If you love Disney Pixar movies, then you would be interested in learning more about who makes them. Here’s my interview with COCO directors & producer.
My journey to this interview began from an unforgettable Red Carpet experience of COCO premiere at the El Capitan Theatre. The people, the food, the music, the ambiance of love and care and respect were flowing throughout the entire event and have left a lasting effect in my heart. I had a golden opportunity to meet and speak with actors and actresses who were part of making this incredible experience of movie-going an unforgettable one.
Look a the names and recognize those who lended their voices to characters in COCO:
• Red Carpet Event for COCO Premiere
• COCO’s Actor Benjamin Brett, the voice behind “Ernesto de la Cruz,” Interview Highlights
• COCO’s Gael Garcia Bernal, the voice behind “Hector, “ Interview Highlights
• COCO Magical Gifts Just in Time of the Holiday Season
• 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
Meeting with the COCO’s directors and producer and having a chance to ask them a lot of questions truly opened up my mind on the process of movie-making. Behind-the-scenes are not advertised anywhere. Yet a million of things have to be organized and delivered prior to the movie being made. Here are some of the most memorable moments from the interview with the most recognized in the Disney•Pixar world movie-makers.
When you go to see COCO, you may leave drenched in your own tears.
Assuming you did not celebrate The Day of the Dead at your childhood.
What is the most dear to your heart that you’ve learned
during your research and movie making?
I knew a fair amount about the tradition before I started this, but I then learned way more, of course, in the course of making it. One thing that I didn’t know, that we learned early on is this belief, that we’re all capable of kind of dying multiple deaths. The actual belief is that we all die the first time when our heart stops. Then we die kind of 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 kind of the final death. That was whole notion that I had never heard of before diving into this. And, once we all heard it, it just was clear to us thaT it was incredibly poignant and needed to be an important part of the story that we were telling. And so, it took some time over time, but ultimately that notion ended up becoming the bedrock of the story that we told.
What was the biggest challenge to get the story right?
There’s a lot of pieces to this story, and I think when you’re watching it the first time through, a lot of them can be hidden, and that’s by design. But there’s a very certain order to what the characters know about each other, and what they say to each other, and who’s in the room when. It just took a lot of iteration to figure out how to put these puzzle pieces together.
On top of that, there’s the fact that this is a tradition that a certain portion of the audience is going to be very familiar with, and then another very large portion is going to have no idea.
It took a while to figure out, how do we invite people in, who aren’t familiar, without slowing down too much for the people who are.
Why do you like making us cry so much?
I don’t know that I like making you cry, but I like making you feel something. I mean, I know that when I go and see movies, they’re very few and far between where I, where I actually feel genuine emotion or, or a movie really sticks with me after I’ve seen it. So, you know, when we make our movies we try to do that. There’s no garauntee that we’ll be able to, but I think, you know, that’s the most satisfying for us if we can have the audience feel something personal to themselves and, we know we’re on the right track when we have those feelings ourselves.
It’s hard when we’re making the film over the course of six years, you know, you’ll have an idea – like we had the idea for Miguel to sing to mama Coco. You’ve all seen the movie now, right? We had the idea to have Miguel to sing to mama Coco and kind of bring her out of her dementia very early on. It was in our first screening I think, and I think we were all very effected that first time that we put it together. But, it was then years afterwards that we continued to refine the movie and change the story leading up to that point, and we had to just trust in that initial feeling that we had when we first put that scene up.
And try to hold on to that and make sure that many years later when he were actually animating the scene that, that it, you know, hopefully would still have the effect on other people that it had on us initially.
But in order to, to feel all those feelings you’ve had to go on a journey with all of our character, and you’ve had to, you know, laugh with them and be on big adventure with them, and become completely invested with them. We have to earn, we have to earn all of that emotion. So, it comes out of a multitude of the emotions from the movie.
