Coco: How Disney and Pixar Got it Right

 

Since its release, Coco has gathered immense acclaim worldwide. This is revolutionary, because its protagonist is a person of color.

 

Yesterday, the 90th Academy Awards were held, and Coco was rightfully awarded the best Animated Feature film, surpassing The Boss Baby and and The Breadman to name a few.

 

The movie has also won a Golden Globes Award, BAFTA Award and an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature. It won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and was also nominated for Best Original Song These accolades shouldn’t be surprising, because there’s a brilliant set of directors, writers and cast behind the film.

 

The film was produced by Pixar Animation Studios but released by Walt Disney Pictures. Although the film’s director is not of Latin American or Spanish descent, the movie was co-directed and written by the talented Adrian Molina, who is Mexican-American. In addition, the animated film features a spectacular all-Latino cast.

 

Coco’s musical score is also perhaps one of its greatest accomplishments. The film’s composers attempted to ensure authenticity in the songs and its lyrics. Mexican-American composer Germain Franco had co-written several songs in Coco. Pixar’s employees also travelled to Mexico City to record traditional music with the most popular Mexican musicians. There was a substantial effort in ensuring the songs incorporated music familiar to Mexican culture. This grants the audience the ability to obtain a greater appreciation of un-Americanized Latin music.

 

As Coco empowers Hispanics both in the writing and voicing acting processes, it ensures the accurate portrayal of Mexican culture, traditions, and music. Perhaps this doesn’t fully resonate with all of Latin America, but it still provides the Mexican community with the opportunity to finally relate with someone they see on screen. Sadly, Pixar and Disney movies have not granted people of color that many occasions to enjoy the work of a majority non-white cast. This is one of the reasons Coco has proved to be such an important piece of work.

The film narrates the heartwarming story of Miguel, a talented teenager who aspires to be a musician. However, the problem is that his family has banned music. No singing. No humming. No playing the guitar. The audience finds out the gravity of this ban when it’s revealed that Miguel’s great-great grandfather left his wife and his young daughter Coco, in pursuit of music. Understandably, the great-great grandmother left no remnants of her husband for her family to remember.

 

But this doesn’t stop Miguel. On his trip to prove his musical gift, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead, or the afterlife, during El Día de Los Muertos. In this unfamiliar yet vibrant destination, Miguel partners up with Héctor, a seemingly untrustworthy and questionable character. The duo soon discover surprising truths as they search for the origins of Miguel’s family’s history.

 

Although it seems that Miguel is just being a rebellious teenager by disobeying his family’s wishes, Miguel very quickly learns the significance of family, death and El Día de Los Muertos.

 

As a living individual, Miguel has a limited amount of time in the Land of the Dead before he permanently becomes a part of it. In order to return home, he needs the blessings of one of his ancestors. He then runs into another problem. His great-great grandmother will give him the blessing on the condition that he never plays music. This is why Miguel becomes desperate to find his great-great grandfather. He believes it’s Ernesto de la Cruz, one of the most famous musicians of Mexico, and also his idol.

 

 

As Miguel embarks on this journey to find de la Cruz, he uncovers that his idol is not as admirable as he thought he was. This makes him realize that he should have had greater faith in his parents and his grandmother, who warned him of the dangers of music and stardom. He understands that his family does everything solely out of love, something he didn’t appreciate before.

 

Miguel also learns that the deceased disappear from the Land of the Dead once people stop remembering them on earth. As a result, Miguel finally grasps the significance of remembering the dead during the El Día de Los Muertos, a tradition he previously dismissed as being unimportant. He learns that it’s important to craft the altar with ofrendas (offerings), such as food, photographs and light, because they guide the spirits back to their homes. Miguel soon regrets ruining the altar his family had worked so hard to prepare.

 

Furthermore, once he meets his real great-great grandfather, Miguel is intensely determined to ensure his family in the Land of the Dead isn’t forgotten. Essentially, he understands that it’s important to appreciate those who contributed to the life he had been living. The fact that such a young character confronted the grave matter of death makes the topic a bit more approachable. Through Miguel’s time in the afterlife, the audience realizes that death doesn’t have to be perceived as merely grim, fearful and heartbreaking.

Although Coco isn’t in movie theatres right now, it’s a movie worth seeing.

 

Watch Coco through Youtube, Amazon, or Google Play.

 

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