One of my favorite things about COCO is that I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much about the Mexican culture. It’s so excited being able to attend movie premieres and interview the cast and creators. It really makes you feel like you’re connected to the film in some way.
I was excited to have the opportunity to interview COCO Director Lee Unkrich, Writer & Co-Director Adrian Molina and Producer Darla K. Anderson. COCO takes us on a journey of emotions and teaches us about Mexican culture.
Full of Emotions
There are very few movies that actually make you feel genuine emotion. Lee said when they make movies they want to do that and make something that will stick with you after you’ve seen it. COCO does just that for audiences. It is an exceptional film full of emotion. The most satisfying thing for the creators is to have the audience feel something personal to themselves and, they know they’re on the right track when they have those feelings themselves.
Darla adds that in order to feel all of those feelings you really have to go on a journey with the characters. You have to laugh with them, be on a big adventure with them, and become completely invested in them. We have to earn all of that emotion. So, it comes out of a multitude of the emotions from the movie.
Mexican Celebrities and Cameos
There are two cameos of actual living people in the film: composer Michael Giacchino, and the other is their music consultant, Camilo Lara, who plays the Dj at the party. But Lee said he always like to have a cameo in every movie. Adrian and Lee both have cameos, not physically, but their voices.
They tried to fill the film with as many famous Mexican celebrities as they could. Some of which would be recognizable for general audiences, but some they knew would only be recognized by people who grew up in Mexico. One of those is Juan García Esquivel who is the guy playing the glass harmonica before the talent show. He’s a quirky, semi-well known Mexican musician.
It was such a wonderful opportunity to lean on these Mexican icons who used their art to change the world. They were the kind of characters that inspired and pushed Miguel. Because of these icons Miguel was able to use his art to do beautiful things. Adrian added that he was so happy that this was the one film where you can do just that in such an intuitive way.
Lee said they were always striving to make a film that felt timeless. No matter when people see it he hopes they’ll see it as set in the now. Doing this film was a nod to the history of animation in having caricatured cameos of well-known people. Darla added that it’s still so entertaining for kids even if they don’t know the famous people.
An all Latino Cast
The creators wanted an all Latino cast. This was non-negotiable and very important to them. It was the right thing to do and didn’t make casting a challenge. The creators have also made a lot of new friends working with new actors.
COCO actually premiered in Mexico nearly a month before the premiere in the United States. It was important for the creators to pay homage to the beauty of the tradition and the place where they came from. They wanted to thank them for opening their hearts and doors for them. They were over the moon to have the opportunity to premiere in Mexico, especially in Mexico city at the Palace of Fine Arts. They have received an overwhelming amount of love and support from Mexico since the premiere.
Day of the Dead Tradition
Lee said he knew a lot about the Day of the Dead tradition before making COCO but didn’t realize that they also believed we’re all capable of dying multiple deaths. The actual belief is that we all die the first time when our heart stops. Then we die a second time when we’re buried and no one can ever see us again. But then there was this idea of this third and final death, when there’s nobody left among the living who remembers us and who can tell our stories.
That was then the final death. That was whole notion that Lee had never heard of before diving into this. Once the creators heard this belief it was clear to them that it was incredibly poignant and needed to be an important part of the story that they were telling. It ended up becoming the bedrock of the story that they told. You’ll see these details told beautifully in COCO through the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead.
At the end of the film after the credits you’ll see a group of photos. Lee thought it would be lovely to do some sort of digital ofrenda, which means offering in Spanish, at the end of the film since they had learned so much about the traditions. They wanted to incorporate them into their lives at Pixar. They did this at the end to thank all of the people that supported them and continue to support them across time.
The opportunity was extended to everyone in the company to submit a photo of somebody who they had lost who was important to them. Darla included in her mom. Lee included his grandmother and Adrian included his grandparents. They added people that Disney and Pixar have lost over time like Walt Disney himself. They also included Steve Jobs and Don Rickles who was a big part of the family at Pixar.
This is a good reason why you always stay for the credits during a movie. I hope that everyone watches through to the end to take part in the emotion of these lives that have had such a big impact on the creators, Disney and Pixar. It’s a very personal reflection of thanks to everyone who’s been there for them.
Disney Pixar’s COCO is in theaters everywhere now! The perfect movie to enjoy with your family! Check out the trailer below:
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Visit the official COCO website here: http://movies.disney.com/coco