What’s Coco about? The tale concerns a young Mexican boy named Miguel Rivera who longs for becoming a musician but faces fierce opposition from his extended family, a generational collective of shoemakers who disdain and ban all music owing to having been founded by an iron-willed matriarch.
The footwear entrepreneurship found salvation after her husband left home to pursuit the dream of becoming a musician himself and never returned. Through a series of plot issues, Miguel comes to conclusion that his absentee great-great grandfather is actually Ernesto de la Cruz, a famous musician who famously died young. And in trying to prove this, sees himself trapped by a curse in the Afterlife during Dia de Los Muertos; the Mexican holiday wherein passage between the living and dead realms is traversable under certain circumstances.
So it’s similar to The Book of Life from a few years ago?
Only very broadly. Apart from both featuring supernatural characters rendered in the style of Dia de los Muertos decorations the two aren’t quite that similar. Whereas Book of Life was pretty much about its supernatural mythology, Coco winds up being an intimate family drama where – apart from the sight jokes and otherworldly adventure stuff, clearly – the afterlife plot device is ultimately a way to tell a tale about a kid confronting his own family history in literal terms.
Once crossed-over, Miguel is soon discovered there by the skeletal spirits of his ancestors, who are capable of sending him back but want to do so with the condition that he foreswear his musical dreams. Thus, he embarks on a quest to seek de la Cruz, whom he thinks can be more helpful in that regard – enlisting help from a skeleton hustler called Hector who has an agenda of his own.
I heard there was some controversy here?
At one point it was going to be called “Dia de los Muertos,” and Disney filed a copyright for the title. Obviously, this did not go over well at all with people in Mexico and throughout Latin America who’ve been celebrating the Holiday for several centuries. Disney eventually reversed course.
What sets it apart from other animated movies this year?
The decisive grounding in Mexican popular culture and folklore gives all of the proceedings a refreshing sense of identity apart from prior variations on the same kind of story. It’s not just a matter of Disney/Pixar borrowing a setting and a culturally-specific holiday, the storyline and Miguel’s journey through it allows for what’s effectively a walking tour of Mexico’s lasting contributions to art, music, movies sports and popular culture… but in a way that feels genuine and “lived” as opposed to just grabbing the well-known stuff – involving some unexpected cameos (kind of) by the Afterlife versions of historical figures I… can truly say I never expected to witness in a Disney film.
How does it compare to other recent Pixar movies?
By now, I feel like we’re reaching the point where comparing each new Pixar flick to where it might fit into the “canon” with the rests has become sort of a pointless practice – I mean, this isn’t some small artisanal operation anymore, if it ever was one… but for what it’s worth I’d say Coco is easily the best since Inside Out even though I didn’t have any real issue with Finding Dory or Cars 3.
What IS kind of wonderful is that it seems like the first Western animated movie in forever that doesn’t look like the need to merchandise played a strong role in the production. I’m sure there WILL be merchandise, and I don’t have anything against that per-say, it’s just a refreshing change to see something and NOT immediately be able to pick out which supporting character is trying to be this year’s Minions.