MENU

Review: Coco is a vibrant celebration of family, music, and Mexico

Adrian Molina, Coco, Lee Unkrich, Review

Posted by Simoa • November 22, 2017

 

Coco is the #1 movie in Mexico of all time. Besides setting unprecedented box office records, it’s also become one of the country’s most beloved films. Following the film’s premiere at the Morelia International Film Festival at the end of October and its general Mexican release on November 2nd, many expressed enormous gratitude to directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina for what they achieved. Coco was always going to be important. It’s Pixar’s first feature length film with a nonwhite protagonist, the first to portray a non-American/nonwhite culture, and is described as a love letter to Mexico. Naturally, Unkrich and his team were responsible for telling this story in the most faithful and positive way possible. He took that responsibility seriously, noting that he didn’t want the film to feel as if it was made by an outsider. Molina and the rest of the crew’s Mexican backgrounds certainly helped a great deal in that regard.

Here’s what Alex Nogales of the National Hispanic Media Coalition had to say about it:

Coco is the best film ever produced that truly represents our Latino values, our culture, and love of song, dance, and family. You will laugh, you will cry, and applaud loudly on seeing this wonderful film where Latinos play important roles both in front of and back of camera. See it and lets make this great film a success so that studios produce more Latino themed films and television shows.”

Steeped in the rich traditions and customs of Mexico’s Dia de Los Muertos holiday, the heart of Coco beats with tremendous love and life.

12 year old Miguel Rivera (a stellar Anthony Gonzalez in his film debut) is convinced that his family is the only one in Mexico that hates music. And he’s right. It’s inconceivable, but the Riveras believe music is a curse, ever since Miguel’s great-great grandfather walked out on his wife and daughter to pursue a music career. For generations, no Rivera has ever listened to or played music — until Miguel that is. A self taught guitarist, he dreams of being like his legendary idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), Mexico’s most famous and beloved singing star. But of course, he’s kept this passion a secret from his family, especially his grandmother, Abuelita (Renee Victor). As the Rivera family’s loving but formidable matriarch, Abuelita is the primary enforcer of the music ban. Miguel and no one else would dare cross her.

It was Miguel’s great-great grandmother Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach), furious over her husband’s desertion, who banned music from the Rivera household. To support herself and her daughter, Coco, she made shoes. And she passed this skill down to Coco, who in turn passed it down, until everyone in the Rivera line joined the family business. It’s clear very early on that Miguel is never going to be a shoemaker. He is finally emboldened to seize his moment (de la Cruz’s mantra) and reveal his ambition to his family, who are shocked and upset that he’s disobeyed them. But he is desperate to prove himself a real musician like his idol and perform in a talent show that’s being held on Dia de Los Muertos.

Miguel not only seizes his moment but de la Cruz’s guitar as well, on display in his mausoleum. After joyfully strumming the guitar, Miguel becomes invisible to the living, emitting a rosy orange glow, only visible to his companion, the street dog Dante, and the dead. Because it’s Dia de Los Muertos, spirits have all converged on the cemetery to reunite with their living loved ones. It’s here that he meets his family, the dead Riveras. This is not a fuzzy family reunion however. Though Miguel is awed to be in their presence, they quickly conclude that his sudden appearance to them is the reason Mama Imelda is unable to cross over to the Land of the Living; not a good thing.

Now the adventure begins, as Miguel journeys to the Land of the Dead, and learns the truth of his family history and ancestry.

This world is easily one of Pixar’s most staggering in scope and beauty. The shimmering marigold bridge that connects the two lands, the skull imagery on buildings, Ernesto de la Cruz’s grand palace and the sheer amount of vivid colors practically defy description. Color sings in the Land of the Dead, best represented in the alebrijes, animal spirit guides with bold, deep hues of red, orange, green and other dazzling colors and patterns. The most glorious of the spirit guides is Mama Imelda’s Pepita, a large and powerful winged cat who is sure to take your breath away the moment she appears onscreen.

Coco is brimming with a cast of fully realized characters, alive and not, human and not. Miguel is such a wonderful addition to Pixar’s heroes; passionate, brave, and soft hearted. The skeletons are impressive because they are animated with the same expressiveness as their living counterparts, and actually seem like real people who once lived.

One of the skeletons that Miguel befriends on his journey is the amiable and mischievous Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), who’s fallen on hard times and is desperate to visit the Land of the Living. The two strike up a bargain: Hector helps Miguel meet de la Cruz, and Miguel helps him cross over. The one factor complicating things is Miguel’s limited time: if he doesn’t receive a family member’s blessing by sunrise at the end of Dia de Los Muertos, he’ll become a skeleton himself and will not be able to return home.

