(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.
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.
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.