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We all loved Disney•Pixar movies for their outstanding storytelling, groundbreaking plots, and incredible animation. Every movie is great on its own. Who would have thought that a movie about talking marine animals could be a hit or a house filled with balloons can make us sob? Apparently, for the animation company, the sky is the limit. Nothing can stop them, not even death. This is proven true in their latest film Coco, based on the Mexican tradition Dia de las Muertos or Day of the Dead.

A Conflicted Family

Born in a family of shoemakers, Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzales) finds himself trapped in a bout of passion and tradition. His roots are deeply linked to the business of shoemaking in Santa Cecilia with a twist. Every member of the family is forbidden to play nor listen to music. The thought of music, itself, is a taboo. Meanwhile, Miguel holds an affinity for playing music. Director Lee Unkrich describes this relationship as “beautiful and complicated.” On one hand, Miguel has a family who fully loves him and supports him but on the other hand, their restrictions limit him from reaching his true passion.

An unusual family reunion in Coco. | Credit: Disney Pixar
An unusual family reunion in Coco. | Credit: Disney Pixar

On the Day of the Dead, an incident ignited the mystery that blurred the line between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead. It is usually the dead who crosses over to visit their alive loved ones but Miguel crossed over to the other dimension. Looking at it, this plot may have been made countless of times in the past. Pixar’s retelling, however, was refreshing in every take. Colorful lights illuminated the grimness of alleys the Land of the Dead. Lively Mexican music filled the atmosphere and made the Day of the Dead a true celebration.

Memories Live Forever

At its core, the event aims at keeping the memories of those who passed away alive. The film took that at its main motivation. Hector (voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal), an estranged man in the Land of the Dead, assisted Miguel in his journey in the unfamiliar terrain. To return to the Land of the Living, Miguel has to receive the blessing of any of his family. Mama Imelda (voiced by Alanna Ubach) abuela gives him hers under one condition: no more music. The young boy refused to accept it and looks for his late grandfather, the superstar Ernesta de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt).

The dead knows how to party.
The dead knows how to party in Coco. | Credit: Disney Pixar

Staying true to the spirit of Mexican dramas, Coco is filled with family drama, deception, and twists. After all the fun and whimsical adventure, Coco took sharp turns in its mood with its revelations. And to my surprise, it put the film on a solid foot after the wobbly path it took to get there. If anything else, it showed that the film has the guts to take big moves to intensify the storyline.

The Heart of Pixar

Disney•Pixar Coco is a film worthy of carrying the studio’s name. It is emotional, authentic, and heartfelt. Following the exploration of a young kid’s journey between family and passion created an impactful and inspiring plot. The strongest of which, however, is the reminder that the memories of our loved ones who passed away may always stay with us. It is a great reminder that the actions that we make while we’re alive will always affect the legacy that we create. Unkrich adds, “We recognized a common need to be remembered—to feel that we’ll matter long after our time here. Likewise, there’s a strong desire to keep alive the memories of our loved ones. By sharing their stories and creating our own, we build this connection across generations that is bigger than our day-to-day lives.”

Coco is as real as it gets in its narration of life and afterlife.

Director: Lee Unkrich
Cast: Anthony Gonzales, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Benjamin Bratt
Binge-level: 5 out of 5 stars

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