Coco has won over audiences with its vivid portrayal of familial love. As much as it celebrates family, it is also a celebration of music.
Music is intimately woven into Coco, more than it is in any other Pixar film. This is only to be expected since its hero Miguel is an aspiring musician, but Coco‘s music is also influenced by Mexico which further sets it apart from other Pixar features. The filmmakers were committed to telling a story that eschewed stereotypes, one that painted an authentic and multifaceted portrait of Mexican people. The music would need these qualities as well. To achieve musical authenticity, songwriter Germaine Franco and consultant Camilo Lara were recruited to the team.
During the film’s press day in August, we were treated to a firsthand listen, learning about the myriad ways music blended into the film. And that musical presence springs directly from Miguel’s secret dream.
There are three types of music to be heard in Coco. The source music was very important, as it pulled from Mexico’s broad tapestry of traditional music. Mariachi is one example that figures prominently within the film.
Original songs inspired by Mexican music were written by co-director Adrian Molina, along with Franco, Bobby Lopez, and Kristen-Anderson Lopez. “Remember Me,” Ernesto de la Cruz’s most famous song, is a show stopping spectacle that recalls the glamour of Mexico’s Golden Age of cinema. Franco also noted that the song continuously reinforces the film’s theme of remembering our loved ones. The energetic “Un Poco Loco” with lyrics by Molina has a middle section which includes instrumentals only. This is one of the ways in which Lara’s purpose to create music that smells like Mexico was achieved.
Then of course is the score which encompasses character themes, as well as conflict and setting.
Michael Giacchino is one of Pixar’s most cherished collaborators. Coco marks his sixth film in this partnership. He detailed his process in composing the score, which began after he watched the film. It was a very emotional experience, not least because it brought him back to his childhood. Giacchino grew up listening to Mexican music, which he described as very melodic. Incorporating that sound into the score was a priority.
Giacchino is Italian, but the idea of family is so incredibly strong that he connected to the story, and the same is true for non Mexicans who have embraced Coco.
Authenticity is key in Coco, right down to the smallest details. The way Miguel strums the guitar had to be accurate. Pixar’s animators were praised as well for their attention to detail and making the guitar playing correct. The gorgeously designed guitar appears below.
And it was this guitar that Federico Ramos (pictured above) played! As Giacchino said, the guitar was the only way to play the music of the film.
To learn more about the songwriting and scoring process, watch the featurette below. You can also catch a glimpse of the many musicians whom Franco praised for adding their own artistry and spirit to the music.
Though Coco details death and the afterlife, it’s a lively film and the music lives and breathes too.