From The Beginning
Disney Pixar Studios is no stranger to producing original and thought-provoking films. In fact, they have been the brains behind some of the greatest animated films in recent history. Their latest film, Coco, is no exception, providing an exceptionally original story in a beautiful world with some very heartfelt and inspired characters.
Coco pays homage to the people and culture of Mexico adding cultural references that only Latin Americans might really understand as well as providing insight into some of their traditions and history, helping those less familiar with the culture have a greater appreciation and respect for it. It is clear a great deal of passion went into this film. Though geared towards a younger audience, you will most likely find yourself enjoying Coco regardless of your age. As I will be covering a few plot points throughout this review, a mild spoiler warning is in order.
Dia de los Muertos
The plot of Coco is centered on Mexican traditions for Day of the Dead, a holiday in which people remember and celebrate the lives of their deceased ancestors. This being the case, the film has a large focus on the importance of family. The story follows a young boy, Miguel; an aspiring musician in a family that completely shuns music thanks to a tragic event involving a musician generations before. Thanks to Miguel’s passion for music and mischievous nature he ends up crossing over to the land of the dead where his only means of getting home is via the blessing of one of his ancestors. It doesn’t take him long to run into his family, but when he finds that they will only send him home if he vows to never play music again, he opts to find another way.
From the get-go, Coco’s plot is brilliantly ingenuitive and original. Pixar once again manages to take an abstract idea like the unseen “Land of the Dead” and bring it to life. The world was so believable I found myself imagining my own ancestors wandering the streets of the wondrous and colorful mega-city. There was a great deal of detail put into the world and its inhabitants. There were social classes based on one’s fame and renown in life, references to historic locations and people (like Frida Kahlo), and some appropriate and well-timed humor.
Though it is enjoyable to watch, it is clear that the story of Coco is meant to relate a deeper message: the importance of family ties and the bond we share with those that came before us. By the time Miguel finishes his journey and comes to these realizations it is hard not to find yourself rethinking your relationship with your own family. It was a story that went beyond just storytelling.
The Coco Experience
There was so much about Coco that was done right, but I think best, and most importantly, was the animation itself. Computer-generated imaging has come a long way since its first use back in the late 90’s and Coco is a fine example of this. There is so much attention to detail when it comes to the modeling and animation that, at points, I all but forgot that the film I was watching was all done on a computer. I remember one scene in particular in which a couple friends are sharing a drink and I was blown away by how lifelike everything from character movement to the liquid within the shot glasses behaved.
Aesthetically, Coco sets the bar very high. Very bright and vibrant colors set the Land of the Dead apart from the real world, but — rather than being a distraction — it helps create a surreal atmosphere that you want to become a part of. Like many Disney films, it has a completely original soundtrack that accentuates the theme and envelops you even more within the world they have created.
Disney has done it again, bringing us one of the best family films of the season. Between the unique, engaging story, fantastic characters, and beautiful art style Coco is nothing less than a work of cinematic art. It still manages to stand out among the dozens of other animated films under Pixar’s belt. Again, despite being what some might consider a “children’s film,” it is sure to inspire and move anyone that goes into it with an open mind.
An Interview With the Creators
We, at The Geekwave, were lucky enough to get to interview Emron Grover, one of the lead animators that worked on Coco. For a closer look at what kind of work goes into making films like this, be sure to check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kovWyb3bkhk&t=154s and stay tuned to The Geekwave for all things geek-worthy.