‘Coco’ Fills the Heart with Pride and Joy
November 22, 2017
By Geneva Gámez-Vallejo
In what is considered one of Disney’s bravest and most unpredictable moves, comes the story of Miguel, a 12-year-old Mexican boy whose dream to become a singer unravels a secret that guides him to the afterlife.
Miguel’s lucid, ephemeral trip to land of the dead is one he so eagerly tries to embrace until he learns of the most valuable reason as to why he needs to return to the real world.
“Coco” is a first of it’s kind for Disney and Pixar Animation Studios for many reasons.
First, “Coco” marks the first time in Disney history in which a film was allowed to premier in México before the United States.
Second, it is the first Pixar film to feature a minority human protagonist.
Another point to consider is the human side of this story, as most of the studio’s previous box office hits that are centered around talking animals, toys and super powered humans.
The movie is set in a colorful town replicated so carefully on screen that you almost see yourself walking through the cobblestone streets while you hear the mariachis playing at the plazuela, all while breathing-in the autumn air and cheer of Día de los Muertos.
This film truly is a “love letter to México,” as director Lee Unkrich put it. With “Coco” you almost forget about some of the political issues that try so hard to vanish the good heartedness of the Mexican people and feel a culture loved again.
“Lee Unkrich drew inspiration from the holiday and also this question ‘if you had the chance to meet your ancestors, what would you learn?’ Those were some of the elements that he was gravitating toward,” co-director Adrian Molina said of the film’s director during the preliminary stages of developing the story.
Molina added that the team did plenty of research on the holiday and also travelled to Mexico to experience Dia de los Muertos first-hand. In addition, for the first time, there were prominent latino advocates recruited to act as consultants in the realization of the film.
According to the co-director, there was also fear of the misconception Día de Muertos is a Mexican version of Halloween. “If you know the tradition, or watched the film, you realize that there couldn’t be anything further from the truth,” he signaled.
Although there was a bit of backlash from American press for not being the film first to watch the film, the movie’s box office turnout has grossed $48 million dollars to date in Mexico, making it the highest grossing film to open in the country.
Molina explains why the film was first shown in Mexico a week before Dia de los Muertos as.
“We knew that’s when families would be getting together and that’s when the celebration takes place,” he said.
The studio then decided to wait until a time that seemed more fitting of a release in the U.S., such as Thanksgiving.
“We thought Thanksgiving was going to be a time when people would be together with their families where they could experience this story with their families,” Molina said. “My hope is that when people walk away from this film they are inspired to record their families’ stories. To ask their parents or their grandparents what were you like when you were a kid, what did you dream of, what surprises did you have in your life or challenges.”
Molina, was promoted to co-director during film production, also wrote this screenplay and has worked on Ratatouille, Monsters University and Toy Story 3, among others.
Molina comes from a Mexican-American family, his father is from Whittier, California and his mother from Los Altos, Jalisco. As a Mexican-American, he says he jumped on the opportunity to work on “Coco” a year and a half after the project had begun, as he had to first complete his work for Toy Story 3.
Molina also shared that he is specially amazed by the acceptance of “Coco” in Mexico.
“It has been outstanding and overwhelming, we premiered in Palacio de Bellas Artes. We had a proud reaction to seeing this family on film and seeing their traditions represented with the respect that they deserve,” he said.
“That was always our intention as we were creating [the story] but you know, you always hope that the audience will receive it with the same understanding as how you intended, and to see how much it has affected people it really feels wonderful and as an artist, you are really touched by being able to connect to people on such a deep level,” Molina added.
The film, which is out in theaters this week, is expected to be the highest grossing during Thanksgiving week, surpassing the well-anticipated “Justice League.”
“Coco” is also available to watch in Spanish in select theaters: Chula Vista: AMC Chula Vista 10, AMC Classic Palm Promenade 24, Regal Rancho Del Rey Stadium 16, Escondido: Regal Escondido Stadium 16, National City: AMC Plaza Bonita 14, San Diego: AMC Mission Valley 20, and Vista: Cinépolis Vista.