The magical COCO created in the most creative studios of the entire world of Disney Pixar would fascinate your entire imagination and leave you in awe. All because Disney Pixar knows HOW-TO tell a good story.
Mark Your Calendar for November 22
COCO Opens In Theaters
A story of a boy by the name Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) who has love for music and for his family takes us on a journey of a lifetime. Literally and figuratively.
One of the central characters in the movie is a singing legend, the love of the crowds – Ernesto de la Cruz. The voice to this colorful character was lended by one of the most talented actors in the movie industry – Benjamin Bratt. Yes, the Benjamin Bratt NYPD Detective Rey Curtis on the NBC drama series Law & Order, Dr. Jake Reilly on ABC’s Private Practice, and Steve Navarro on Fox’s 24: Live Another Day.
I had a privilege to interview Benjamin Bratt about the COCO movie and his part and involvement in the making of this huge Disney Pixar project. He came to meet us after the day of the COCO premiere at The El Capitan Theatre.
I’ve been around the block a little bit and that was probably the most spectacular, most heartwarming, most fun premier I’ve ever been to. I mean where else can you be greeted by a mariachi band and the dancers and the whole thing was a celebration from start to finish. I was rocked, dude, by the end.
During a soulful and very sincere conversation, Benjamin Bratt opened up about his connection to the movie, and how it had changed him during the entire process of making his character, Ernesto de la Cruz to come alive, though from the Land of the Dead. He applauded the talented Pixar group of artisans, as he lovingly called them, to explore the cultural connections and how they reverberate on the individual level.
He remembered the day when he stepped into the Pixar Studios to take a glimpse at the COCO project and what could transpire out of it.
Way back when, when I was first given a tour of the Pixar Studios up in Emeryville, Lee [Unkrich] and Darla [Anderson] and Adrian [Molina] led me into this room that, from floor to ceiling on every wall, was covered in Mexican iconography, Day of the Dead colors and images and some of the characters that were drawn, illustrated that they were going to portray in the film.
And it affected me in a way that actually kind of surprised me, because it was in that moment that I recognized these beautiful brown faces albeit they’re animated figures. They looked like people I know, the people I come from. And it underscored the fact that that portrayal hasn’t been done yet on this kind of scale. And so, in a way, it reintroduces who we are as a people in our uniqueness, but also in our sameness to everyone else in the world whether you’re from China or Africa or Europe or anywhere else in the world.
That at the end of the day, for all the uniqueness that we have, and there’s a lot that’s vibrant and authentic and beautiful about Latino culture, we all at the end of the day are more alike than we are different and this need or sense of wanting to belong to something, to recognize where you come from, to stay connected to the people that paved a path for you before you got here.
At the US COCO premiere that took place at The El Capitan Theatre on November 8, 2017, the pre-party festivities were all about recognizing and celebrating the Latino cultures around the world. Music, food, activities – all of them were connected to the theme and culture presented to us in the movie. I was deeply touched how seamlessly coordinated all elements in COCO and the party had been.
Music is a huge part of the movie. It is happening everywhere! Benjamin Bratt, turned out, was more connected to music than we had ever known!
You know, I acknowledge that I’m a fairly decent actor but I’ve always wanted to be a singer. I just admire singers so much and musicians in general because with singing, your voices your instrument.
And it translates across all language, all cultures because a beautiful voice is a beautiful voice. I don’t possess one when it comes to singing. And I’ve always said I’d give my left big toe to be able to be a balladeer like Mark Anthony, say. He’s just a phenomenal, powerful singer and a friend, but someone whose talent I admire immensely. So, when I was offered the role, I thought it was a bit ironic that I was meant to play the most, you know, famous singer and musician in Mexican history.
I had a little chuckle for myself. And then, of course, I became immediately terrified because Lee [Unkrich] and Darla [Anderson] and Adrian [Molina] wanted me to attempt it. And what better circumstances could I do that?
They provided me with Liz Kaplan who’s the instructor, mentor to the stars in a New York. I had several sessions with her. And they just gave me the opportunity to fail. And the first few sessions, I’ll tell you, they were horrible. They were really horrible. But, you know, they gave me a shot. I was happy to do it. And that it’s in the movie, I recorded every song that it’s in the movie, I’m really proud of it.
Check Out How Colorful the Music in COCO Is!
When we asked the actor where he drew his inspiration for his character in COCO, here’s what he shared.
The truth is, I had never seen a film with Pedro Infante or Jorge Negrete (well-known performers in Mexican culture). I was loosely aware of the Vicente Fernandez’s music. But after Lee [Unkrich] and Adrian [Molin] shared with me that those are the people in real life that they were drawing on for this character [Ernesto de la Cruz], I went out to YouTube, of course, and studied a lot of it. And what I realized was that there’s real star power.
