The best cinematographic experiences are those that take the viewer by surprise, send him back to his own experience and upset him. Coco is this kind of feature film. As one of Pixar Animation Studios’ best films, it has much in common with Ratatouille. Like Ratatouille, in fact, it depicts a culture, here Mexican, with respect and accuracy while proposing endearing characters, living an extraordinary human adventure and evolving to the rhythm of a haunting music. But that is not where Coco’s big success lays: It is actually revealing itself in its ability to raise emotion to a point rarely reached in the films of Luxo Jr.’s studios, though masters in the art of generating frissons in their audience. The finale, a veritable display of tenderness, makes everyone want to embrace their family and fondly remember their missing loved ones.
This is not the first time that Latin America, and in particular Mexico, has inspired animated films. The most emblematic are of course the two opuses of the Walt Disney Animation Studios, Saludos Amigos (1943) and The Three Caballeros (1945) with, in particular, the character of the Mexican rooster Panchito. Both films are inspired by a trip to Latin America by Walt Disney himself, his wife and sixteen of his collaborators in 1941; a journey traced in the 2009 documentary, Walt & El Grupo. During this trip, Mickey’s creator had, in fact, served as ambassador of the United States during this period of war while trying to absorb, for his art of storytelling, of the colors and local mores. Other works followed, thanks to this expedition including the short films Pluto and Armadillo (1943), The Pelican and the Woodcock (1944) or The Egg of the Giant Condor (1944).
Pixar Studios, meanwhile, have also been interested in South America, focusing the main action sequences of the film ‘Up’ in a tropical forest of the continent.
The idea for Coco comes from director Lee Unkrich, who traced the silhouette of Toy Story 3 for John Lasseter. A graduate of the USC (University of Southern California) Film School in 1991, he began his film and television career in real life shooting, notably working on the series ‘Silk Stalkings’. Arrived in 1994 at Pixar, he became an editor on Toy Story in 1995, then on 1001 Dalmatians in 1998, on which he also ensures certain additional voices. Co-director, editor and additional voice on Toy Story 2 in 1999, he co-signed Monsters & Co. in 2001 and, two years later, co-directed with Andrew Stanton, The World of Nemo, certified at the time, the greatest success in the history of animation just weeks after its release. The year 2010 represents, for Lee Unkrich, an important turning point in his career, since he is named, alone, at the head of the production of Toy Story 3, the third part of the adventures of the famously animated toys. And furthermore, you can stream Toy Story Trilogy anywhere anytime using the ShowBox App for PC. Toy Story Trilogy is popular with critics and the public, the trilogy is still, to this day, the biggest success of Pixar Studios with $ 1.067 billion won at the global box office.
In 2016, it is announced that Lee Unkrich will be seconded on Coco by a co-director, Adrian Molina, also the screenwriter of the film. Adrian Molina, of Mexican descent, was born on August 23, 1985, in California. He spent his childhood in Yuba City, north-east of San Francisco, then returned to Pixar in 2007 where he began his career as a 2D animator on Ratatouille. He then worked as a storyboarder on Toy Story 3 and is then charged with some script elements on ‘Monsters Academy’ and ‘The Good Dinosaur’. On Coco, he is promoted screenwriter before being entrusted, in addition, the function of co-director
Coco is, therefore, a love letter to Mexico and its culture. The main theme of the film is, in fact, the Día de Muertos (or Día de los Muertos depending on customs or countries), the day of the dead. It is, in fact, the mixture of an Aztec tradition, the celebration of the underground goddess, Mictecacihuatl, with that of All Saints, a Christian festival brought by the Spanish conquistadors. This celebration is distinguished from other festivals revolving around Death – and especially among Christians – by its festive character with, for example, the realization of private altars dedicated to the deceased and covered with offerings of objects, flowers, and food. Another figure of this festival is the Catrina, a very popular character representing a female skeleton dressed in rich clothes and wearing a hat. Thus, her parades see many people disguise themselves or wear masks of skeletons as colorful as happy.
