Disney-Pixar has outdone themselves with their latest release Coco. Spoiler alert: you will cry.
“Coco” is centered around a young boy named Miguel who lives in Mexico and wants nothing more than to be a musician. However, his family completely forbids him from enjoying music after their dark past with it. Generations before Miguel, the father of his great-grandmother, Coco, abandoned his family in order to pursue his musical career, or so the family thought.
In the process of following his musical aspirations, Miguel sets out to participate in a Dia de los Muertos show. Along the way, Miguel gets himself in some trouble and ends up in the Land of the Dead, or the afterlife, where he must meet his ancestors and ask that they support his musical aspirations. Yes, the movie has a lot of surprising turns.
The music and bright animation of the movie beautifully capture what Dia de los Muertos and Mexican culture overall is. The filmmakers spent three years researching Mexican culture in order to accurately depict the holiday. This work was demonstrated in how the movie portrayed ofrendas, the altars made to honour the deceased and alebrijes, the mythical spirit animals commonly used in artisanal art.
This emphasis on family ties is present throughout the whole movie in describing the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The holiday has roots in the Aztec rituals of remembrance of those that passed away. The two-day holiday includes festivals with music, food, parties and vigils where people honor their loved ones that have passed away.
Dia de los Muertos is not intended to be a “scary” holiday, but rather one that shows how a person’s life should be celebrated. The movie encompasses this idea by staying close to the true meaning of Dia de los Muertos.
The film’s soundtrack and famous Mexican figures’ presence allowed for the movie to expand outside of the plot and cover all of the culture. The soundtrack features famous singer Marco Antonio Solis who sings the Spanish version of the popular “Remember Me.” Artist Frida Kahlo, wrestler Santo and actor Pedro Negrete make special appearances in the Land of the Dead.
It was fulfilling to watch a movie like “Coco” that relates to cultural traditions that are sometimes overlooked in Hollywood. There should be more movies that capture this same message accurately for other cultures.
I was a little worried that “Coco” would not do justice to this holiday, considering there was controversy leading up to the movie with Disney-Pixar attempting to trademark “Dia de los Muertos.” They received accusations of cultural appropriations with Disney-Pixar by monetizing a holiday that has existed for centuries. After the criticism, Disney-Pixar hired Mexican cultural consultants to ensure that cultural appropriation was not taking place.
Overall, “Coco” showed the importance of cultural representation in movies and the impact it can have on people of all ages and backgrounds. In the future, it would be beneficial to have this kind of representation that is not commonly portrayed in Hollywood.