And now, the music! Music is embedded into this story. Although Coco is not a traditional musical, the characters do sing, and memorable tunes penned by the songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen-Anderson Lopez, along with co-director Molina, make this film a compelling ode to music. “Un Poco Loco,” “My Proud Corazon,” and particularly the reworking of de la Cruz’s signature “Remember Me,” sung by Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade during the end credits, are standouts. Michael Giacchino’s ethereal score is yet another to join some of his most distinct Pixar work. The score is also infused with traditional Mexican music and instrumentals. A mariachi band even plays over the Disney castle and logo at the film’s beginning.

Aside from the music and spectacular visuals, Coco‘s most striking element is its theme of cherishing our families both living and dead. Make no mistake that this film speaks (or sings) to all of us with families, all of us who have lost someone dear, and those of us who need to learn more about the people we come from, long gone and maybe even forgotten, or sadly unknown. I am reminded of something Edward James Olmos, the voice of Hector’s friend Chicharron, recently said about the film and its themes:

“People who see this movie are going to come out really moved, especially when you haven’t thought about your parents or you haven’t thought about your loved ones. You haven’t really gotten into your own family, and you been too busy living your life that you haven’t gone back to even say, ‘Thank you.’ You haven’t been even to the cemetery where they’re buried now for 30 years or 20 years or however long they’ve been away from you.”

Olmos is right. I left the theater feeling immensely moved, thinking especially of two recently departed loved ones. I wondered about those who died before I was born or before I could really know them. And I was reminded about how important it is for me to love and appreciate the family I have with me now.

I am profoundly grateful to Coco for its impact on me, and that it has become a source of pride for Mexican people. Imagine the children who will see themselves reflected in Miguel and know that they can be the heroes of their own stories, and feel proud in their brown skin. For Pixar to celebrate Mexican identities is a very beautiful thing, and I hope this means more of the same with other underrepresented communities in the future. Click here to read reviews of the film from Latino perspectives.

Coco is now playing in theaters nationwideLet it into your hearts and share it with your family this weekend.

Read article

Showtime: Incredibles 2 teaser is here!

Incredibles 2, teaser, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • November 18, 2017

We first learned that a teaser to The Incredibles sequel would play in front of Coco on November 22nd, but now the wait really is over! The teaser trailer for Pixar’s most eagerly anticipated sequel is here! And it’s not The Incredibles 2 – just Incredibles 2.

Of course, seeing this teaser on the big screen too will definitely be worth it!

Jack Jack has the spotlight in this trailer. In the first film and in the short “Jack Jack Attack,” he’s both adorable and dangerous. The same is true here as he wobbles around shooting lasers from his eyes and even singeing his father’s hair! As we learned from D23 coverage earlier this year, Bob Parr discovers that his youngest son has powers after all and he’s overjoyed. It’s possible his appearance at the end of this teaser will be in the final film, though that’s usually not the case with teaser footage.

I bet the excitement for this film has tripled following this teaser. Incredibles 2 will hit theaters on June 15th, 2018.

Read article

John Lasseter honored by the Walt Disney Family Museum

Awards, John Lasseter, Walt Disney Family Museum

Posted by Simoa • November 14, 2017

As Pixar and Disney’s Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter has accomplished so much at both studios and within the animation industry as a whole. On November 7th, he was recognized by the Walt Disney Family Museum at their third annual fundraising gala, which seeks to foster emerging talent. Lasseter received the Diane Disney Miller Lifetime Achievement Award. He was the third, after renowned Disney legends Marty Sklar and Richard Sherman.

Bonnie Hunt, who voices Sally in the Cars films and who will appear in Toy Story 4, was hostess for the night. She was also joined by Disney CEO Bob Iger and president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, Ed Catmull, who were presenters. Other Pixar guests included Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird, Jonas Rivera, Ronnie del Carmen, Jim Murphy, Jay Ward, and Pixar president Jim Morris. Guests were also treated to a special performance by Frozen‘s award winning songwriting team, Bobby Anderson and Kristen-Anderson Lopez. It’s no secret that Lasseter is a huge Frozen fan. In addition to his award, the film’s stars Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell performed songs from the film.

You can also watch footage from the ceremony below.

One other noteworthy event was a bid for a speaking role in Toy Story 4! The response was so enthusiastic that Lasseter added two more roles to bid on. Can’t wait to meet those characters (and the voice actors) when the film opens in 2019.

A very hearty congratulations to John Lasseter for such a well deserved award.

Read article

Monsters Inc. spin-off series announced – 5 things we want to see

Posted by Joanna • November 13, 2017

Earlier this year, Disney announced its plans for their own streaming service, expected to become available in 2019. Until recently, we haven’t been provided with many more details on top of this, but last week, Disney chairman Bob Iger revealed that a number of new spin-off series will be created for the service, including a Monsters Inc. series.

