Coco left cinema screens around the end of January and, as with every Pixar release, this one was also a great success…both among critics as well as in terms of box office sales!
The film tells the story of the young Miguel, a Mexican boy who harbours the dream of becoming a musician despite the obstacles and bans imposed by his family.
The film is set within the context of the Day of the Dead, the day on which Mexicans welcome their departed loved ones into the land of the living, and which, in the film, catapults Miguel directly into the afterlife and gives him a fantastical and visionary experience.
Whether you have seen the film and already fallen in love with it, or are yet to see it and wish to find out more, here are some of its quirks, which will surely capture your attention.
Why a film about the Day of the Dead?
Director Lee Unkrich was especially fascinated by the atmosphere of this unique festival: the loud colours and celebratory atmosphere, in contrast with the macabre iconography of skulls, inspired him to present them in a film. But don’t expect a gloomy or, even worse, a scary atmosphere: Coco is a spectacle of colours, music and movement from start to finish! Another factor that prompted Unkrich to create a film focusing on such a unique subject was the fact that the director was especially impressed by Pixar’s great success in Mexico: dedicating a film to the most important day for the Central American country seemed to him an excellent way to reward this affection.
Coco and respect for Mexican culture
The way that the director inserted himself into a culture that isn’t his own can be summarised with the following statement: “The last thing that I wanted was to make a film that seemed like it was made by someone who was foreign to that culture; I know that I’m not Latin-American and never will be, but I reassured myself by remembering that many great films have been directed by directors who don’t belong to that particular culture. I took my responsibility very seriously, and, thanks also to the help of Adrian Molina (co-screenwriter and co-director), I think I did a good job”.
To reassure himself that the film accurately reflected Mexican culture, Unkrich surrounded himself with many advisors belonging to the Latin-American community, who inspected the film every 12 weeks to ensure that the story respected the customs and habits of Mexico.
The music at the centre of it all
One of the most important considerations for Unkrich and Molina was to give life to a believable motivation that would drive Miguel on his journey through the land of the dead: his love of music. The film emphasises that, in Miguel, the dream of becoming a musician is very strong, and it was very important that the protagonist’s great drive towards the world of music could be understood right from the start. Otherwise, the film would risk becoming inconsistent; indeed, his journey in the afterlife to meet his ancestors and gain their approval for his dream of becoming a musician would not make sense.
The two big questions that the animators asked themselves during the design of the “living” skeletons that inhabit the film Coco were:
- How could they make them “family-friendly”?
- How could they give them emotions?
The eyes are the crux: they are big enough to seem endearing and friendly. Surrounding them with eyebrows and sketched features allows these apparently “macabre” figures to take on a much more human appearance, in true Pixar – and above all, Disney – style.
Curiously, in order to characterise the “main skeleton”, Hector, the designers were inspired by the movements of Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy).
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