To Latinos, and Mexicans in particular, “Coco” isn’t ‘just’ a movie- it’s personal. Imagine, if you can, having been told your entire life that people of your race are lazy, are criminals, thugs, and that we need to go back to where we came from. Or, having someone exclaim upon meeting you, that ‘you speak English so well’ or being told by editors and professors that in order to write your culture, you need to ‘make it caliente…maybe add some Spanish?’ And these are the “I’m not racist” people that say these things! So, to go from that, to imagining that someday, the iconic Disney castle appearing on a movie screen, with “When You Wish Upon A Star” playing mariachi style seemed improbable.
But it happened. “Coco” is here, and it is astoundingly beautiful.
The road to “Coco” started off askew, when Disney initially tried to trademark “Dia de los Muertos.” But the Latino community fought back, and Disney listened, and cancelled their application. Instead, they decided to create “Coco” the right way by hiring Mexican consultants, and a Mexican co-director and writer, as well as several Mexican and Mexican-American animators, those who knew what Dia de Muertos meant. It’s not a ‘festival’ or ‘carnival’, unlike some reviewers would have you believe, but a traditional holiday in which we remember and celebrate our ancestors, and loved ones who had passed on. It’s a joyful celebration full of vibrant colors, traditional music, delicious food and the warmth of family.
Family is often a wonderful and complicated thing, and in “Coco”, this family dynamic is no different. Miguel (newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) longs to be a musician, but his family has banned it ever since his great-great grandfather walked away from his wife, Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) and daughter. When a family argument causes Miguel to run off, determined to play in The Plaza, he accidentally finds himself in the Land of the Dead. In order to return home, he must get the blessing of a relative before sunrise. Knowing that his ancestors won’t give him their blessing to become a musician, he devises a way connect with the man he believes to be his great-great grandfather, a musician himself, and asks for the help of Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), a grifter of sorts, with family issues of his own, who may know Miguel’s musical relative. Together they discover long buried family secrets, and one potentially deadly one that may keep Miguel in the land of the dead, forever.
“Coco” does one of the hardest things a film about a specific culture must do- teach but not lecture, explain but not narrate, while also immersing and entertaining families of all backgrounds. Any film can easily fall into stereotypes, gag jokes, and commentary about ‘fiestas’, ‘churros’, and ‘sombreros’, but “Coco” crafts a gorgeous, universal tale of heart, passion, identity and family.
Paired with the stunning animation, is a masterpiece of a soundtrack. Oscar®-winning composer Michael Giacchino constructs the score that pays homages to traditional Mexican music, mariachis, while also giving it’s own sound. Oscar winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez also add to the amazing soundtrack, with additional songs co-written by Germaine Franco and co-director and screenwriter Adrian Molina. Music is such a huge part of Latin culture, and the soundtrack works in perfect orchestra with the film to envelope yourself into Miguel’s journey.
Mi corazon ? Thank you #PixarCoco for inviting us to the premiere of this amazing, beautiful and touching film. I never dreamed I would see mi cultura represented in a Disney•Pixar film, and done with so much love and care. Mil gracias!! Cannot wait for the rest of the world to fall in love with @pixarcoco !! #losangeles #disneypixar #disney #pixar #worldpremiere #cocopremiere
My friends know this about me, but I don’t cry at movies. I can feel them, but I don’t cry. I have now seen “Coco” three times, and I weeped each time. The first, was just in awe…and the realization of how powerful it was to see my people, mi raza, in such a beautiful story. The second was at the world premiere, where I cried off all my makeup off because I got to share an extraordinary moment with my family, and knew that my daughter wouldn’t ever have to wonder why she didn’t see herself represented on screen. The third time, I openly wept because I just knew, in my heart, that “Coco” was going to be a classic…for everyone.
Pixar is known for it’s ability to connect emotionally with audiences, “Coco” is certainly no different, but “Coco” will bond you to a family story that shows that maybe, just maybe, it is a small world after all.