Nerd Confessions Podcast: On the podcast this week we are putting up photos of our long lost relatives in fear that they will be forgotten after watching Pixar’s Coco. The latest 3D animated masterpiece from the studio heavily inspired by Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the dead. How does Coco measure up to Pixar’s previous films?! Watch or follow along to find out!
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What is Coco?
Coco is a 2017 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Based on an original idea by Lee Unkrich, it is directed by Unkrich, and co-directed and co-written by Adrian Molina. The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who accidentally visits the land of the dead where he seeks the help of his musician great-great-grandfather to return him to his family among the living.
The concept of the film is based on the Mexican holiday of Día de Muertos. Pixar began developing animation in 2016. Unkrich and some of the film’s crew members also visited Mexico for inspiration. Composer Michael Giacchino, who had worked on prior Pixar animated features, composed the score.
Coco premiered on October 20, 2017 during the Morelia International Film Festival in Morelia, Mexico. It was released in Mexico the following week, the weekend before Día de Muertos, and became the highest-grossing film of all-time in the country. It was released in the United States on November 22, 2017, and has received highly positive reviews, with critics praising the animation, vocal performances, musical score, songs, emotional story and respect to Mexican culture.
Lee Unkrich first pitched an idea for the film in 2010, when Toy Story 3, which he also directed, was released.
The Pixar team made several trips to Mexico to help define the characters and story of Coco. Unkrich said, “I’d seen it portrayed in folk art. It was something about the juxtaposition of skeletons with bright, festive colors that captured my imagination. It has led me down a winding path of discovery. And the more I learn about Día de los Muertos, the more it affects me deeply.” The team found it difficult working with skeletal creatures as they lacked any muscular system and as such it was discovered that they had to be animated differently from their human counterparts.
On April 13, 2016, Unkrich announced that they had begun the animation. The film’s writer, Adrian Molina, was promoted to co-director in 2016.
The film’s score was composed by Michael Giacchino. Germaine Franco, Adrian Molina, Robert Lopez, and Kristen Anderson-Lopez wrote the songs.Recording for the score began on August 14, 2017. The score was released on November 10, 2017.
- Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel Rivera, a 12 year old aspiring musician.
- Gael García Bernal as Héctor, a charming trickster in the Land of the Dead whom Miguel enlisted his help in visiting the Land of the Living. Bernal also voices Héctor in the Spanish dub.
- Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz, the most famous musician in the history of Mexico and Miguel’s idol. Revered by fans worldwide until his untimely death, the charming and charismatic musician is even more beloved in the Land of the Dead.
- Antonio Sol provides de la Cruz’s singing voice, except for “Remember Me”
- Alanna Ubach as Mamá Imelda Rivera, Miguel’s late great-great-grandmother and the matriarch of the Rivera family.
- Renée Victor as Abuelita Elena Rivera, Miguel’s grandmother who enforces the ban on music.
- Ana Ofelia Murguía as Mamá Coco Rivera, Miguel’s great-grandmother.
- Edward James Olmos as Chicharrón, a friend of Hector’s who is forgotten in the Land of the Dead.
The trademark Controversy
Disney made a request to trademark the phrase “Día de los Muertos” (note, in Spanish the holiday is properly called Día de Muertos) for various merchandising applications. This was met with criticism from the Mexican American community in the United States. One of them was Lalo Alcaraz, a Mexican American cartoonist, who drew a film poster, titled “Muerto Mouse”, depicting a skeletal Godzilla-sized Mickey Mouse with the byline “It’s coming to trademark your cultura.” More than 21,000 people signed a petition on Change.org stating that the trademark was “cultural appropriation and exploitation at its worst.” A week later, Disney cancelled its attempt, with the official statement saying that the “trademark filing was intended to protect any title for our film and related activities. It has since been determined that the title of the film will change, and therefore we are withdrawing our trademark filing.” In 2015, Pixar hired Alcaraz to consult on the film, joining playwright Octavio Solis, and former CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corp. Marcela Davison Aviles to form a cultural consultant group.
How was the movie received?
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 96% based on 157 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “Coco’s rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly—and deeply affecting—approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death.” On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”.
Overall thought and opinions?
What do we rate it? 9.5 out of 10.