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Toy Story 4 has found its writer!

Stephany Folsom, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • January 19, 2018

It was unclear after Rashida Jones’ departure from Toy Story 4 who her replacement would be. But the film’s new writer has been revealed. Stephany Folsom will be penning the script. She previously worked on Thor: Ragnarok, but did not receive writing credit for the film. Trade publications also report that Folsom’s script, 1969: A Space Odyssey Or: How Kubrick Learned To Stop Worrying And Land On The Moon, in which Stanley Kubrick partners with NASA to fake the moon landing, appeared on the Black List. The list includes screenplays for non realized films, though many have been adapted for the screen.

Details on the upcoming installment of Toy Story remain scarce, barring what we have already learned. As Pixar first revealed a few years ago, Bo Peep will be returning, but that’s all we know.

Judging from Folsom’s Black List screenplay, she’ll definitely bring something wholly unique to Toy Story 4, which is due in theaters on June 21, 2019.

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Coco came into my life at just the right time

Coco, in depth, Opinion Piece, Pixar

Posted by Joanna • January 17, 2018

(Coco spoilers ahead).

Has a Pixar movie ever been released at just the right time for you?

I finally saw Coco last Saturday – I saw it on my own in a quiet cinema, quiet enough for me to be the last person in the theatre by the time the credits were coming to an end. The final scenes of Coco resonated with me so much that I didn’t stop crying until the Pixar logo appeared again to signal the end of the movie. Usually I wouldn’t class ‘crying alone in public’ as a positive experience, but this was. It was cathartic; I could feel Joy and Sadness holding hands in my head. I think I found Coco so particularly poignant and affecting because I can relate to its themes so strongly – it feels like the movie came out at just the right time for me and has helped me confront my emotions.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt that a Pixar movie has come into my life at just the right moment. I remember seeing Toy Story 3 with my close group of school friends when we were just entering our final year of school and starting to apply for universities. Monsters University reminded me amidst all my exams and assignments that succeeding academically isn’t all that life is. After graduating, I felt small and scared and powerless, but The Good Dinosaur encouraged me to accept my fears and face them with my head held high. I saw Cars 3 on its release date just a few hours after passing my driving test.

In Coco’s finale, Miguel sang to his great-grandmother Coco and managed to reach her. Fittingly, by hearing ‘Remember Me’, Coco’s memories of her father came flooding back, and her and Miguel were blessed with a moment of real connection and understanding. As someone who is currently losing her own grandmother to Alzheimer’s and dementia, this hit me hard. My granny can be sat in a room overflowing with her family, but look dreadfully alone and unsure. Most conversations with her are her retellings of old family stories which are slowly becoming jumbled and confused. If you ask her how her week was, you can see the frustration on her face as she fails to grasp onto slippery memories that never seem to be in the right place.

Miguel singing Mama Coco ‘Remember Me

But if you give my granny a book of poems, she reads them beautifully – she speaks with the confidence and character that I remember her having when I was younger. She doesn’t stumble over her words; she doesn’t have to struggle to remember anything. She just reads them, because they’re familiar to her. And suddenly I’m reminded of days I spent with her learning how to bake, spending summers, birthdays and Christmases with her, and listening to her (always expertly told) stories about our family going back generations. Miguel singing his great-grandmother Coco ‘Remember Me’ had the same effect as me handing my granny a book of poems. When Miguel succeeded in connecting with Coco, I felt that same wave of joy and relief as if I had just connected with my own grandmother and helped her break free temporarily from the haze and confusion of dementia. Coco came into my life at just the right time because it has encouraged me to try to have more of these meaningful moments with my granny while I still have the chance. And it’s reminded me that while my granny is slowly becoming lost, she’ll live on through our own memories and stories.

Sketch of Miguel and Mama Coco by co-director Adrian Molina

So is it just luck? Was I just lucky to have these movies to encourage me at the times I most needed them? I don’t think so. I think Pixar have a talent for creating movies that are naturally relatable and naturally strike a chord with people from all stages of life. It’s incredible that Pixar movies can feel so personal even though they’re made by thousands of people, for thousands of people. But by keeping the heartfelt messages at the very cores of their movies, they manage it.

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The Matriarchs of Coco and Why They Matter

Coco, in depth, Pixar Heroines

Posted by Simoa • January 16, 2018

There are slight spoilers below.

One of the things I love best about Coco is the strong female presence in the film. Although it’s a buddy movie with two male characters, women are vital in this particular story. They don’t only exist as peripheral characters either. Miguel’s journey to the Land of the Dead, where he learns the truth of his family history, involves three women of his family in very distinct ways.

Mama Imelda 

Mamá Imelda concept art by Daniela Strijleva.

She is the first character we meet, besides Miguel. He narrates the story. Mama Imelda was Miguel’s great-great grandmother. She banned music in the Rivera household, which has been in effect for generations. Miguel is the first in the Rivera line since his great-great grandfather to love and play music (in secret of course). As the young boy explains, his great-great grandfather walked out on his wife and daughter to pursue a music career. Rightfully livid, Mama Imelda banned music forever. Because of her husband’s betrayal, the Rivera descendants believe music is a curse.

We also learn from Miguel that Mama Imelda didn’t feel sorry for herself. She got to work instead. With a young daughter to support on her own, she learned to make shoes. It’s a skill she passed down to her daughter Coco, and when Coco married, her husband joined the family business too. In present day Mexico, the Riveras have continued the shoemaking tradition and operate Mama Imelda’s shop. Miguel is just expected to become a shoemaker, though he harbors musical aspirations.