Pixar has already revisited Pete Docter’s Monsters Inc. with the prequel Monsters University. Many felt that a direct sequel would have been more satisfying, but Monsters University‘s lovable new characters, inspiring messages, and heart-warming character development made it a very worthy addition to the Monsters Inc. universe. But what direction will the new Monsters Inc. spin-off series take? Monsters University proved that Pixar are anything but predictable – the prequel was incredibly creative and fleshed out the world in a way that we couldn’t have imagined ourselves. So here are 5 things that we would love to see in Monsters Inc.‘s newly announced spin-off, but we’re always open to a few curveballs. Let’s hope this series catches us by surprise in the same way that Monsters University did.

1. Boo


This girl has potential. She overcame her fear of the monster that lived under her bed and pretty much saved the energy crisis in Monstropolis at the age of 2. We’d love to see what her bright future has in store for her.

2. Roz

Roz did appear in Monsters University but is still shrouded in just as much mystery as ever. We want answers. 

3. Some good, old-fashioned Mike/Sulley BFF interactions

Mike and Sulley bounce off each other in just the right way.

4. Randy Newman

Randy Newman wrote the music for both Monsters Inc. and Monsters University – the jazzy soundtracks really gave the movies a lot of their character. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be treated to an all new yet familiar score?

5. The return of some underappreciated Monsters Inc. characters

Whatever happened to Needleman and Smitty? And Waxworth? (You know… He’s got them shifty eyes.)

There’s no set release date for the new Monsters Inc. spin-off series, but no doubt more news will be released before the Disney streaming service becomes available in 2019.

Read article

Incredibles 2 trailer coming soon – the wait is almost over!

Pixar, Rumors, The Incredibles 2, Trailer

Posted by Joanna • November 11, 2017

With the spotlight understandably on Coco at the moment, it’s easy to forget (and hard to believe!) that the next Pixar film release is going to be Incredibles 2, due in theatres next June. With 2018 very much on the horizon it already seemed likely that we’d be getting our first glimpse of the movie soon, and this assumption has just been backed up by some firm evidence – a rating of an Incredibles 2 trailer by the Ontario Film Authority.

At D23 this year, the audience was treated to some footage of the much-anticipated sequel. All we really know so far is that Incredibles 2 is going to focus more on Elastigirl, or Helen Parr, Jack-Jack’s newly found superpowers are going to be explored, and there’s going to be a raccoon! You can read our post from when the D23 footage was first shown for more details.

It’s been a long wait for Pixar fans, but some new Incredibles content is finally coming our way. Keep an eye on our Twitter page for updates! 

 

Read article

New Coco clip reveals a familiar easter egg!

Coco, Pixar

Posted by Joanna • November 8, 2017

An exclusive scene from Coco was just posted by USA TODAY Life, and it once again centres around our protagonist, Miguel, and his relationship with his family and music. Miguel isn’t like the rest of his family – music runs through his veins and his family’s hatred for it isn’t going to get in his way.

Despite only being around a minute long, this clip does an amazing job at establishing some main characters, transporting us to the colourful streets of Mexico, and introducing a central plot detail – Miguel’s undying love for music. They even managed to throw an easter egg in there (in the form of a very familiar fast food delivery vehicle…) – can you spot it?

Coco releases in US theatres on November 22nd. The wait is almost over!

Read article

A daring (almost) escape

Coco

Posted by Simoa • November 7, 2017

All of the Coco footage and teasers we’ve seen have focused on protagonist Miguel, but today the spotlight falls on Hector, whom the young boy befriends when he’s transported to the Land of the Dead. In this newest clip, we also learn about the rules that govern the Land of the Dead. Hector attempts to leave by crossing the marigold bridge that links the two worlds, but he’s thwarted by the shining petals, becoming submerged in them before he’s taken away by two customs officials. If you’re no longer remembered by the living, you can’t cross over into their world on Dia de Los Muertos. The clip also features a stunning bit of animation, as Hector’s top half separates from his bottom – in midair! Watch it below.

Coco opens on November 22nd.

Read article

Miguel shines in Coco’s final trailer

Coco, Pixar, Trailer

Posted by Joanna • November 6, 2017

Coming to US theatres in just over two weeks, the final trailer for Pixar’s Coco was released today, and it highlighted how strong a protagonist Miguel is going to be. You can watch the trailer here:

It is perhaps the most exciting Coco trailer yet, and we’re treated to new footage, mainly centred around our hero Miguel. Pixar have an impressive history of incredibly lovable and relatable protagonists, and it looks like Miguel is going to be no different. The trailer showcases the voice acting skills of 12 year old Anthony Gonzalez who has really brought Miguel’s character to life. The scenes where he is interacting with his family members, particularly with Mama Coco, are especially touching.

