All interviews from the memorable COCO cast, directors and producers will be forever etched in my heart and resonating with who I am. If you haven’t seen COCO – I would say, Go, See It! The fundamental question that is raised in a very gentle, yet in such a powerful and beautiful way by the creators at Disney•Pixar is the question of who we are as people, as a family, as individuals.
We are standing on the shoulders of those who came ahead of us. To honor their contribution to who we are today is our soulful obligation to keep life vibrant power that keeps giving. And to do so, we need to REMEMBER. Remember those thanks to whom we came into this world. This is the entire point and meaning of the culturally-rich celebration of the Day of the Dead in Mexico. The movie takes this tradition and draws a million of other elements that make COCO an exquisite masterpiece of one of a kind to be shared with your family.
The interview with Edward James Olmos, who lended his voice to a swiftly-lived int he movie character by the name Chicharron, is one of the first ones we did. The emotional effect from the conversation with this actor left a lasting effect on me. I may not remember all that he had said, but I will remember forever the way his words made me feel.
Here are some of the most memorable thoughts of that interview.
What is your opinion of the movie COCO is about?
It’s pretty simple. I mean, the film itself is very direct in making you feel that the Day of the Dead is a very needed moment in everybody’s life. Everybody has their own way of dealing with their past and where they come from; and each culture has their own way of doing it; and it’s wonderful when you learn about it, but this is the first time that I’ve ever seen this explained so simply.
And that’s why I took the role. I mean, my part is a cameo, but it’s very intrinsic to the story. I mean, you really realize what happens when no one thinks of you anymore.
How did you draw on your own experiences for the role?
Draw on my own experiences? No, I stayed with the script, I didn’t have to go write a Bible about this character. I didn’t need to do research. They had it all written, so I was brought into this, and they invited me top Pixar and asked me to come down; and they wanted to talk to me about this movie that they were making. I said I’d love to, and I went down, and I saw their studios, and I saw their creative space; and it’s beautiful.
I mean, it’s just wonderful. If you ever have the opportunity, go [see Pixar studios], but I went down there and they told me the story. I didn’t know the whole story. I never read the whole script, so when I sat down, I was just like you. I sat down and I knew my little portion of it which was directly related to the characters I worked with. Hector and little Miguel and those, that was it. That’s what I knew and they had told me, you know, it dealt with family and it dealt with remembrance.
And I know about the Day of the Dead, and we have celebrated the Day of the Dead since I was born. It’s an integral part of living inside of a Mexican [LAUGHS] household. Halloween was different. Using [LAUGHS] the moment of Halloween as a celebration of our death. Life and death situation here in this planet and our life, but we always would go and celebrate the Day of the Dead with my great-grandparents, my great-great grandparents.
And we’d always go around where they were all buried at the Evergreen Cemetery [LAUGHS] in East L.A. Go ahead.
Any message to those people who feel afraid to go see the movie with kids?
I think we have right to be defensive of our culture because the art forms have a tendency to be exploited. They romanticize, glamorize, exploit the material. They try to make money with it, and in a way, that’s what it is. This is a business. The entertainment business, but in a case like this, this is probably the most effective and the most important film that’s come out of the Hollywood system, because at this moment in time especially, no one knew six years when they started to do this that it would come out in this year [LAUGHS], this month and the situation would be what we’re experiencing right this moment.
For us to be at this level right now and be able to sit here and be happy about something that touches every single person no matter where you come from, what your roots are. All it does it makes you think about where you come from and who you are. Without being able to understand, where you come from, it’s really hard for you to be here. You’re constantly wondering. Say, you’re an orphan, and you don’t know anything about your past.
You don’t, you do, you have no idea. I’m constantly searching for that reality and trying to find out something to help me nail it down a little bit more, understand myself better. Who am I? I was raised by my great-grandparents. Forget it, guys. I just had a very emotional experience upstairs talking about this because I’ll tell you the story that I told them, because it’s a story that I think really personifies what this movie represents.
And to talk about these people that don’t want to give it a chance, fine. Don’t. I can’t help them. Sadness is that this, if exposed to a two or three or four, five-year-old child, will burn itself into their system and their whole way of being and will end up making them whole. They’ll never forget the people who took them to see it. Let alone, they’ll never forget who they are, where they come from.