A Blessing As A Premise…
Adrian Molina’s Family’s Story When He Went Off to College
The other thing that was very difficult about this is that in the land of the dead we needed to create a whole set of rules that are not exactly intuitive to an audience. One of them being the idea of a blessing, and that the blessing is the way to send you home, and so this was an idea when I started writing and suggesting in the room. Because in the first act, we always knew what Miguel really wanted dead down – he’s a musician, and he loves his family, and all he wants is for them to give their acceptance and give their okay.
In the second act, why don’t we make that manifest? Why don’t we make him literally need his family’s blessing in order to go home and set things right. And this was inspired by this moment when I was going off to art school. I had car packed up, my dad gave me forty bucks to gas up the car on the drive down five to Cal Arts.
But before I left the house, they [parents] said, “Before you go, we just want to give you our blessing.” And I’m like, I don’t know what that means.
So it was my mom and my dad, I took a knee, I knelt down, and they just said a little prayer over me. And they said, “We love you, we support you, we know this is your first time going off on your own, and we want you to know that you have our blessing.”
I told the story in the room because, I said, I think this could be a very powerful moment, and I don’t know that it’s something everyone has experienced, but it was something that came from my family life that I thought, if we can convey what this feels like, it will.
If we can convey what this feels like, I think it has the power to be very meaningful. Especially with mama Imelda, her blessing changes over the course of this film.
It’s conditional at first, and then it becomes unconditional. That transition, I think, says so much. And her action changes over the course of the film, and I think that’s so beautiful that it takes both sides coming together to really bring a family together.
Are there Any Cameos in the Movie?
There’s only two cameos of, of actual living people in the film. One is Michael Giacchino, and the other is our music consultant, Camilo Lara, who plays the Dj at the party.
And then, after Miguel takes the guitar and the light comes in on the window, I’m the guitar!
But we do have, Adrian and I both have a line in the movie. I always like to have a cameo, not physically, but just my voice. So, I’m the guy who says, “What did I miss?” at the end.
We tried to fill the film with as many kind of famous Mexican celebrities as we could. Some of which we knew would be recognizable for general audiences, but some we knew would only be, you know, only people who grew up in Mexico would know.
People like, Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete and Cantinflas, Maria Felix, El Santo of course, Esquivel… I made Juan Garcia Esquivel the guy who’s playing the glass harmonica before the talent show. You know, he’s the glasses. He’s a quirky, kind of semi-well known Mexican musician, so was there anybody else? Of course Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo.
So much of that was inspired by the fact that we’ve got this once in a lifetime opportunity to have characters literally go into history, and Miguel is this kid who wants so much to use his music to connect, but he doesn’t have the role models to be able to help him on that path. So what what a wonderful opportunity to lean on these Mexican icons who used their art to change the world, and let them be the kind of characters that kind of inspire him and push him. You know, to use his art to do beautiful things. I’m so happy that this is the one film where you can do that in such an intuitive way.
Making a Timeless, Classic Movie
We were always striving to make a film that felt kind of timeless. I’m hoping that it will always feel like it’s kinda set now. No matter when people see it.
I remember when I was a kid after school watching Warner Brothers cartoons, like Bugs Bunny. Every once in a while one would pop up that would be full of people I didn’t recognize, they’d have like a scene in a bar and there’d be Edward G. Robinson and, like a lot of movie stars from that time that I didn’t know who they were, but I knew they were somebody famous at some time.
It just felt that doing this in this film also felt like a little nod to kind of the history of animation in having kind of caricatured cameos of well-known people.
Cantinflas, Dustin Hoffman – How are your characters in COCO
related to all these famous people?
I mean, people see the film, and they’ll see de la Cruz, and they’ll be like, he’s Infante, [LAUGHTER]. Infante’s in the movie, and we imagine he’s a contemporary, and Cantinflas is in the film [Mario Fortino Alfonso Moreno Reyes, known casually as Mario Moreno, and known professionally as Cantinflas, was a Mexican comic film actor, producer, and screenwriter and an iconic figure in Mexico and Latin America], but you get a sense from Hector, he’s got that vest and the low-riding pants. But, yeah, we just wanted to have these characters exist in the film. I think it’s a compliment that people are the characters of the film themselves, and it feels like it harkens back to this age of Mexican cinema.
