This month I have focused on the traditional Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos, and it was all leading up to seeing Coco on Thanksgiving Day.
Being married to a giant Disney (and Pixar) fan, I’ve seen almost every Pixar release… I’ve seen 18 of the 19 Pixar feature films. But, this movie was different: it was about Latinos, starring Latinos, and co-directed/written by a Latino.
The Inspiration for a Día de los Muertos themed film came to co-director Lee Ukrich in a theme park, and immediately he began insisting on authenticity and accuracy. Ukrich was convicted that the entire cast should be Latino, and the authenticity did not stop with the cast. He and a team flew to Mexico during Día de los Muertos for real-life examples of the celebration, and you could tell that their efforts paid off.
Green-lighting this project must have been a difficult decision. Coco ventures into uncharted territory (Latino-focused feature film), so there was a lot riding on this.
If you’re curious what Latinos are saying, here is one review:
As a Mexican-Salvadoran-American who grew up on a steady diet of Hollywood Anglo films and the “Hispanic Hollywood” movies of the eighties (La Bamba, Born in East LA, Stand and Deliver), there may never be a more important production than Pixar’s Coco. It’s a blissful hug of acceptance in a time when the very existence of Latinos in this country is criminalized. Just like a freshly made tamale on Christmas Eve or a loud mariachi song waking you up on Sunday morning, Coco feels like home.
— Vanessa Erazo
It might be confusing but the title of the film is not the lead character – or any other major character. The lead character, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), is a young boy who has a secret dream of becoming a musician. This has to be kept secret because his entire family rejects all music, and this stems from Miguel’s great-great-grandfather abandoning the family to pursue a musical career.
After revealing his aspirations of becoming a musician his grandmother destroys his handmade guitar. In anger, he attempts to steal the guitar of the most famous musician from his hometown, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). After he plays a note on the guitar Miguel becomes invisible to everyone in his hometown and only visible to deceased loved ones visiting the Land of the Living.
Miguel’s fate lays in the hands of his deceased family members. He must receive a blessing from his great-great-grandmother, but she insists on Miguel giving up on music. He refuses and searches for his great-great-grandfather for his blessing. The adventure then begins…
The plot focuses on family dynamics and the determination to follow your dreams, and what’s encouraging is that the film consistently celebrates dreams while respecting family values. The plot authentically represented the love and diversity within a Latino family
Again, I’ve seen almost all Pixar films – and plenty of non-Pixar animated films – and the animation was astounding. The shots of the Land of the Dead were a highlight for their extravagant color schemes, but I believe the highlights came from the subtle focus of scenes.
There were scenes that relied on close-up shots, and these moments created seamless transitions. In non-animated films, the camera can focus on the object closest to the lens and transition to something further away. This is the only animated film I can recall that utilizes this technique, and it adds to the connection you feel to the characters.
My daughter is a child that cares more about the musical aspect of a film than the visual aspect. The music is so catchy and memorable that people of all ages can enjoy it. I’ve noticed that most animated films have music that kids love but the parents hate. The signature song, “Remember Me” has four versions, and each version will have fans (My favorite is sung by Miguel featuring Natalia Lafourcade).
If you enjoy the film, the soundtrack is a must-have. I got it because my daughter lights up whenever we play any song.