Encanto’s infectiously catchy song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” continues to break records, its tender lullaby “Dos Oruguitas” is the only one up for Oscar consideration, and its standout number “Pressure” has its adherents. But while there are certainly plenty of debates about which one of the movie’s songs is really is the best, one of them is rarely brought up: the final number, “All of You.” And that’s a shame, because not only is it a great song, it also marks a first in Disney history: an actual finale number.
With “All of You,” songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda weaves together a softly triumphant song that beautifully emphasizes the movie’s themes and wraps up the journeys of the large cast of characters. Not only is it a terrific number, it also embraces the sensibilities of Broadway musicals in a specific way Disney movies generally don’t.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for the ending of Encanto.]
While Disney movies have leaned on Broadway’s values since Howard Ashman revived the animated musical format with The Little Mermaid, one key element has always been missing: a big finale number. The original songs in Disney musicals usually taper off around the middle, and often the last song isn’t the best note to end on. (I’m looking at you, Frozen Troll Song.) If there is a finale song, it’s usually just a brief reprise of the movie’s biggest number, like in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where jester Clopin just kinda sings one stanza of the opening number for 30 seconds. Moana — another Lin-Manuel Miranda joint — comes closest to a finale, but it’s still just a slowed-down version of a song from earlier in the film.
Enter Encanto. From the beginning, directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard wanted to evolve the Disney musical. This meant touching on different musical genres, as with the reggaeton-infused “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” and making full use of choreography in a way that Disney movies rarely did before. But it also meant a full, proper finale that not only reprises previous songs, but stands on its own and comprehensively wraps up the narrative.
When “All of You’’ rolls around, protagonist Mirabel and her abuela reach a point of mutual understanding. They walk to the ruins of their house to reunite with the rest of the family and face their next steps together. There are still a lot of loose ends to tie up — for instance, when Bruno reveals that he’s actually been hiding in the house’s walls, which prompts shapeshifting Camilo to ask, “OK, so… we gonna talk about Bruno?”
That kind of big musical scene can easily show the passage of time and offer up a compact but satisfying emotional conclusion. In Encanto, it comes when and the entire town offers to help them rebuild, signaling their community spirit and gratitude for the ways the family has helped them for years. Many of the movie’s previous melodies and lyrics get reprise versions, recontextualized to show how the characters have grown and created new futures for themselves. Not only does “All of You” highlight the characters’ journeys and the themes of healing from generational trauma, it also shows a glimpse of what happens next — not a full-out epilogue that rolls around with the post-credits, but a series of promises about how this family will be able to work together and grow together in healthier ways.
It’s something Disney movies should have had all along — an upbeat, energetic way to pull an entire story together and suggest a rich future. But even outside of the movie’s narrative, it’s unusually satisfying how the official soundtrack ends on such a triumphant note. It’s under-recognized and under-acknowledged given the other riches this movie offers, but the novelty of such satisfying closure deserves to be noted. Besides, it’s just a damn good song. By the time “All of You” rolls around on my Spotify listen, I’m always nearly tearing up.
Encanto is available to stream on Disney Plus.