gravitate toward TikTok communities around their favorite shows.

From re-creating scenes from the movie musical "Tick, Tick ... Boom" to mouthing the words to the British pop musical "Six," TikTok has become a go-to for musical theater nerds to express themselves.

The platform has even been a launch pad for some to start their own musicals, like the crowdsourced "Ratatouille" musical — based on the Pixar film, which was later staged as a virtual concert featuring actual Broadway stars — and the “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” — based on the Netflix series “Bridgerton” and recently nominated for a Grammy.

Videos with the “Encanto” hashtag showcase users complaining about how the songs from the film are stuck in their head, dancing along to scenes in the film and teasing Miranda, pretending he would be frustrated that he couldn’t cast himself in the film.

Fans have also engaged in theories about certain characters and found Easter eggs and tiny but important details in the film, like how the mysterious uncle Bruno can be seen in the background of certain songs, bopping his head to the music.

In one TikTok, user @Janimaticsss shows a scene of people applauding, zooming in on Dolores, the character with the ultra-strong hearing, and showing that she claps using just her index fingers because the sound of her clapping is likely too loud for her ears.

“Woah, the animators really went the extra mile in showing how these characters behave,” one person commented. That TikTok has been viewed nearly 18 million times.

If there’s one thing that guarantees a TikTok hit, it’s music, and the soundtrack for “Encanto,” as the kids on TikTok say, slaps.

Songs “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” “Surface Pressure” and “The Family Madrigal” have roughly 250,000 collective videos made under those sounds on the app.

Some songs from the musical recently made the Billboard Hot 100 list.

Watching how TikTok has embraced the film has been beyond what Howard, Bush and Merino could have imagined.

"Keep the TikToks coming," Merino said. "We love them, and I watch them all the time — maybe too much."