It’s been a long wait to finally watch Pixar’s Coco, a movie which was released in the US all of three months ago, but boy… was it worth it.
I knew to expect great things – this IS a Pixar film after all, known for its strikingly beautiful animation and in-depth, emotionally driven storytelling. My favourite Pixar movies include the Toy Story trilogy, Inside Out and Up just to name a few, but ever since finally getting to see Coco at the cinema, I think I do indeed have a new favourite.
I’ve always been fascinated by Mexican folklore, but it’s something that we in the UK don’t really get to experience other than what we can research online/in books or if we did indeed fly across the pond. The filmmakers of Coco took 5 long trips to Mexico to research the stories, the culture and the people who live there, and it really shows in the movie’s high production values. Watching it, you feel like you yourself have magically transported to Mexico, where the music is bold and passionate, and the colours of the traditional orange marigold flowers pop out of the screen and delight your eyes. Every detail looks, feels and sounds authentic, right down to the all-Latino voice Cast, including the talents of Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach and newcomer Anthony Gonzalez.
You become fully immersed in this gorgeous location and straight away, the story kicks off with a bang, the story of how the Rivera’s, a family of shoemakers, have banned music from their lives due to main character Miguel’s great-great-grandmother Imelda, whose mysterious husband left her and their young daughter Coco to pursue a career as a musician – a career Miguel himself dreams of. When Miguel disobeys his family on the Day Of The Dead by entering a music competition, he steals the famous musician Ernesto De La Cruz’s guitar which unexpectedly whisks him off to the vibrant Land Of The Dead. Miguel meets his skeletal deceased ancestors, including his great-great-grandmother Imelda, but Miguel is focused on one thing – discovering the real identity of his great-great-grandfather, who Miguel strongly believes to be the late, great Ernesto De La Cruz after discovering a clue in an old family photograph. Miguel bumps into skeleton Hector, and the two make a deal – Hector will help Miguel find his great-great-grandfather, and in return, Miguel must put Hector’s photograph up on an ofrenda in the Land Of The Living to prevent the almost-forgotten Hector from fading away forever.
I can tell you now, I have fallen in love with this movie. The whole concept fits so perfectly together. The moral of the story is to remember those we have lost and honour their memory. This is done physically in the film by families putting up photographs of descended loved ones on an ofrenda. This allows the deceased from the Land Of The Dead to carry on living in the afterlife, and to be able visit their relatives on the Day Of The Dead to be reunited with them once again (although the living can’t see them). If a deceased person doesn’t have their photo on an ofrenda, they can’t visit the living world. If the deceased person is completely forgotten by the living, they will fade away… forever.
This plot concept allows us to sympathise with Hector, who at first appears to be a goofball, but has actually had everything taken from him, and only wishes to see his living family again. There is a pang of urgency throughout the movie, as Miguel needs to return to the Land Of The Living by sunrise, or he too will perish, become a skeleton and be trapped in the Land Of The Dead. Miguel is a rebellious 12 year old boy, and is shown to have a big family, a family he does take for granted until his otherworldly adventure. However, Miguel shows kindness to street dog, Dante, and Dante faithfully accompanies Miguel throughout the movie.
The titular character, Coco, is Miguel’s great grandmother, and is shown to be suffering from dementia. Mental health has become somewhat of a staple for Pixar of late – we’ve seen the short term memory loss of Dory from Finding Nemo/Finding Dory and Riley’s depression in Inside Out. But I found Coco’s dementia is particularly close-to-home, having known people with the disease, and what makes it worse is that it is incurable. What I love about the film is how well Coco is respected by her family. Although upsetting for the Riveras, it is something that they have come to accept, and they do their utmost best to make Coco comfortable and keep her invloved during her elder years, including Miguel regularly chatting away to her about all kinds of things, and he is shown to enjoy her company. I particularly enjoyed watching their special relationship on-screen, as Miguel truly cherishes every moment he has with his beloved Mamá Coco.
This is Pixar’s first full-out movie musical with an outstanding soundtrack that will be stuck in your brain for many days after. The use of the song “Remember Me” is particularly a prominent stand-out. The song has a few different forms in the movie, starting out as a show-stopping, all singing/all dancing number, but also being featured as an emotional lullaby. There are also a tonne of other great numbers featured throughout, many of which adopt the native tongue. The soundtrack was partly written by none other than married duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who are responsible for another famous Academy Award winning Disney soundtrack – Frozen.
Animation-wise, the detail to realism is phenomenal. Every time a guitar is played, the exact chords are being shown on screen. When Ernesto sings, his throat and cheeks vibrate in the same pattern of the real-life singer. Hector, as a skeleton, can jiggle his bones around, completely disforming then putting himself back together. All of this makes for an intriguing viewing, and shows that magic is indeed real – the magic of animation appears to exceed any limitations with Pixar, and this is by far their most ambitious movie yet.
Death is something we all as humans naturally fear, and what happens after death is something none of us will know until our time has come to pass. Death is almost always a difficult subject to explain to children. While there are some mild frightening scenes, I truly believe that Pixar has done a wonderful job of making the afterlife look a lot less scary than we all fear – it’s a bright, colourful land full of life and celebration, a land where our beloved ones have never really left us. Coco is something we can all find comfort in, whatever our age or background. To paraphrase what one of my friends said after watching: “I really hope that IS what happens when we die – it’s beautiful!”
P.S. If you are going to see Coco soon, make sure you take tissues – PLENTY of tissues. I went with quite a few of my friends from work, and we all ended up crying at the exact same time!
Have you seen Coco yet? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!