They [performers] were like the Mexican versions of Frank Sinatra. Someone who is as adored for his musical ability, as he was for his movie star magnetism. And that doesn’t happen to everyone. Not everyone possesses that set of talent or that particular personal chemistry. So, you know, you have to create it. I just thought, okay, I’ll just try to be larger-than-life. And it’s an even more difficult trick to do it just vocally. Thank God, they draw the guy. That’s a good-looking skeleton. His hair was perfect.
I can tell only one thing without spoiling a movie for you – Benjamin Bratt has quite phenomenal vocal pipes! The music played in COCO will fascinate you with the melodic vibrations that would be hard to do for a person who doesn’t possess a strong voice and a gift to sing. Benjamin Bratt has done an absolute and phenomenal job giving his character Ernesto de la Cruz the voice that can be bragged about (and de la Cruz did!)
The conversation about the movie and what is truly important in life that can be reminded by watching COCO took Benjamin onto the memory lane and into a reflective mood. He shared freely. He spoke out of his heart. He left a soulful aura with me at the end of the interview. When asked what memory of him he would like to be remembered by when he is gone, the actor replied:
That’s such a profound question and the first time anyone’s asked it. If I am to be remembered at all, I would hope it would be for my kindness or my generosity, for the love that lives in my heart for people that I hold near and dear. And for someone who tried to live his life with integrity. Nothing too deep. Oh, and he’s pretty fun, too. He was a fun guy.
I have seen COCO at its premiere and was deeply affected emotionally, in a very profound way. I hear this question if it is OK to take little kids to the movie. My answer is, YES. Disney Pixar have a gift and a skill to speak profoundly without damaging the integrity of a human soul. Benjamin Bratt confirmed my confidence in how COCO empowers parents to approach and talk about the subject of death with little children.
I think people give short shrift to the impact and power of film stories. They really can do a lot to teach young people, whether you want them to or not. And in that, this story views death as a kind of celebration, as a continuation really of what we are and who we are. And it’s not something to be feared, but something to realize that it’s part of the natural cycle of life and that you can in fact stay connected to the people that you love.
I think there’s a hopefulness in that and a kind of comfort, too, I would say. And I already know that and I already feel that and I already believe that as do most of my family members. But seeing the film reminded me last night as my mother now enters into a certain set of years in her life, she would hate for me to name it, that as we edged closer to our moment of mortality that there will be a kind of comfort in knowing that we can stay connected through prayer, through memory, through acknowledgment, even through ofrendas [in Spanish culture, it is the offering that is made during the Day of the Dead: please note, these “ofrendas” are not a worship item!].
So, my hope is that children will see it as a reminder of what already exists, which is just the next step in this cycle of life. Y’all are getting deep today.
The funny thing is, I think the general population takes the mistake of seeing Latino culture as monolithic and we’re not. That said, there is connective tissue there that really makes us understand one another, whether Mexicano, or Peruano or Colombiano, and part of that is the language of course. Part of that is the religion.
Very much a part of that is the history of colonization that took place where you mix the indigenous blood with Spanish blood creating a Mestizos race. But a lot of it is easier to identify and relate to. And that’s this notion of family and the importance of staying connected and family first and the little dichos (means “sayings”) that are shared in the kitchen and the importance of food.
How there’s a celebration of food for everything, really, the presence and the threat of the chancleta. Any Latino who grew up with an Abuela, who has a mother of a certain age, you know what the chancleta means [a traditional slipper worn in Lationo culture].
Check Out “A Chancleta” Moment – Watch Grandma Closely!
Benjamin did this COCO movie to emphasize the fusion of Latino cultures and a genius behind it powered by Disney Pixar. Actor’s children love the movies and appreciate the lessons they learn from them. The lesson that Benjamin Bratt would like to pass on to his kid is simple, clear and concise.
To have compassion, to be empathetic, to recognize that wherever you come from, whatever your gender is, whatever your sexual orientation, whatever your religion is, lead with kindness, lead with empathy and lead with love.
I would like to leave it at that. COCO will mesmerize you and has a strong probability to make a shift in how you reflect the life around you. It is through the eyes of another when we truly discover a way: to live, to connect to others and to leave the footprints for the generations to come.
Celebrate Disney Pixar COCO With Gusto!
COCO Movie: Here Are the Stories Going Live on Celebrate Blog
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
OPENS November 22, 2017
The Magic In The Making