But the allusions to the Mexican culture in Coco are not limited to this. Many other details come to embellish the film beginning with the Xoloitzcuintli, the hairless dog of Mexico but also the influence of music or even the typical behavior of Hispanic mamás who cover in kisses every little child. Also notable are the Alebrijes who have been seen recently in the Disney Television Animation series, ‘Elena of Avalor’.They are, in fact, art and wooden sculptures representing animals or imaginary creatures, made first by the artist Pedro Linares.
The production of the film does not go completely in peace, however. In 2013, the film whose title is at the time, Día de Los Muertos, begins to be the subject of trademark applications by The Walt Disney Company … Except that it causes a rage in Mexico and the Hispanic community in the United States who do not appreciate the name of their popular holiday being filed by a company for commercial purposes. A local artist, Lalo Alcaraz, even makes a poster called Muerto Mouse where he likes to draw a Mickey Godzilla way that attacks the public signing there a fake advertisement for a film supposed to come out for the Day of the Dead. In front of the wave of protests, Disney quickly backtracked and announced that a new title will be found for the opus. Finally, Coco is chosen and is simply perfect even if it only makes sense at the end of the film. On the other hand, the irony of the story, and proof that Pixar is not very resentful, the artist Lalo Alcaraz is hired in 2015 to serve as a consultant on Mexican culture and ensure that the remarks made are in keeping with traditions without being caricatural.
Coco actually relies on a fairly classic scenario, in the sense that the viewer knows where he will go and is not necessarily surprised by the twists and turns present all along. However, this is not a criticism in that the story is perfectly able to bring and manage the various events by perfectly measuring the constituent acts of the film. It begins and crescendo taking the time to install his story and his characters, revealing his cards and allowing all its themes to be put in place. The frame is therefore classic but particularly effective. The goal of Coco is obviously not to surprise its audience, but to take it on a journey, first to a place exotic and incredible, then deep in an odyssey towards its own memories.
The film begins slowly as an initiatory journey for little Miguel who must find the courage to fulfill his dreams. He rebels against his family, shoemakers from mother to daughter and son-in-law, and for whom music has been banned for several generations. Although this theme is classic and may seem déja-vu, it is written here with accuracy. When Miguel rejects this family who wants to prevent him from living his passion, the spectator understands perfectly what he feels. He is revolted by an ostracism he does not understand. The music is in him, and it is impossible to draw a line on it. This fierce desire to follow his path and destiny makes him particularly endearing. In this, Miguel becomes the messenger of the own emotions of the public who has, therefore, no harm in identifying in this boy full of dreams. Spectators will grow along with him throughout the story to open their hearts at the end and be ready to receive the most beautiful messages.
Because the true strength of Coco is the incredible emotion it releases. The family is the center of the film: not only that which is alive, next to Miguel every day but also his ancestors who watch over him in the Land of the Dead. Miguel will discover his true wealth: that of the love he feels for his loved ones and the importance of continuing to remember the people who loved him and who are no more. Coco shows all its power when this little boy, realizes that his greatest treasure is the unconditional and absolute love of his family. Where the film surprises are in its ability to make the theme of the desire to make music, secondary, by turning his main focus on family love. Morality may seem simplistic on paper but on the screen, everything is brought with subtlety, accuracy and, above all, a scope as universal as personal.
The message told through this Mexican holiday offers Pixar’s artists the incredible power to unleash emotions that transcend borders: no one can stop thinking about their own family, the chance to know it. at his side while cherishing the memory of loved ones who have passed. Because the beauty of the message distilled in the film is there. Even dead, people stay alive as long as their memories remain alive in the hearts of those who loved them. The important thing is to never forget them because it would be for them the second death! This beautiful message appears very simple but it literally upsets the viewer, at the same time as Miguel: difficult in these conditions to contain his emotions so much the message touches the depths of his soul. Depending on the experience of each, it will be more or less question of shedding or not tears, torrent for some. Coco is clearly one of the most moving films of Pixar and Disney together.