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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 a 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 sunset 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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cars 3 deleted scene: The Betrayal of Lightning McQueen

Brian Fee, Cars 3

Posted by Simoa • October 25, 2017

Cars 3 is now available on digital, and one of its deleted scenes has been shared online, courtesy of USA Today.

In an earlier version of the film, Lightning experiences betrayal at the wheels of Sterling (Nathan Fillion), the new owner of Rusteze. Sterling was skeptical of Lightning’s ability to race, preferring him to retire. But in this version, he replaces Lighting with Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), his beloved new trainer, early on. Watch the clip below.


No doubt Cars 3 would have been a much more dramatic film had this scene remained. And it is interesting to speculate how Lightning and Cruz’s relationship would have evolved. There are so many directions encompassed in the filmmaking process, and it’s wonderful that Pixar shares them with us, including the directions not taken. While this scene contains some emotional weight surrounding Lightning’s journey as he’s pressured to retire, it’s for the best that it was cut. Director Brian Fee explains why brilliantly.

“We didn’t want McQueen to be the last one to realize her [Cruz’s] value; we wanted him to be the first to discover it.”

See this deleted scene and plenty more extras when you pick up Cars 3 on digital.

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Coco’s Morelia Film Festival Premiere

Adrian Molina, Coco, Lee Unkrich

Posted by Simoa • October 22, 2017

Today, Coco is now officially one month away from release! However, the film had its grand debut at the Morelia International Film Festival this past Friday. As we previously reported back in July, Morelia was most deserving to hold the premiere, as Coco is a love letter to Mexico. The film will premiere to the rest of Mexico on October 27th.

We compiled some of the mini reviews of the film in last week’s round up post following the wrap party. Now the latest reviews are in post Morelia, praising the film’s strengths and thoughtfully examining the shortcomings. We strongly recommend reading these first reviews, as they provide ample reason to anticipate Coco even more. Highlights are included below. While there aren’t any major spoilers, we’d advise not reading Variety’s review if you’d rather be surprised when the film opens next month.

Variety:

“In an era when young people are so easily seduced by celebrity, “Coco” reveals the emptiness of such adulation, poignantly teaching kids to preserve and respect the memory of their elders while reminding them that the source of true creativity is so often personal.”

The Hollywood Reporter:

“Delivering a universal message about family bonds while adhering to folkloric traditions free of the watering down or whitewashing that have often typified Americanized appropriations of cultural heritage, the gorgeous production also boasts vibrant visuals and a peerless voice cast populated almost entirely by Mexican and Latino actors.”

The Wrap:

“Visually, “Coco” is a swirling, vibrantly hued artistic achievement. It’s everything from a sepia-tinted memory book come to heart-tugging life to a pulsating multi-tinted mural. The stellar design team and animators find room for both the sun-kissed verisimilitude of a homey pueblo, and the razzle-dazzle of elaborately designed folk-art animals called alebrijasthat become flying, hot-colored spirit creatures in the Land of the Dead.”

Vanity Fair was also effusive in its praise, drawing a connection to real life politics with director Lee Unkrich and co-director Adrian Molina offering their own thoughts. Gael García Bernal, who voices Miguel’s guide, Hector, spoke of his pride in co-starring:

“I’m excited to show this very special film and to tell the world about the Mexican culture and our traditions. It’s incredible and an important moment. There’s a lot of emotion, and it’s beautiful that the film truthfully tells the story of life and death and the identities of being a Mexican in a positive and human way.”

As reported by Variety, Coco was met with a strong emotional response. Lee Unkrich spoke of the tearful gratitude the film elicited from the Mexican audience at Morelia, noting “That was the biggest thing: people were just so proud, they expressed to us that we had gotten it right, that we had made a respectful, accurate job.” Filmmaker Carlos Cauron, also in attendance with his brother Alfonso, expressed his hope that Coco would be a worldwide box office success.

Read more about the Morelia Festival here, which takes place in a city renowned for its Day of the Dead celebrations.

We’re more than heartened to hear that this first audience has embraced Coco so enthusiastically and that the film is a source of pride. We hope you’ll join us in eagerly awaiting the film on Thanksgiving!

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Coco Exclusives: Research and New Movie clip

Adrian Molina, Coco, Lee Unkrich

Posted by Simoa • October 18, 2017

There are two elements of the filmmaking process that Pixar prioritizes above all else – story and research. They are famed for both, and Coco is the latest film to rely extensively on research. As they did in 2012 with Brave, a team was assembled for a research trip, this time to Mexico. A new featurette was released yesterday about the Mexico trip and demonstrates their commitment to authenticity. Watch the video below.

But that’s not all! You can also watch the “Mariachi Plaza” scene that features Abuelita in all her fearsome, chancla wielding glory! This is an extended clip that’s appeared briefly in earlier trailers and videos. Although Abuelita dominates this scene, Miguel earns our sympathy as he wistfully shares his dream to someday become a musician.

