During the Thanksgiving holiday, Disney and Pixar Animation Studios are bringing a new and much-anticipated animated film to the big screen: “Coco.” This film has the same amazing animation quality as every other legendary Pixar animated film of the past few years. Moreover, it includes a unique, authentic portrayal of Mexican culture. It all adds up to a magical and culturally fulfilling experience for the entire family.
“Coco” is a fun comedy adventure for the whole family
From the outset, “Coco” delivers a storyline that’s anchored in family values and tradition. Young Miguel, a 12-year-old boy with a passion for guitars and music, is fascinated by the thought of becoming a professional musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). However, his family has a long-standing ban on music, and Miguel must explore his passion for music in private.
That, of course, leads Miguel to search out the history of his family to see why music is considered to be a “curse.” Why are people trying to stop him from becoming a musician? There are scenes where he is trying to examine old family photographs and where he is trying to figure out what older members of his family – such as his great-grandfather – would think about his love for music.
That already sounds like a very charming premise for a movie, right? You can imagine grandmothers and grandfathers – not just moms and dads – bringing their kids to the local multiplex. This is safe family fare that isn’t trying to be “edgy.” It’s a fun comedy adventure for the whole family.
“Coco” offers a culturally fulfilling view of Mexican traditions
When Disney first started working on “Coco,” there were some immediate concerns that the animated film would be, well, too white. And even when Disney first worked on the name of the film, it ran into problems with the Hispanic-American community. Disney wanted to call the film “The Day of the Dead,” but Hispanics worried that Disney was trying to expropriate Mexican culture and trademark it all under the name of a huge American media & entertainment conglomerate. So, “The Day of the Dead” turned into “Coco.”
There’s a lot about this film that makes it so culturally fulfilling. First and foremost, Disney and Pixar were careful to cast only Latinos in the lead roles. Thus, there is a person of color in the lead role (Anthony Gonzales, as the young Miguel), and the other lead characters include Gael Garcia Bernal and Benjamin Bratt. So nobody can accuse of Disney/Pixar of not getting the very best Latino talent!
On top of all that, Disney pulled in a set of cultural consultants from Mexico to make sure that the view of Mexican culture was authentic. Thus far, it has all paid off. There has been advance positive acclaim for the film’s authentic portrayal of Mexican culture and traditions. In other words, the film doesn’t present a dumbed-down Taco Bell version of what Mexican culture is all about!
“Coco” has a musical soundtrack that will win over music fans
Music plays a huge part in “Coco.” It is central to every single plotline, and it is the character of Miguel – playing his guitar and trying to become the next Ernesto de la Cruz musical legend – who is the real star of this film.
And, the film includes so many great nuggets of wisdom that involve music. Here’s just one example – Ernesto de la Cruz is talking about how to handle adversity in life and says, “When life gets me down, I play my guitar.”
And, to convey the message of how music can capture a certain mood and a certain style, Ernesto de la Cruz likes to mention “a song that’s playing just for you.” It is music, indeed, that gives young Miguel the impetus to set off on his personal adventure.
“Coco” features an animated dog called Dante and he’s wonderful
While “Coco” is only set to hit the big screen in late November in time for Thanksgiving, fans have already had a chance to view a short two-minute film called “Dante’s Lunch – a Short Tail,” which dropped on March 29. The video has been a hit on YouTube, and was designed to showcase the character of Dante, Miguel’s small dog. This dog is wonderful, bouncing around and playfully trying to find a bone – but that bone happens to belong to a skeleton!
“Coco” has some imaginative and evocative dream-like sequences
There are some parts of “Coco” when you may audibly gasp while watching – that’s how impressive the animation work is. There are some sequences, such as when Miguel and Dante are crossing a bridge to the Land of the Dead, that may leave you scratching your head of just exactly how they pulled it off. The artwork is wonderful, and fans have already given the movie major props for the gorgeous art style.
It’s easy to see the hand of Pixar Animation Studios at work here. They are still the very best in the business, and the care and detail that went into every scene is truly impressive. The scenes in the Land of the Dead are amazing, and everything is done so well that you might not even realize that those are just skeletons!
“Coco” has universal and timeless themes
There are some themes within the film that are truly timeless, such as the need to “reach for your dream to make it come true.” Nobody is going to make a dream reality except you, and that’s a lesson that “Coco” offers again and again.
The themes of love, family and the importance of tradition all play a role as well. Much of the action centers on the Day of the Dead, an important Mexican holiday, and one that has special meaning for Miguel’s family.
Ultimately, “Coco” looks like it is going to be another winner in Disney and Pixar’s animation portfolio. This animated film includes a stellar Latino cast, gorgeous artwork that is culturally sensitive to Latinos, and enduring themes that can be enjoyed and explored by the whole family. Truly, “Coco” is a magical and culturally fulfilling experience.