In What Time Period Is Disney's 'Encanto' Set?

In terms of its physical location, Encanto is unmistakably set in Colombia, yet the exact time period of the story is a little hazy.

Generally speaking, most Disney animated films avoid giving you a precise date and are instead situated in a vague bygone era. Not only do they get to retain a timeless feel that way, but they also don't have to worry about clashing with any thorny real-world events that might undermine the otherwise happy atmosphere.

For instance, Beauty and the Beast takes place at some nebulous point in the 1700s but, if the filmmakers specified an exact year, then history buffs might wonder what's going to become of the aristocratic Prince Adam and Princess Belle once the French revolution kicks off.

Disney isn't always reticent about giving you a date though, with films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas laying out their timelines up front.

The studio's latest release, Encanto, doesn't fully commit to either approach. While the film never gives an explicit year, it does leave enough clues for those who want to try and pinpoint when the action is taking place.

When Is Encanto Set?

The key piece of information is actually delivered right at the beginning of the film, in the exposition-heavy prologue.

Here, we learn that Pedro and his wife Alma (who will eventually become the Madrigal family's Abuela) were fleeing for their lives following the outbreak of civil war in Colombia.

The screenplay is rather coy about what specific conflict was ongoing at the time but, judging by the lack of modern technology in the intro and the fact that the aggressors are on horseback, the most likely historical moment is the Thousand Days' War, which raged between 1899 and 1902.

At the end of the prologue, Alma discovers a miracle candle that creates the Encanto community and the magical casita. We are then told that, over the next 50 years, she tends to this flame, as it continues to bless each of her descendants with a supernatural gift.

The 50-year time gap between the events of the intro and the main body of the film would place Encanto firmly in the 1950s.

This matches up with a few background details that can be seen elsewhere in the movie, like the phonograph that Bruno has laying around in his den (if you are streaming on Disney Plus this can be seen exactly at the 57 minute mark). Then there's also the fact that the Madrigals commemorate Antonio's gift ceremony by using a folding camera with an old-timey flashbulb, triggering Maribel's "Waiting on A Miracle" number.

Waiting On a Miracle Encanto Screenshot
Image shows a moment from the "Waiting On a Miracle" song in "Encanto". The use of a folding camera suggests that the film takes place in the 1950s. Walt Disney Animation Studios

Both pieces of technology would be era-appropriate if Encanto does indeed take place in the 1950s. What's more, Luisa's song "Surface Pressure" alludes to the sinking of the Titanic (a tragedy that occurred in 1912), indicating that the film must be set sometime after that event. Of course, Disney music is often anachronistic, with many of the tracks in Hercules and Aladdin containing modern references, so that's not necessarily concrete proof.

Overall it seems likely that, if Encanto does take place within the context of real-world history, then it is most likely set in the early 1950s. The prologue, the cultural references and the technology all point towards that.

If you want to learn even more about Encanto and become a bonafide expert, check out our breakdown of the film's best hidden details and Easter eggs.

Encanto Screenshot
Image shows a screenshot from "Encanto". The Disney movie is not explictly set in any particular year, but evidence suggests that it takes place in the 1950s. Walt Disney Animation Studios

This article was updated on 01/18/2022 at 11:12 to correct the spelling of Colombia.