By Jose Jara
Disney Pixar Film strikes a good chord with music, family, and folklore.
By: Daniel Guzman
Given that my ethnicity is Puerto Rican, I didn’t grow up celebrating “El Dia de Los Muertos,” the Day of the Dead. So, I’m ignorant of this Mexican custom’s reverence and meaning. I bring this up only because after having seen the trailer to Disney Pixar’s new animation film, Coco, I realized that part of the premise of the story deals with this custom. I was surprised to see this film coming out during Thanksgiving week, rather than trying to capitalize some ticket sales around Halloween. After seeing Coco, I discovered that though the story has a lot to do with dead spirits, the heart of the story is about family.
Coco is the story about a young boy named Miguel who has a long lineage of ancestors who are shoemakers. Miguel is in the family business and in the beginning of the film we find him being a shoe shiner, which is one of the first roles he must have in order to prove himself worthy to become a shoemaker like the rest of the family. Miguel’s passion is not in the family business though, but instead, he is totally consumed by music, yet he is forced to hide his desire and talent because the family has been sworn not to partake in any form of music. Miguel’s great great grandfather ran off on his wife and little daughter just to pursue his life as a musician, never to be seen again. His abuelita/grandmother, has everyone in the family & around her neighborhood upholding this music ban. The grandmother has specifically zoned in on Miguel after seeing that he is gravitating towards music every time he gets the chance to. The plot of the story focuses in on a musical talent show that Miguel wishes to be in that is taking place around the same time that the Day of the Dead celebration is occurring.
The Day of the Dead is a time when families go to their dead relatives’ tombs, bring food, and light candles for their deceased loved ones to show them that they are not forgotten. Miguel doesn’t understand the importance of this ritual, but is instead completely fixated on being like his musical idol, Ernesto De La Cruz, voiced by Benjamin Bratt, who is a dead musician who is idolized as if he is the Spanish Elvis Presley. The story takes on a mystical twist when Miguel enters into his idols tomb in order to borrow De La Cruz’s guitar for the talent show. Miguel magically finds himself in the world of the dead, meeting his dead relatives, and stumbling on a dead drifter named Hector, voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal, who aids Miguel in his quest to get back to the world of the living, but not before meeting his dead idol, Ernesto De La Cruz. There’s more to the story that makes the film very enjoyable to follow, but I will leave that for you to uncover.
If the animated films Sing and Book of Life had a baby, they would name it Coco. Though I did enjoy only certain parts of both those films, I can say with most certainty that I enjoyed Coco through and through. The musical sequences of the film were entertaining and uplifting. The family humor that takes place had some customs that I’ve had with my own family that made me chuckle and reminisce. The nostalgia of family togetherness is played just right, not too much where it becomes a hallmark special, and not too little where it has lost importance to the audience. At the heart of Coco’s theme is the value in being remembered long after you’re gone and what you are remembered for. Coco thrills its audience with music, comedy, and great animation! Coco’s visual effects are filled with loads of vibrant colors, and the background spirit characters liven up the film injecting this fictional spirit world with a more energetic pulse than those who are alive and well. Overall, my kids and I found ourselves enamored and glued to the screen while taking in this rich story of love for family, Mexican folklore, and passion for music.