COCO has been marching in theaters for a few weeks now, grabbing our attention with its magical characters and their transformation, while providing an educational insight into history, culture and rich family traditions of the Latino culture.
I had my magical experience of the COCO movie and attended the Red Carpet party and premiere of the Disney•Pixar animation at The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.
Having a rare opportunity to interview the Directors and Producer of the movie, meet and greet and ask questions the talented actors and actresses who lended their voices to the characters in COCO, made my life richer. Being able to connect to these people through the intimate knowledge of the movie writing and production, hear them share their personal stories and feelings they invested into the characters – these are some of the things that make my personal experience an unforgettable memory.
If you haven’t seen the movie – go see it on the big screen before it ends its march to be offered on a Blu-ray DVD.
Dinsey•Pixar does an immense research before they even sit down to ready a storyboard! Such research – from authentic sources, people and countries and cultures, – can last for several years. This is for your information, so you could appreciate the authentic care and moral character every Disney•Pixar movie is made with. COCO is no exception! For about three years, COCO’s writers lived and breathed the Latin Culture, learned about traditions and their celebration, met and spoke with the people, historians and those on the street, to incorporate the details and draw a genuine picture that reflects on the culture and the people in it.
Obviously, COCO is a fictional story. But this story is deeply rooted in the facts and colorful traditions of the Latino people.
Here are some of the authentic things that played a huge role in making this animation movie.
11 Things to Watch for in Disney•Pixar’s COCO
All of the guitar playing in “Coco” is technically accurate. Filmmakers videotaped musicians playing each song and strapped GoPros to their guitars to give animators reference footage. New code was written to simulate how guitar strings vibrate to make the motion blur of guitar-playing look good.
The Rivera family’s shoemaking facilities were inspired by a real shoemaker’s shop in Oaxaca, Mexico. To showcase this generations-old business, artists included details like rolls of leather in the back of a truck, defunct shoemaking tools stored in the attic, and even an old Rivera Family Shoemakers sign near the entrance to Miguel’s attic hideout.
Filmmakers were so dazzled by the vibrant alebrijes they saw in their travels throughout Mexico, they wanted to incorporate the folk art into the story. The alebrijes are brought to life in “Coco” as dynamic spirit guides throughout the Land of the Dead. A secret nod to Mamá Imelda’s spirt guide Pepita appears on the Rivera family’s ofrenda: a cat alebrije near Imelda’s photo is painted in the same colors as Pepita.
When Miguel stops to check out a table of alebrijes in Santa Cecilia, Pepita is visible to his left. There are also two small clownfish alebrije on his right that were inspired by Marlin and Nemo from “Finding Dory.” Other veteran Pixar characters, like Kevin from “Up,” were used as base models for the animated alebrije characters in the Land of the Dead.
Miguel meets legendary artist Frida Kahlo during his journey in the Land of the Dead. Filmmakers used various references — including the artist’s own work — to create the character, designing a variation of the Tehuantepec-style costume Kahlo often wore. Inspired by Kahlo’s pet spider-monkeys that appear in many of her self-portraits, filmmakers created a monkey-alebrije for Kahlo’s spirit guide.
Food is a big part of Día de Muertos celebrations—and can be a challenge to create in animation. Getting the right sheen on the turkey leg that
Miguel throws for Dante was tricky, as was creating the plate of molé negro that Dante eyes on the ofrenda—making the color and texture appealing wasn’t easy. Filmmakers purchased a lot of “reference” along the way to ensure authenticity (a welcome task), and even made tamales together early in the production.
Each Character Gets A Backstory
Miguel creates his own ofrenda in a hidden attic corner. Dedicated to Ernesto de la Cruz, the ofrenda includes candles and marigolds, as well as pictures of the performer. Miguel uses a beat-up TV and VCR to watch old movies starring Ernesto himself. In fact, Miguel has watched the videos so much, he taught himself to play the guitar. The room also features several of Ernesto’s albums. To keep Ernesto’s career straight, filmmakers created a backstory for Miguel’s beloved idol that includes a full timeline of his movies, songs and albums.
Artists embraced the skull motif, utilizing the iconic shape in creative ways. The headstock of Ernesto de la Cruz’s guitar is perhaps the most memorable skull in the film (other than the skeletons featured). The motif also appears throughout the Land of the Dead, including the gate to Marigold Grand Central Station, the windows in the Department of Family Reunions, the doors on the funiculars at Ernesto’s mansion, the lights on the stage where Miguel sings “Un Poco Loco,” the light fixtures in the clerk’s office, and even the DJ station at the party. The synchronized swimmers who perform late in the movie provide yet another example.
Twins run in the Rivera family. Miguel meets his twin uncles, Tio Felipe and Tio Oscar, in the Land of the Dead. He also has twin cousins Benny and Manny, who are about 4 years old.
Miguel’s loyal canine companion Dante is a Xolo dog — short for Xoloitzcuintli — the national dog of Mexico. Nearly hairless, Xolos often have missing teeth, and for that reason their tongue naturally hangs out. Filmmakers included this detail in Dante’s design — his tongue behaves like a character itself. To achieve the look, they borrowed the rig used in “Finding Dory” for “septopus” Hank’s dynamic tentacles.
The song “Remember Me,” heard multiple times in the movie, was written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the team behind the Oscar®-winning song “Let It Go” from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 2013 feature “Frozen.”
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Red Carpet Event for COCO Premiere
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COCO’s Gael Garcia Bernal, the voice behind “Hector, “ Interview Highlights
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COCO’s Anthony Gonzales, the voice behind “Miguel,” the boy with a powerful voice; & Alanna Ubach, the voice of “Mama Imelda,” Interview Highlights
COCO Director Lee Unkrich, Writer & Co-Director Adrian Molina, and Producer Darla Anderson, Interview Highlights
COCO’s Edward James Olmos, the voice of “Chicharron,” Interview Highlights