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Coco’s Big Oscar Wins

Academy Awards, Adrian Molina, Coco, Darla K. Anderson, Lee Unkrich, Oscars

Posted by Simoa • March 5, 2018

 

Though it might have been expected, Coco‘s victory at last night’s Academy Awards wasn’t any less sweet! And the film scored not one, not two, but three wins!

Remember Me

First there was the sensational performance of “Remember Me,” beginning with Gael Garcia Bernal accompanied by a guitarist as he sang the gentle lullaby version of the song. It was impossible not to be moved, especially with Bernal’s spotlight on the darkened stage while thinking of that pivotal moment in the film when the lullaby is first heard. But a show stopping spectacle was waiting in the wings! Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade sized the stage with their rendition, complete with Ernesto de la Cruz’s legendary stage. It was reanimated just for Oscar night and mirrored the film closely!

photo via Ava Duvernay

Best Animated Feature

“Viva Latin America!” Oscar Isaac, one of the award presenters, cried out before announcing Coco the winner. It highlighted just how important this film is to so many and was the first indicator of Mexican filmmakers winning during the broadcast. Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina were joined onstage by Darla K. Anderson and three in the film’s cast: Anthony Gonzalez (Miguel); Gael Garcia Bernal (Hector); and Benjamin Bratt (Ernesto de la Cruz). It was a first for Pixar filmmakers to be flanked by their cast at an awards show, and it’s particularly noteworthy since they’re of Mexican and Latino descent.

Once more, it was impossible not to be moved as Lee, Adrian, and Darla gave their acceptance speeches. This was truly a momentous win for Coco. If you missed it last night or if you want to watch it again (and really, who wouldn’t?), the segment appears below.

“Coco is proof that art can change and connect the world, and this can only be done when we have a place where everyone and anyone who feels like an other to be heard.” -Darla K. Anderson

“Love and thanks to my family, my Latino community, to my husband Ryan, each for expanding my sense of what it means to be proud of who you are and where you’re from. We hope the same thing for everyone who connected with this film.” –Adrian Molina

“…the biggest thank you of all to the people of Mexico. Coco would not exist without your endlessly beautiful culture and traditions. With Coco, we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do. Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters!” –Lee Unkrich

Anthony Gonzalez also got a moment at the microphone, making Lee’s declaration that much more resounding.

Best Original Song

Coco‘s win in this category was unexpected, perhaps because it didn’t take home the Golden Globe back in January. “Remember Me” marks Pixar’s second ever win for Best Song (previously awarded to Randy Newman for Monsters, Inc.’s “If I Didn’t Have You”). Songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez also secured their second Oscar win. There was no end to the inspiring speeches as Anderson-Lopez acknowledged the diversity of the nominees, while Lopez dedicated the award to his late mother.

“I really want to take a minute to look at this category of incredible nominated songwriters tonight. Not only are we diverse, but we are close to 50/50 for gender representation. When you look at a category like ours, it helps us imagine a world where all the categories look like this one.” -Kristen Anderson-Lopez

Although Dave Mullins’ short film “Lou” walked away empty handed, it was a spectacular night for Pixar and Coco. This film’s message of familial love, as well as its celebration of an underrepresented population, has been embedded into the cultural zeitgeist. It signals even more diverse and inclusive stories at Pixar and beyond.

Representation matters enormously, and so does Coco.

Congratulations to Lee, Adrian, Darla, the Lopezes, and the entire cast and crew for their tremendous movie and wins!

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Coco Day in Los Angeles

Adrian Molina, Coco, Darla K. Anderson, Lee Unkrich

Posted by Nia • February 28, 2018

Well, it’s official: February 27th is Coco Day in Los Angeles. Yesterday the City of Angels honored Pixar’s 19th film at a ceremony in City Hall by L.A. City Council Member Gil Cedillo. The honor was not only inspired by the most recent DVD/Blu-Ray release of the film, but the fact that Coco is the first animated film to feature nearly an entire Latino cast. Most of the ensemble has roots in Los Angeles, which made the ceremony very special for some.

(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

The honors were respectfully given to Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson, the Director and Producer of Coco, and these members of the cast were also there to celebrate the success of the film and show their support to the local Latino community: Anthony Gonzalez (Miguel), Renee Victor (Abuelita), Gabriel Iglesias (Clerk), Alfonso Arau (Papa Julio), Selene Luna (Tia Rosita), Lombardo Boyar (Mariachi/Gustavo), Blanca Araceli (Emcee), Dyana Ortelli (Tia Victoria) and Carlos Moreno Jr.

Anthony Gonzalez and the The Mariachi Divas even treated those in attendance with some fan-favorite songs from Coco: “Un Poco Loco” and the Oscar-nominated “Remember Me.”

