After stuffing our faces with churros, a very apropos treat, members of the press were invited to a special presentation of Disney/Pixar’s newest film, Coco. And it was an absolute delight. VIPPs (Very Important Pixar People™) Adrian Molina (co-director and writer) and Darla K. Anderson (producer) were in town to show clips of the film in all stages of the film making process and to share the story of what makes Coco such a special project to work on.
Set is Santa Cecilia, Mexico, Coco is about a young 12-year old aspiring musician named Miguel, voiced by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez. However, because of a generation-old ban on music (Miguel’s great-great grandmother is a woman scorned because the love of her life left her to pursue music) he needs to keep his passion and dreams a secret from his grandmother, Abuelita.
Early looks at the film show fantastical imagery of Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead, and tells a story of the importance of honouring the dead while embracing the spirit, joy, and love that radiates during this celebration. Speaking on behalf of director Lee Unkrich, Molina and Anderson explained that the inspiration behind the film came from wondering what kinds of questions he would ask his ancestors if he had the chance and whether or not they would be able to recognize him. Coco is clearly all about celebrating your family and remembering your roots and where you came from.
Miguel is determined to follow in the footsteps of his musical idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). He even goes so far as to watch all of de la Cruz’s videos in order to teach himself how to play the guitar. The attention to detail is evident in these scenes. In fact, the filmmakers explained that they set up GoPro cameras of the musicians playing the guitar tracks from all different angles so that the animators could go back and reference this footage to make sure that Miguel and Ernesto were strumming the right strings and putting their fingers in the right frets. With music being such an integral part of the film, I was thrilled to learn that the actors were doing their own singing. The music definitely helped inspire the story and shape the storytelling process, and vice versa.
Part of the film takes place in the Land of the Dead and it might be even more beautiful than the Land of the Living. Asked about the challenge of lighting the film, the filmmakers said there’s a very particular lighting palette used and because most of the film is taking place when there is no sun, it gives Coco a very specific, luminescent glow. Even without seeing the finished scenes, I got a strong sense of how the final film is supposed to feel and look. And it looks fantastic.
Coco is a love letter to Mexico. There is no doubt that the entire team at Pixar understands how important it is to make sure the Mexican culture is depicted accurately and to highlight what Día de Muertos is all about. Asked about whether or not there is pressure to be culturally sensitive, especially considering the current political climate, Molina said that as a Mexican-American there is a huge responsibility for the story to be as true to the celebration as possible. Pixar wants to show how Día de Muertos is full of joy and they want to embrace the spirit of the holiday in order to tell the story correctly.
Much of what we saw today was not the final product. But if these early glimpses tell us anything, it’s that Coco is going to be a beautiful film that’s very funny and will completely charm your pants off.
Coco will be released in theatres across Canada on November 22, 2017.