A few ideas from Mexican culture revolve around this concept. For example, the final (and third) death of a soul is when the last memory of that soul fades from the living world. This is probably the origin of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead), a festival that celebrates remembering our deceased loved ones and treasuring our living loved ones, too.
Set in Santa Cecilia, Mexico, during the Day of the Dead festival, Coco is a 2017 animated film produced by Pixar Studios that redefines relationships, adventure, and color.
Directed by Lee Unkrich and co-directed by Adrian Molina, the movie begins with a musician leaving behind his daughter and wife to pursue music, only to never return. Enraged and brokenhearted, the musician’s wife bans music in the family. This continues for generations, then along comes Miguel, the great-great-grandson of the aforementioned musician. Miguel is an inquisitive and talented 12-year-old boy who dreams of following in the footsteps of local hero and musician Ernesto de la Cruz. Paying no attention to a ban on music that he thinks is rather trivial, Miguel enters a talent show against his family’s wishes. Due to a queer turn of events, he is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead, where he meets his ancestors and a skeleton named Hector. In order for Miguel to get back to the land of the living before dawn, he must get a blessing from one of his ancestors in the Land of the Dead. His great-great-grandmother Imelda offers him a blessing on one condition: that he will forget music forever. He refuses and runs away. Here the adventure begins.
The “spirit of adventure” is a very commonly used phrase for an exciting or very unusual experience, where the outcome is totally unknown. Miguel goes through several challenges, not all with wanted outcomes. He sails through these obstacles, focusing mainly on his goal: music. Miguel chooses to take risks because of his overpowering love for music. Often we, too, take risks and set out on adventures because our love for something puts us in unexpected circumstances. I believe that idea is what binds this movie and all adventure together. Miguel is driven by his love for music, while others may be driven simply by the thrill of adventure.
Characteristic to Disney, Coco features a lot of music, but the rich animation and palette really stand out in this one. The bright yellows particularly captured my attention, and somehow, skeletons clad in colors are not scary but possibly even cheerful. The colour yellow dominates the entire movie, appearing as fiery gold petals of the Mexican marigold. This flower is also called la flor de los muertos (flower of the dead) sometimes, because it is thought to attract the souls to offerings and lead them to their family homes. These flowers are traditionally placed on tombs and all the way leading to the ofrendas (altars for the dead). A glorious swirl of reddish hues adds a warmth that quite fits with the family theme.
Leaving interpretation to the audience, Pixar depicts characters’ key traits by using certain colors around them. For example, Miguel is constantly surrounded by bright hues, whereas his great-great-grandmother, who is against his plan, has bits of frosty blue.
The animation is spectacular and captivating. Pixar faced a problem with animating the skeletons, because skeletons do not move with the same physics as human bodies, and animators had to use software to make changes accordingly. The animation seems so natural that it is certainly hard to remember animation like that of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
The music perfectly portrays the mood of several scenes, heightening their impact. Even though many of the songs are mostly in Spanish, the rhyming words (“Un Poco Loco”) provide a sense of the mood the song aims to create. Many sadder songs generally do not have an audible beat, but “Remember Me” merges a beat beautifully into the very simple lyrics that clearly convey the intended message. The music is extremely authentic and rich in terms of melody, mood, and beat. Unlike other movies, I didn’t wait for the songs to finish so the story would move on; I really enjoyed each song and could see the story progressing not only by what was shown on screen, but also by the notes and lyrics.
Coco has an all Latina cast, with Anthony Gonzalez voicing Miguel, Gael Garcia Bernal voicing Hector, and Benjamin Bratt voicing Ernesto De la Cruz. The actors all pour so much emotion into their lines that I forgot that all the animated characters didn’t have their own voices until I was supposed to write about it.
The screenplay is quite well written. The dialogue is short and crisp, and most of the message is left to the music and the animation. There is an element of humor, too, and this makes the movie all the more fun to watch. Even the actions of the characters are often funny, making the movie enjoyable even for younger kids who might not be able to keep up with the dialogue.
I rate this movie four out of five stars because the storyline is magnificent, the animation is brilliant, and each of the characters’ journeys is carefully developed and shown. However, the ending is somewhat predictable and characteristic to Disney.
I would recommend Coco to people of all ages. During the course of the movie, I laughed, sang (I hope no one heard me), cried, and most importantly, enjoyed. There was so much emotion interlaced with each dialogue and each song. Miguel does not try to hide his emotions at any point of the movie, and chooses to face death over a life without music. These are definitely characteristics that I would like to possess, in order to enjoy the adventures of life. I wonder, what would I do if I were in Miguel’s place? Would I choose to accept my fate, or venture out into the unknown in a bid to change it?
This movie taught me that the spirit of adventure isn’t solely in those who go bungee-jumping or deep sea diving, but also in every person who lets circumstance lead them blindfolded into the unknown. I’ll certainly remember that with the faint but steady thread of the things I love, I shall be able to undertake and emerge from such adventures. Sometimes, staying in the dark about the final outcome makes us enjoy each adventure more, especially the final adventure of life.
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