It’s natural that Miguel doesn’t care about making shoes, but he takes the family business and his great-great grandmother for granted. Note that Imelda didn’t just find work; she actually started her own business. She also never remarried. In just a few minutes, her strength, resiliency, and independence are firmly established. I have to believe the filmmakers were deliberate with these insights into her character.

When Miguel comes face to face with Mama Imelda in the Land of the Dead, she’s severe and not to be trifled with. The audience is aware of this too immediately because she is berating a terrified office worker and wallops the woman’s computer with her shoe. It’s also fitting that Mama Imelda’s alibrije, Pepita, is a ferocious and stunning creature. Pepita is another version of Imelda; grand in size with massive wings and penetrating eyes. But Pepita has a tender and loving side like her human counterpart.

Pepita concept art by Huy Nguyen.

Later on, Miguel learns that Mama Imelda was a great music lover. She reveals a beautiful singing voice. She tells Miguel that she and her husband would sing while he played his guitar, and the memories light up her face with a fond smile. But the smile disappears. She and her husband had different priorities. Everything changed for her when Coco was born. “I wanted to put down roots. He wanted to play for the world.”

The severity of Mama Imelda melts away – all her pain and heartache and vulnerability are laid bare. None of that diminishes her incredible strength however. Something else I find striking about this exchange is that Mama Imelda is telling her story in her own words. Before, we had to rely on Miguel’s voice; now, Mama Imelda speaks with her own.

Mamá Imelda concept art by Daniela Strijleva.

Abuelita 

Now we return to the Land of the Living. Abuelita is Miguel’s grandmother and the head of the Rivera family. Abuelita’s house, Abuelita’s rules. As Alanna Ubach, who gave her voice to Mama Imelda says in this interview, in Latin households, the matriarchs are “the women that really bring the magical fairy dust to the entire family.” The most important rule in Abuelita’s house is absolutely no music ever. She honors Mama Imelda’s ban but takes it to another level. People singing outside the house are chased away. A bottle is snatched out of Miguel’s hands when he creates a simple rhythm by blowing into it. “NO MUSIC!”

Though she’s tough, domineering, and wants to protect her family from the music curse, Abuelita is defined by her great love. You only have to see how gentle she is with Mama Coco and the way she piles food onto Miguel’s plate.

There’s a moment in Coco that I find significant, and that is when Abuelita, frustrated by Miguel’s lack of interest in family traditions, looks to Mama Imelda’s photograph atop the ofrenda and asks, “What are we going to do with that boy?” It’s rhetorical, but she receives a solution anyway. I love this moment because Abuelita turns to the one person in the family tougher than she is, even though she isn’t there physically. But it highlights how important Mama Imelda still is to the family, and how the matriarchs are united in looking out for the Riveras.

Mama Coco

Miguel has a deep love and respect for his great grandmother. He treats her like a friend. Mama Coco has trouble remembering names and will sometimes call Miguel by the wrong one, but he says that it’s good to talk to her anyway. He tells her any and everything. Mama Coco is very old and frail, confined to a wheelchair, but Miguel welcomes her into his world with open arms. The world of a rambunctious 12 year old boy might seem foreign to an old woman, but the two of them just belong together. This shows what a good hearted kid he is, but it also lets the audience know that Mama Coco is still a cherished member of the family. In this film, a lot of reverence is afforded to the elderly. Also, grandmothers just make every story better.

Of course, Miguel’s close relationship with Mama Coco has even greater purpose. The film is named for her. She was the daughter left behind, and she never forgot her father. More importantly, she never stopped loving him. Mama Imelda wanted to forget him, wanted nothing to do with him in life or in death. But she was never the villain in this piece. Imelda and Abuelita after her were doing their best to protect Coco. In this film, it’s the love of women that covers a man’s mistake.

When Miguel sings “Remember Me” to his Mama Coco, her memory is recovered. It’s a tender moment between the two of them while the awestruck family looks on. Coco tells her story just as Mama Imelda did. The Riveras, stunned and joyful, listen in silence. How precious it is to hear family stories from our elders.

Mama Coco reminds me of the grandmother I never knew, who wore her hair in two long braids in the few photographs I’ve seen of her. Miguel is so lucky to have his Abuelita and Mama Coco, and to have met his Mama Imelda and learn her story firsthand. He set off on a quest to pursue a dream and follow in his great-great grandfather’s footsteps. But what he found was much greater. The history of the Rivera family is a song of women – proud, strong, and inspirational.

For a Latina perspective on the women and feminism of Coco, please read this article.

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Coco – digital and Blu-ray release dates revealed

Blu-Ray, Coco, DVD, Pixar

Posted by Joanna • January 12, 2018

Coco has been making its voice known around the world since its initial release last October – it has since earned an impressive number of accolades, from leading the way in the Annie Awards nominations (with 13 in total), to most recently winning the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film and the Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (Remember Me).

Soon, we’ll be able to watch this award-winning movie at home. Pixar just revealed the dates for its digital and Blu-ray releases in the US. Coco will be available digitally and on Movies Anywhere on February 13th, two weeks before you can pick up the Blu-ray on February 27th. You can watch the trailer Pixar released alongside this news below:

The Blu-ray and digital releases will include a number of bonus features as usual – we can all look forward  to hearing the filmmaker commentary with directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina and producer Darla K. Anderson. We can learn about the background of Coco through multiple featurettes, and gain an even better insight into Pixar’s film-making process with some deleted scenes introduced by Unkrich and Molina.

We have just over a month to wait until we can have the luxury of being able to watch Coco as many times in a row as we want… You can pre-order right now.

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