Following on from the extraordinary world-building, thematically complex and ground-breaking Inside Out, Coco, Pixar’s 19th feature, focuses on one of the biggies, death.
Coco tells the sensational story of Miguel Rivera, a boy born in an extended Mexican family with a distrust of music. Unsurprisingly, Miguel is head over heels with the guitar and the Mexican groove, admiring Ernesto de la Cruz, a popular musician. On the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), Miguel accidentally finds a connection between him and his idol, leading to an abandonment of the family and a journey to the world of the departed to seek the truth.
After the successful creation of the world of feelings in Inside Out, Pixar conceptualises Dia de los Muertos as a cultural world of festivity and colours, both visually pleasing and spiritually mysterious. The underworld in the film is very much ‘alive’, with endless activities such as talent shows, glamorous Gatsby-like parties, fantastic creatures known as Alebrije and characters that add both humour and complexity to the story.
In order to familiarise the concept of ‘death’, making it less scary for its target audience, Pixar adds the theme of family. Borrowing the Mexican cultural context of the celebration, Coco shines upon the very question of what it means to be a family. The customs of the Mexicans during Dia de los Muertos, such as decorating the ofrenda or leaving trails of marigold demonstrates a sacred connection between the living and the dead, and the importance of family tradition that Eastern or Asian viewers will understand deeply, and as the film reached its ending, all viewers will be wiping away tears, as Miguel’s journey concludes in a melodramatic yet extremely emotional way.
The film would not be so successful without the musical voices of the amazing cast, especially that of the young Anthony Gonzalez in the role of Miguel. His innocent and playful singing accompanied by the guitar, along with Michael Giaccino’s score adds cultural layers to the visuals, allowing viewers to truly be immersed in a space of cultural significance.
A meaningful and emotional holiday treat for families.