They’ll constantly be looking for that. Just like little, you know, the final when he’s there telling this little sister [he refers to the final episode of COCO]. And this is your a-ha moment, oh, my God, it’s so emotional. But to tell you the impact of story and to be able to relate to stories and be able to understand the great-grandparent and the grandparent and the parent. My father and my mother gave us as much time as they could.
Remembering the wisdom of his great-grandfather
My father’s gone, and everyday I think about him. I don’t just think of him on day of the Dead. I think about him every single. I’m emotional about it. When I was about three years old, I remember very well, walking with my great-grandfather. When you’re that age, you ask tons of questions, “What’s that? What does this? Where we going?” You know, constantly.
And my great-grandfather was about eighty-one when I was three. No, he was about eighty-three. He died at eighty-seven. I was about seven when he died, so about, he was about eighty-three. He was shuffling, and we were walking along the street, and I was asking a thousand questions. Constantly talking, and he would just listen and move along. One day, I said, “Grandpa, Abuelito, Abuelito, what is that?”
What does that say? What is that? And he looked at it, and then he looked down and me, and now we’re here on First and Indiana which is the heart of East L.A., Boyle Heights, and he says, “Whenever you see that, mijito, you look for the bird. You look for a plant. You look for a flower. You look for a tree. You look for grass. Because, mijito, that’s a stop sign.”
I said, okay. That’s how I learned what a stop sign was. Now, my grandfather wouldn’t have said that. My father would not have said that. They would not have understood that moment in time and what it meant to resonate. Now, when I see a stop sign, and I’m going down the street at seventy, who do I think about? You don’t. I do. If you tell this story to somebody else, they’re going, in turn, say, wow.
Got to, got to remember that one because basically, what happens is, that is wisdomm and you can only get that from the great-grandparent. You can’t get it from the grandparent. He knew what he was doing. He knew exactly what he was doing, and so, you know, there was no birds. I think there was no trees. It was First Street.
And there was not a tree. There was sidewalk, so I’m looking around, going, oh. A sparrow or something flew by. Say, hey, Grandpa, there’s a bird. Okay, great. Great. And that was it. We never talked about it again. Didn’t have to. I knew it. I knew what that was. It was a stop sign, and when you see that, you look for the grass. You look for nature. You look for life, and so I’ve carried that with me. Here I am at seventy, telling the story that I received. Those are the stories that when you pass them on, like what it did to you when you heard it for the first time right now.
You realize wow, that’s really interesting. You know, that’s what this is. That’s what Coco is. That’s what our people who don’t want to see this because they didn’t make it or it wasn’t made by, you know, a total Latino structured organization, like me. [LAUGHS] I didn’t produce the movie. I’m in it. Maybe that’ll help, but that being said, this is a great contribution. They don’t even know yet. They won’t find out. I mean, they being the structure of Pixar, the directors, the non-Latinos that have learned about this now.
They [directors of the movie] don’t have the faintest idea what’s going to happen with this movie. Twenty years from today, every Latino family and then many, many other cultures also will have this film in their library, and put it in whenever the kids are around. Here, watch this one [LAUGHS] and they will in turn embellish and bring forth. That’s why, Selena is a perfect example.
Selena, who’s been dead now for twenty-two years. What a sad story. Pathetic, difficult movie to watch, but you love watching it. People love that movie, and they watch it over and over and again. When they get to the point when she’s famous, they kill her. When you have children, six, seven, twelve years-old that are sitting in the room with you, and you’re watching it [Selena movie], and they’ve been laughing, having a good time watching this beautiful story about this little girl who becomes famous, living her dream, and all of the sudden, bingos.
Why did they kill her? That’s’ the question. No one knows.
Do you have special memories of the Day of the Dead from growing up?
It was a party. It was a celebration of life, of living, with bringing, conjuring up the understanding of those that got you there. You’re just saying thank you to them. Thanks for bringing me to this space, and here we are around your tomb or your gravesite, and we put flowers and little candles and their picture and their food. I bring my dad his menudo [LAUGHS]. We just sit there and laugh.
And cry. There’s a lot of crying, and especially the older you get. The closer you get to being in the hole, the closer you are to understanding what life really is, and we’re all that close, by the way. With the situation in North Korea, we are very, very close, all of us, and we all know it and then we all like, sit and go, oh Jesus. Why do you have that, how that gonna come out? But that’s the reality of our life. We have to celebrate it.
Why is Chicharron forgotten and what do you think we can do to avoid being forgotten?