Both of these clips succeed in communicating Pixar’s dedication to research and story. Keep an eye out for more previews!

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Woody’s Round-up (10/17/17)

Coco, Merchandise, Round-Ups

Posted by Simoa • October 17, 2017

We’re dusting the cobwebs off the Woody’s Round-up feature! Simoa and Joanna are here to do a brief run-down of all things Coco!

As the release date edges closer, there’s plenty of cool and exciting things to look forward to, and one of these is merchandise.

Funko Pops: These are the perfect additions to anyone’s collection, featuring designs that are both adorable and lovingly crafted. There are three different versions of the characters:

The Mystery Mini series is extremely cute, but super detailed as well.

The Dorbz series includes a glow-in-the dark Miguel, though it’s limited and available only at Toys “R” Us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And feast your eyes on the Pop! Vinyl series.

Don’t miss out – these Funko pops are available for purchase at Toys “R” Us and Hot Topic.

Coco wrap party: The film is officially complete! A wrap party was held on the 14th – crew members celebrated their hard work finally paying off, and people were treated to a screening. Talented animator and art director Dice Tsutsumi, who has previously worked on a number of Pixar films such as Toy Story 3 and Monsters University, posted a tweet which shows us the theatre where the screening took place.

It’s exciting to see all the positive comments and ‘mini-reviews’ that people have been posting on Twitter after the wrap party. It appears certain that Coco is going to be full of heart, bursting with love, emotion, and character at every seam. Seeing the crew exhibit such a huge amount of pride in their work is very moving, and is sure to make Coco feel all the more special.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Pixar have also been celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month on Instagram. Employees of Hispanic descent have been given the spotlight, with their stories posted alongside a portrait of them. Andrea Aleman, Events Administrator for the Café at Pixar Studios, summed it up perfectly in her post:

“Hispanic Heritage Month is a way to be proud of our roots, show where we came from, and be a part of this melting pot of different cultures, different colors, different traditions, different music, and the hard work that we grew up learning from our parents. There’s an enormous sense of pride that I feel for this month of reflection and celebration.”

You can see all of Pixar’s other Hispanic Heritage Month posts on their Instagram page.

“Remember Me” Jazz Performance: Ernesto de La Cruz’s signature song was featured on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars Monday night. The song received a proper showcase, with the colorful costumes and dancing adding some visual flair. Watch the clip below.

Hollywood Film Awards: Coco has also won its first award! The film will be honored on November 5th, although its yet to be released. We’re sure it’ll gain more accolades once the world sees it! Read more about the HFA here.

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Cars 3 zooms onto Blu-ray and DVD!

Cars 3, DVD, Merchandise

Posted by Simoa • October 16, 2017

Coco is still a month away from its long-awaited theatrical release, but Pixar’s 2017 summer flick is available on digital just next week. You can relive the adrenaline fueled adventure of Cars 3 with our favorite reformed rookie #95 and his awesome new trainer, Cruz Ramirez on October 24th. The DVD and Blu-ray’s release date is set for November 7th. As expected with Pixar home releases, there’s tons of exclusive features and bonus content that’s sure to be as rewarding as watching the film itself.

There are a couple of options for what you can download and bring home:

Digital

  • Exclusive New Mini-Movie: Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool
  • Theatrical Short: Lou
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Cruz Ramirez: The Yellow Car that Could
  • + more

Blu-Ray

  • Includes all of the special features as the digital
  • Limited time offer of a free collectible lithograph set (!)

VUDU Special Offer

  • 3 Cars Shorty Shorts: Hiccups, Bugged, Spinning
  • Exclusive New Mini-Movie: Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool
  • Theatrical Short: Lou
  • Deleted Scenes

Target Exclusive Blu-ray

  • 32-Page Storybook
  • Exclusive New Mini-Movie: Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool
  • Theatrical Short: Lou
  • Deleted Scenes

Best Buy Exclusive

  • Collectible Steelbook
  • Exclusive Mini-Movie: Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool
  • Theatrical Short: Lou
  • Deleted Scenes

Walmart Exclusive Blu-Ray 

  • 3 Cars Toon Short Films
    Mater: Radiator Springs 500 ½, Monster Truck Mater and Rescue Squad Mater
  • Exclusive New Mini-Movie: Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool
  • Theatrical Short: Lou
  • Deleted Scenes

4K Ultra HD

This version includes all the Blu-ray features but with some spiffy technical specs:

  • 4K Resolution
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR)
  • Immersive Audio

Us too, little green guys~

Which of these tantalizing options will you be picking up? Be sure to let us know! And have the ride of your life when Cars 3 hits digital on October 24th and Blu-ray and DVD on November 7th.

 

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