(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Coco is the first Pixar film to be given a day of celebration and it’s so obvious why – between the depiction of the Latino culture and Day of the Dead, on top of the heartfelt story tackling death and fulfilling your dreams, it’s no wonder that Coco soared it’s way into the hearts of millions. We don’t think anyone’s going to forget about this film anytime soon, and we can only hope it opens up more films that have Latino leads and other stories that focus on underrepresented characters in animation.

Stay-tuned for the Oscar’s this Sunday to see if Coco takes home the gold for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song.

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Coco and the Importance of Death

Adrian Molina, Coco, in depth, Lee Unkrich, Opinion Piece

Posted by Nia • January 22, 2018

Pixar isn’t afraid to tackle death and loss in their films; it’s a prevalent theme in almost every story and even an obstacle that so many of their beloved characters need to tackle to move on and grow. Death is featured at the start of Finding Nemo, when Marlin discovers his wife and children have been brutally eaten by a barracuda. And it’s obviously there in Up, as we follow Carl and Ellie through their beautiful relationship when they meet as children, get married, and until the very end with Ellie dying due to old age. There’s even the loss of growing up and leaving your childhood behind in Toy Story 3 when Andy packs up his stuff for college and ends up leaving his beloved toys with Bonnie. Although Finding Nemo and Up have those themes featured at the beginning of the films, the entire story does not spend it’s time focusing on how that loss has affected the characters, what happens when those characters die, or how they’re supposed to deal with that empty gap in their lives. It’s simply a tool to move the characters from one spot to the other to fulfill the other story the studio wanted to tell at that time.

But with Coco, Pixar’s latest film, death takes the helm and leaves room to open up conversation about that often-taboo topic. The film would simply not exist if it weren’t for death and the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead.

Coco is an important film for not only acknowledging the Mexican culture faithfully by embracing their traditions to a tee, but by also being a place where families can come together to discuss something that is a part of everyone’s lives, no matter their age, race, or religion; and most importantly, a place where they can fondly look back and remember all the cherished memories of loved ones no longer with them.

When I was 9-years-old my grandmother passed away from Leukemia – that was the first time I had heard the word death, the first time I had seen the mourning and the blackness. I saw the tears before but I never put two and two together. Now there was a face to death, a person that I once knew who was no longer on this earth.

I understood that my grandmother was gone but not the severity of it all. One day after she passed, I had caught my mother sitting alone, watching old VHS tapes of my grandmother. She was sitting quietly in front of the TV crying. The VHS tapes were showcasing happier times of my grandmother laughing and dancing, full of health and beauty. At that age I thought nothing of it but continued to my room, where I most likely started playing with my toys or finished my homework.

There was never really a time for my parents to talk about death with me because my grandmother’s passing happened so suddenly. I was thrown into the topic and because of that, I feared the death of my friends and my family. I didn’t want anyone to die and I didn’t really understand where they went – even though in church, especially with my Greek Orthodox upbringing, I was told everlasting life existed in places like heaven.

I was lucky to have another set of grandparents who I spent my childhood with. My other grandmother didn’t pass away until 2016, and I’m still left with one surviving grandfather who is in his early nineties. Though because of my initial brush with death at 9, I feared for the day when my other grandparents would pass away. I would leave them silly letters around the house when I visited in the summer telling them that I would never forget them and I would always remember them. I didn’t want them to go anywhere, and I wanted to stay in that moment surrounded by them, forever.

I saw Coco with my family and like so many others, it brought me back to all the wonderful memories I had with all of my grandparents. Just like when Miguel’s family came together in the end to celebrate the life of their ancestors, even the ones they didn’t know in their lifetime, I came together with my own family to discuss friends and family from days gone by. After the film we talked about all the good times we had together and laughed away our tears. We most certainly remembered them and most importantly, we remembered all the great things about their lives and how they helped us become the people we are today.

It’s important for animated films like Coco to feature death so prominently in the story. Animated films are mostly targeted towards younger audiences, which makes it even more special for children to experience themes like death with their families earlier on and to figure out what it means to them in their own time. It opens up opportunities for children to ask questions about what happens when loved ones die and for parents not to shield their children from something that happens to all things in time. It’s also vital to speak to children about death and to embrace all the ugly emotions that come with it. With the fear and sadness comes the happiness and love when one is faced with the warm memories of those who have passed. It’s OK to cry, to get emotional, and to discuss this sensitive topic; luckily we have films like Coco to help open up that opportunity for all.

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Coco wins Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes!

Adrian Molina, Coco, Darla K. Anderson, Golden Globes, Lee Unkrich

Posted by Simoa • January 8, 2018

Coco won the top prize at last night’s 75th annual Golden Globes. The film scored two nominations: one for “Remember Me” in Best Original Song and Best Animated Feature. While we hoped the film would walk away with both awards last night, we are incredibly happy for its Best Animated win!

 

Watch the clip below of Lee Unkrich accepting the Globe, along with co-director Adrian Molina and producer Darla K. Anderson.