Coco is going to be a film full of heart, highlighting the importance of family, no doubt with Pixar’s usual clever spin on things. The trailer ends with a very fitting quote from Miguel:

“We may have our differences, but nothing is more important than family.”

On November 22nd, the wait for Pixar fans in the US will finally be over! Those in the UK will have to wait a little longer (January 19th), but if the trailers are anything to go by, the wait is definitely going to be worth it.

Read article

Pixar Pier Plans Revealed!

Pixar

Posted by Joanna • November 2, 2017

The summer of 2018 marks an incredibly exciting time for Pixar fans, not only because of the highly-anticipated release of Incredibles 2, but also due to the opening of the ‘Pixar Pier’ at Disney California Adventure Park. Exciting plans for the Pixar themed attractions have just been revealed, and it looks like the transformation of what was originally the ‘Paradise Pier’ is going to be truly magical.

There are going to be four new ‘neighbourhoods’, each inspired by different Pixar universes.

The Incredicoaster © Disney Pixar

  1. The Incredicoaster

    The Incredicoaster is (you guessed it!) based on the world of The Incredibles. Once built, the rollercoaster’s stylish and modern design, so characteristic of the movie, will look like it’s come right out of the big screen.

  1. Toy Story Mania

    The possibilities for a Toy Story themed attraction seem infinite (and beyond!)

  1. Inside Out

    We can’t wait to see how creative and fun the Inside Out inspired neighbourhood will belike, especially given that the movie literally has a location called ‘Imagination Land’ in it.

  1. All our favourites!

    The fourth neighbourhood will include an array of many beloved Pixar characters. They’ll be featured on the Ferris wheel gondolas, games, and more!

In addition to the attractions, we’re also going to be treated to Pixar themed food and merchandise! The all-new Pixar Pier is set to open on April 13th.

Read article

Review: The Art of Coco

Adrian Molina, Art, Art Of:, Coco, Lee Unkrich

Posted by Simoa • October 28, 2017

When I visited Pixar in August, there was dozens of Coco artwork lining the walls that I wanted to hang up on my own walls at home. The art and animation presentations also featured bold and visually striking pieces that I could have ogled for hours. Now that the art book has been released, we can all get our fill of the film’s mesmerizing art. But you should wait until after the film is released to read the whole thing!

Released by Chronicle Books on October 10th, The Art of Coco, with a foreword by John Lasseter and introductions by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, will indeed be a treasured addition to any collection. Pixar films routinely deal with death, but Coco will transport audiences to a world where death is linked to life. However, this is not a story about mourning. Unkrich and his team took so much care to authentically portray Mexico’s Dia de Los Muertos holiday, which is both a remembrance of departed loved ones and a celebration of life.

The Art of Coco is yet another celebration of Mexico, its people, and its culture.

Numerous pieces of concept art, sketches, and clay models are included, as well as storyboards and the breathtaking color scripts. Color is what makes The Art of Coco so appealing; it’s saturated with it. Deep, vivid hues of red, orange, and yellow fill the book, as well as warm tones and color palettes. All of this, combined with lush digital paintings, make the artwork come alive on the page. Now imagine seeing it all in motion on the big screen.

Sharon Calahan, digital

Along with the dazzling artwork are photographs taken during the research trips to Mexico. The crew members snapped photos of the people they met, as well as the gorgeous scenery and Dia de Los Muertos celebrations.

Art of books function as learning tools for animated films and this one is no different. The artists detail their processes from character design to lighting to storyboards. These insights help animation fans broaden their knowledge and their appreciation. The amount of meticulous and precise details just can’t be overstated, especially with a film like Coco. The sheer breadth of the land of the dead alone is astounding.

Tom Gately, china marker/pencil/digital

But it’s not only the artists who have a space in The Art of Coco. Because the film is centered on Dia de Los Muertos, the cultural consultants who were hired provide more background on certain customs and traditions. Their expertise was not only an asset for the film’s accuracy and respect; it informed the story as well.

Zaruhi Galstyan, digital

Much of the crew aiding Lee Unkrich on his vision are Mexican, including co-director Adrian Molina, who shares a songwriting and screenplay credit. Molina and the other artists, like character art director Daniel Arriaga, sketch artist Ana Ramirez and character modeling artist Alonso Martinez, drew from their own experiences, family, and heritage to shape Miguel’s journey. One of the many joys in poring over this book was reading about their pride at being involved and sharing a bit of themselves. It’s evident, as Lee Unkrich writes in the introduction, that this is both a personal and a universal film.

The Art of Coco is overflowing with stunning imagery and is an excellent companion to the film.

Read article