Just be happy around those that you love because that’s, somebody asked me, what you’d like to be remembered for. I’d like to remember the fact that I always try to be happy, and I was always up, because it’s a choice. I could have woken up this morning and said, oh, God almighty, I have to do so much of this stuff. I gotta do this, oh, God, what a day! But instead, I woke up and I said, well, I got to do all this stuff, yeah, but guess what? I woke up.
How is this movie now shaping your own experience with your family?
It always has been a part of my family. Day of the Dead has always has been an integral part of our family, but in essence, this is an ability to understand that this will live for the duration of humanity. This piece of art will be around as long as any piece of art can be around. It’ll be passed on, so I’m very grateful. I play an integral part to the story, because you really realize what it is that we’re doing, and what this is about.
And when I finally said to Hector, “Play me my song. Oh, I can’t play it. No. Play me my song. You want the guitar, you play me my song. You took my femur, and you never gave it back, so, play me my song.” Okay. And then when he [Chicharron] closes his eyes, he finally just gives it, oh, thank you. [SIGHS] And then the little boy goes, whoa, what happened?
[bctt tweet=”The moment you forget who came before you – they die their final death. #COCO explores this concept & delivers it in a crescendo when Chicharron takes his final step into the oblivion. #PixarCocoEvent #HeartThis” username=”DiscoverSelf”]
Chicharron’s Appearance in COCO Is To Watch For
And that’s when Hector says, well, that’s what happens when people don’t think about you anymore. You disappear. And where’d he go? I don’t know. You know, and it’s not about religion. Far from it. It’s not about belief in heaven and earth and all that. It’s all about just the understanding of what we conjure when we’re here. Not one of you can be here without thinking about who got you here; and if you don’t do it daily, you’re missing the day and that’s really the key to, you know, just being thankful.
I wake up in the morning, I go, thank you, and when I go to sleep, I’m grateful. Ahh. And those two moments in my life are consistent. When I wake up in the morning, the very first thing I do is make the bed. I don’t know. I think that came from my great-grandmother. I’m sure of it. As soon as you get out of bed, make your bed. Okay. I can’t even go through the room without the bed being made. There’s something about that.
And your opinion of the Chancleta?
Oh, the chancleta, well, forget it. That moment in the movie is probably one of the most priceless moments. For those of you that don’t know anything about it, I got to tell you. If that’s a first experience you’re ever heard about the chancleta, the shoe… Really, chancla is a slipper, so it’s a slipper thing in some places. It’s an actual slipper, but they take it off, oh, man! And because they took it, you know why they took it off!
She [Abuelita] uses it correctly. Very seldom do they hit anybody with it like this. It wasn’t, they couldn’t catch the kids! They took out the chancleta to throw it. Do you remember when she throws it, and she goes, okay, now, go get it and she’s walking around barefoot and like that? That was the epitome of a grandma! And when she gets the mariachi with it and sticks up his nose, I almost died.
That would never happen, but man, that’s funny.
Abuelita is Using her Famous – Infamous – Chankleta on the Mariachi!
Join in the Conversation!
I would like to be remembered by…
Amongst my family, just as, hopefully, they’ve shared enough time with me, and that I shared enough time with them and remember the times that we spent together. I mean, so many different stories, but just to be remembered in a way that empowers them would be nice.
Anything To Declare?
This clip showcases a very important moment in the movie. The Day of the Dead is the one that all the “citizens” of that land are crossing over to this world in order to have the power of existing. Hector, the voice of another favorite of mine Gael Garcia Bernal, is trying to cross, but he gets stuck in the supposedly weightless path made of petals (figure out what they mean!) Hector cannot cross because nobody put his picture onto the Ofrenda! Tragic. Sad. Pulls us deeper into the movie from that moment on.
This clip tells you a story of the importance of the remembering people who have passed and left us in life to our wits and problems and anything that we need to overcome. The gist of the COCO story is about what you can do personally to extend the life of those who are not with us in the physical form. The importance of remembering is a not only a cultural phenomenon. It is a historical important element. What we know and remember allows us to navigate wiser along life’s events and preserve the memories of those who are gone, yet are with us – all because we remember them.
Beautiful. Powerful. Making A Difference Song.
And if you would like to hear the song performed by Anthony Gonzalez during our interview with him, please navigate HERE to see and to hear him! You will truly enjoy his version of the same song – sung more like in the movie.
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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