 

Coco has made such a tremendous impact, both in Mexico and around the world. This truly is an honor for everyone involved, particularly the Mexican and Latino artists, consultants, and the actors who lent their voice talent to the film.

You can also watch the backstage video, in which the three answered questions from reporters and discussed the film’s enormous success worldwide. They re-emphasized their commitment to telling a story free of cliches. They also addressed the current John Lasseter situation, explaining their hopes for creating a safer environment with integrity, and making Pixar a better place for people to create art.

As Adrian Molina said, Coco is an encouraging film, for himself and the rest of the crew who worked on it. By creating an environment that prioritizes and includes more diverse voices, Pixar is taking steps to become better, and hopefully this will lead to even more positive change.

Congratulations to Lee, Adrian, Darla, and the entire cast and crew for their Golden Globe win! Be sure to check back here for more awards show coverage.

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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 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 families this weekend.

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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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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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New Coco Clip Released: Rescue and Reunion in the Land of the Dead

Adrian Molina, Coco, Lee Unkrich, Trailer

Posted by Nia • October 20, 2017

Alas! A brand new clip has been released from Coco, Pixar’s upcoming film.

It’s a brilliant clip, but it’s also full of a few spoilers. You can watch the clip at the link below, in one of Pixar’s recent Tweets.

In the clip you will see a charming little musical number done by Miguel, some more gorgeous designs of the Land of the Dead, and Miguel FINALLY interacting with Ernesto de la Cruz.

Pixar, you’re killing us with these clips! Luckily November 22nd is almost a month away!

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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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The first 30 minutes of Coco

Coco, Lee Unkrich, Pixar

Posted by Simoa • August 28, 2017

Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime – a visit to Pixar! In anticipation of Coco, which will be released in November, Disney invited bloggers and various outlets to the Emeryville studio for a press event on August 3rd and 4th. We got to see the first thirty five minutes of Pixar’s latest Lee Unkrich helmed feature.

Few things can compare to watching a Pixar film in Pixar’s very own theater! As Unkrich announced on twitter recently, Coco is now completed. The version we saw was unfinished. There were completed sequences, rough sketches, and unlighted animation. Yet the film was still engrossing and quite beautiful.

After we settled in our seats, the Disney logo appeared onscreen, its familiar theme played by a mariachi band.

Coco tells the story of twelve year old Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez). The Riveras are shoemakers, a tradition that has been passed down through the generations from matriarch Mama Imelda, Miguel’s great-great grandmother. Miguel is not at all impressed with the family’s chosen occupation. He would have preferred something much more exciting and fun. As we learn at the start of the film, Mama Imelda became a shoemaker in order to support herself and her daughter after her husband abandoned the family for his music career. Miguel explains that she didn’t have time to feel sad or sorry for herself.

But Mama Imelda, stung by her husband’s betrayal, forbids music in the Rivera family. No one is allowed to play or listen to music and certainly not to pursue it for a career. Miguel’s great-great grandfather is also never mentioned or seen; Miguel doesn’t even know his name.

As we arrive in present day Mexico, the no music rule has been strictly enforced by Miguel’s abuelita (Renee Victor). The Riveras are the only family in Mexico that will have nothing to do with music. Perhaps it’s because they fear abuelita’s wrath that the Riveras do not question or challenge the ban on music. They are all content to make shoes. All except Miguel, that is. He desperately wants to become a musician and has taught himself to play the guitar. He’s also built a shrine to his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz.

Once the most popular singer in Mexico, de la Cruz appeared in movies and enjoyed great fame before his untimely death in the 1940s. Miguel is convinced that music is his destiny, the same as it was for de la Cruz. But unfortunately, his secret ambition is revealed to his family.

Coco is a unique film from the start. From just the first half hour, it’s clear that Pixar has crafted another heartwarming portrayal of family life. Though Miguel must hide his passion for music, the Riveras are a close knit bunch. Abuelita is formidable and won’t hesitate to hit someone with her chancla, but she’s a warm, loving grandmother.

Miguel is likable immediately. His desire for music is communicated so strongly that it’s unimaginable that he would make shoes or do anything else. The audience believes that music is part of his destiny as well.

And this is only the Land of the Living. There’s another world in Coco, one bursting with life and color, despite its name. Miguel is transported to the Land of the Dead and it’s here that he meets the Rivera family members that have died. They are as funny and vibrant as his living family.

The Land of the Dead is run like a typical government agency, with workers who sit at desks behind computers.

Pixar’s worlds have always been a visual and technical marvel. They’ve captured wonder in worlds both real and imagined. With Coco, Mexico becomes a character too, though it never overwhelms the human ones. We become fully immersed in both worlds of the living and dead, as well as the language, music, and culture.

From what I was lucky enough to see, I am eagerly anticipating the completed film!

I’ll have plenty more posts about my incredible two day trip at Pixar and all that I learned about Coco. Check back here for more!

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