We were so immersed in our research for so many years that it’s inevitable that things would infuse their way into the film that we weren’t consciously trying to put there. But just was cause of the world we were living in and creating from.
COCO Movie Has an All-Latino Actors.
Was It a Decision You Made from the beginning?
Yeah, absolutely. It was non-negotiable. I mean, we knew we had to put John Ratzenberger in the movie.
It was very important to us, and… because it was the right thing to do. I mean it would have been very strange to not. It didn’t make casting a challenge; it definitely narrowed the options. I’ve worked with a lot of great actors in the past, and many of the them have become my friends. Part of me felt like, I wish I could work with them again, but I knew it wasn’t going to be on this movie. So, we have new friends.
COCO Premiered in Mexico.
How Important Was It?
It was important. We try to talk as much as we can about how much research that we did on this film, and part of the effect that research had on us – wasn’t just on the story. It was the fact that we were meeting these families and we were making these friends, and we were collaborating with artists all over Mexico. And the least we could do to pay homage to the beauty of the tradition and the place where they came from – we were just over the moon to have the opportunity to premiere in Mexico, especially in Mexico City at the Palace of Fine Arts.
It’s like, who gets that opportunity and the level of love and engagement from that audience and from the country ever since?!
It’s been very overwhelming in the most beautiful way. But it just felt like all we could do to say thank-you so much for opening your hearts, opening the doors, and maybe a gesture on our part to say what a beautiful tradition this is where it comes from everyone – take notice [LAUGHTER].
Digital Ofrenda at the End of the Movie
Ofrenda is a collection of objects placed on a ritual altar during the annual and traditionally Mexican Día de los Muertos celebration.
I had an idea at some point that I thought it would be lovely to do some sort of digital ofrenda at the end of the film because, you know, we had learned so much about the traditions, and we had incorporated them into our lives at Pixar. For the second year now we’ve created a big ofrenda in the atrium of Pixar, and we’ve invited everyone in the company to bring in photos of their loved ones to put on the ofrenda, and I just had this thought, “Wouldn’t it be lovely to kind of thank all the people that supported us, and continue to support us across time?”
And, so, yeah, we ended up extending the opportunity to everyone in the company to submit a photo of somebody who they had lost who was important to them, and we did that. My grandmother’s in there.
My mom, yeah.
Your grandparents. And we also put a lot of people that we’ve lost over time. Different animators that we’ve lost unfortunately.
Walt Disney is in there, Steve Jobs is in there. We put Don Rickles on there, because we lost him this year; he was a big part of our family at Pixar.
I regret that it’s at the end of the credits, because I think that a lot of people won’t see it, because a lot of people don’t stay for credits. But for the people who do, I think it will be very meaningful for them. And it’s very meaningful for us. It’s a very personal reflection of thanks to everyone who’s been there for us.
I wold like to be remembered for…
I would probably like to be remembered as someone who tried to use their art to make the world a better place.
I will say that, [LAUGHTER]. And I will add on to that the same thing I always tell my kids, “The only thing I want for them is to be kind people.” That’s always the most important thing to me, so I would like to be remembered as somebody who was kind and fair.
I will say that, [LAUGHTER]. It’s like dominos. I think especially as a woman who had courage to learn how to find my voice and to set an example for others. I’m always conscious of that in the world. If you’re in any kind of a public figure to set an example to find your voice and speak out loud about things that matter.
The Magical COCO Plays In Theaters
Beginning November 22, 2017
A Magical & Filled with History, Culture, & Behind-the-Scenes Details Interview with COCO Directors @LeeUnkrich @AdrianTheMolina &Producer @DarlaKAnderson #PixarCocoEvent #PixarCoco #COCO https://t.co/aM7yq6zjFB pic.twitter.com/fOqFbPoxXX
— Celebrate Woman (@DiscoverSelf) November 28, 2017