By Lupita Franco Peimbert
(Film) – Coco, the story of a kid desperate to become a musician despite his family’s strong opposition, is one inspiring story.
It is the saga of those daring to follow their dreams no matter how far away they seem from reality. But Coco offers a lot more than that. It is one of the most exquisites exposures of Mexican culture to mainstream moviegoers, and it is just another extraordinary animation film by the creatives at Pixar.
I heard of its Spanish-language release in Mexico City at the end of October while visiting. I finally saw the film in California on November 24, Thanksgiving Day, as an English-speaking movie.
As I was sitting at the movie theater with my glasses on for the 3D version, waiting for it to begin, I felt inquisitive to find out how well Disney/Pixar captured Mexican culture but also how good of a story Coco turned out. It met my expectations. Disney/Pixar knows how to tell a good story through high-quality animation, and they do it in a way that is attractive to kids and adults.
Although the story is universal in that it shows that to make a dream come true, one has to pursue it and how family values such as loyalty can influence our lives to a fault, it is peculiar about Mexican traditions. As the world knows it, the story is framed around The Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos), the widely celebrated ancestral tradition each November 2. It has also been increasingly celebrated in American towns with high Mexican and Latino populations, such as in San Francisco’s Mission District or East LA in southern California.
The intricacies of this film’s animation blow one’s mind out, showing thousands of lighting effects, complex drawings, beautiful designs, and choreography of functional moves that make it vivid while dynamic. This is not unusual for Pixar. They are the best of the best. This time, they have also proved something equally important: a story becomes more relevant, solid, and grounded, proportional to its creators having done their due diligence to plasm cultural nuances with accuracy and respect.
The people from Pixar took the time and effort to learn and understand the symbolism embedded in the Day of the Dead, a family’s colloquialisms, and a nation’s idiosyncrasies so well that they were able to play with these elements and tell a story interesting for both, those who grew up with this tradition and those who have not even heard of it. “Over three years, we visited museums, markets, plazas, workshops, churches, haciendas, and cemeteries throughout Mexico,” says Coco’s Director, Lee Unkrich.
Pixar summarizes Coco: “Despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, young Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. After meeting a charming trickster named Hector, the two new friends embark on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.”
I won’t give out more details to not spoil the film for you, but I must say if you see colorful figurines in the movie, those are Alebrijes –created by artisan families and passed down from generation to generation. And the cemetery with Marigolds… that is how it looks every year in early November in most cemeteries in Mexico.
Directed by Lee Unkrich and co-directed by Adrian Molina; original story Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz, Matthew Aldrich, and Adrian Molina; produced by Darla Anderson; original score composed by Michael Giacchino.
The film features the voices of Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz and Gael Garcia Bernal as Hector. The voice of young Miguel is played by 12-year-old Anthony Gonzalez, who also sings.
You’ve got to see Coco!
It has been exhibited in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Croatia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Armenia, Chile, Georgia, and Hungary. It will be in France on November 29 and in many other countries the rest of November and through December for at least 46 countries with voice-over in several languages.
Well Done, Pixar!
About the writer:
Lupita Franco Peimbert is a former television news reporter. She is the publisher of Lupitanews.com – writing about culture, travel, cinema, and life.