I have to admit I was curious to see this latest Pixar release ‘Coco.’ Having heard so much about it, I wanted to see for myself how the movie could affect viewers’ perspective on culture, family, and death. After watching an early screening of ‘Coco,’ I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. ‘Coco’ is not only a visual masterpiece but manages to deliver a powerful message that will resonate with parents and kids.
Disney Pixar’s Coco manages to deliver an endearing message about the importance of traditions; family bonds and even the afterlife without sounding too predictable or kitschy.
The movie starts with a brightly colored the ‘ Papel Picados’ prologue that summarizes the Rivera family history as well as introduces us to the protagonist, Miguel. Miguel is a twelve-year-old who aspires to be a musician. But there’s one major caveat! His entire family is against it.
The reason behind this intense hatred of music in the Rivera family lies an incident that happened decades ago. Abuelita’s grandfather abandoned his wife and child daughter to pursue a music career. As a result, Abuelita’s grandmother decided that she would banish music and mention of her husband from all family life.
Stubborn as only a teenager can be; Miguel defies the rule and learns to play the guitar on his own by watching his hero’s (Ernesto de la Cruz) old movies. Moreover, he plans to perform in the town square on ‘Día de Los Muertos.’ Trouble arises when Abuelita destroys his DIY guitar, and Miguel resorts to ‘borrowing’ Ernesto de la Cruz’s guitar from his tomb. By doing so, Miguel finds himself stuck in the ‘ Land of the Dead.’
To return to the ‘Land of the Living,’ he needs the blessing of a dead family member.
His great- great grandmother is more than willing to give him one if he promises to give up music.
To bypass her, Miguel turns to Ernesto de la Cruz (who he thinks is his lost great-great-grandfather) for help. After plenty of twists and unexpected tribulations, Miguel comes to respect his ancestors and recognizes the importance of family ties.
With the story plot out of the way, let’s examine how the movie can help change families’ perspective on topics such as culture, family ties, and even death.
It helps kids become global citizens by embracing cultural diversity
The movie teaches kids and adults about Día de Los Muertos and its traditions.
Día de Los Muertos is a holiday during which families celebrate the lives of deceased family members. In Mexico, the festivities spread over two days. On November 1st is reserved for kids that have passed away while Nov 2nd is dedicated to deceased adults.In some parts of Mexico, entire families spend all night beside the graves of their relatives to celebrate the holiday.
A central part of the holiday is creating the family ofrenda. The ofrenda (altar) is usually stacked with pictures, food, and beverages to honor the dead. Offerings can include toys, photographs, clothes, and money to name a few.
Every ofrenda includes the four elements of water, wind, earth, and fire. A water pitcher is left for the spirits to quench their thirst while the traditional paper banners represent the wind. Earth is represented by candied pumpkin and pan de Muerto “bread of the dead.” Completing the four elements are candles to light up the spirits’ way.
It highlights the importance of family
Family ties is an important and recurrent theme in Disney movies, and Coco is no different. Pixar’s Coco reminds us that we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for our ancestor’s sacrifices.
In this film, the abuelitas (grandmothers) are the ones that set everyone’s priorities straight. In the Land of the Living, it is Miguel’s grandmother while in the Land of the Dead it is his great-great-grandmother Imelda who acts like the family’s undisputed matriarch.
Putting family first is a concept that twelve-year-old Miguel struggles with. At the beginning of the film he doesn’t actively disrespect the elderly, he doesn’t listen to their advice either. So he ends up challenging family rules.
But by the end of the story, Miguel undergoes a visible transformation. After his journey into the Land of the Dead and encounter with Cichcerron, he understands the importance of family ties and memories. As a result, he not only feels closer to his elderly relatives but strives to keep their memories alive.
It opens the conversation about death
The movie helps start the discussion about death. This is a difficult topic for parents to address particularly with younger kids. In ‘Coco’ death is described as a natural continuation of life that can’t be avoided. Unlike other books and films depicting death as dark and scary Coco shows it as colorful and mostly cheery.
The Land of the Dead with its different neighborhoods, stadiums, innovative transportation methods and Ernesto’s mansion look very inviting.In fact, the eye-popping fluorescent land appears almost Disney-esque -when you substitute skulls for Mickeys.
Moreover, the ordinarily scary symbols of death look friendly. Colorful Skulls are used as decorations while the skeletons, the linchpins of the story seem so lively you forget they are dead. Needless to mention the animation team at Pixar has done a magnificent job creating an entire population of skeletons. By using variations of size, shades as well as degrees of decay the characters look very different.
And of course, the jokes also make death seem less frightening. As part of the live action, skeletons continuously reassemble themselves or snap off their arms to use them as nunchaku swords when attacked.
As usual Disney Pixar’s 3D CGI animation style scores high marks for the detail and vibrant colors depicted in both the Land of the Living and Land of the Dead.
Music though not the main event in this movie, still enhances the storyline. It starts with ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ played in the Mariachi style and continues with several songs that make the story more memorable. “Remember Me,” by songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez is a strong Oscar contender and the one the song people will probably remember most.
I liked the clever way the creators’ used La Llorona “The weeping woman” in the movie.The song, a Mexican folk song describes a woman who drowns her children when her husband leaves her for a younger woman.After refused entry to the afterlife, she wanders the earth weeping and searching for her children.
And no review is complete without mentioning the movie’s scene stealer; Dante the hairless Xolo pup. With his massive tongue and scrawny appearance he truly embodies man’s best friend. Xolos are known for their loyalty and calm disposition so it will come as no surprise if the breed will grow in popularity after getting featured in the movie.
Overall between is superb animation and heartwarming storyline, Disney Pixar’s Coco makes for the perfect holiday film for families.
Disclaimer: Special thanks to Disney Pixar for hosting us on the press junket event. Our opinions are own and cannot be influenced in any way.
More about Coco
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Visit the official COCO website here: http://movies.disney.com/coco
COCO with Olaf’s Frozen Adventure opens in theatres everywhere on November 22nd!