Pixar’s “Coco” Movie Review

From Lee Unkrich’s Twitter status: https://twitter.com/leeunkrich/status/8945956338598789


It seems that the most recent Pixar film, Coco, has taken the world by storm. The movie directed by Lee Unkrich (Monsters Inc., Toy Story 3) and produced by Pixar Animation Studios centers around the mexican tradition “Día de los Muertos” (“Day of the Dead”), and Miguel, a young boy who wishes to follow the footsteps of his idol and become a successful musician. Miguel’s life takes an unexpected turn when he finds himself in the Land of the Dead – the place in which all the deceased reside – and must find his way back before it’s too late. The movie has received a 9.3 rating in IMDB and 93% of positive critiques in Rotten Tomatoes. If you wish to watch it, it’ll be hitting swiss cinemas at the end of this month.

Ever since Pixar announced its making, it seemed as if Coco were bound to be a global success. Taking a look at current issues, especially those involving immigration policies and growing tensión between the Us and Mexico, it’s no wonder the movie was going to hit close to home for many foreigners, principally latins. It also helps that the movie was released around this time of year, as Halloween has just gone by and as it’s National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. With the eyes of many placed on immigrants, Coco is quite the news as it provides a tender story, highlights the colors of a most-beloved culture and brings all sorts of people together under one common interest – Pixar. 

Let’s explore the important parts of the movie while trying to stay as spoiler-free as possible, shall we?

ANIMATION: Let’s start off by recognizing a very important element: the animation. It’s no secret that digital animation improves with every new technological advancement, and Coco is a good example. We’ve seen the magic Disney animators are able to do in works like Moana and Zootopia, and just as it was there, the frames in Coco are filled with textures, depth and color. Effects like the movement of animals and the flying of flower petals are smooth and enthralling. The characters have a realistic design, with elements such as build, demeanors, skin colors and clothing mirroring the reality.  It takes heavy inspiration not only from the tradition of the Day of the Dead itself, but also from locations like Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende, mariachis, mexican folklore and the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.

CHARACTERS:  As Pixar often does, the film is full of nicely-built, deep characters. Right away, we are introduced to Miguel’s family, the Riveras, a group of shoemakers who despise all things music since one of the family members ‘“deserted” his wife and child to become a famous musician. As it’s been mentioned,


Pixar drew inspiration from research carried out during their visit to Mexico, and thus incorporating customs, behaviour and beliefs into the mix. Save for their hatred towards music, the Riveras are akin to a traditional family. Additionally, there are  characters like Hector, a deceased charming trickster whom Miguel befriends, with more focus on their personality rather than their background (you’ll find this out in the end, though). Lastly, it’s also worth mentioning that Pixar is no rookie when it comes to creating villains; charm, hidden evil, a dark movie, all toppled with a good plot twist (*cough* Up *cough*), we get an interesting character whom we just love to hate. Some of the downsides, however, is that things do get a bit too cliché and stereotypical at times (people do know that not all mexicans are into wrestling, right?), and the accents are at times way too bothersome. 

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STORY: Right away, it’s almost certain that large part of the audience will be moved by the movie. (It’s part of the Pixar magic, isn’t it?) However, this is where things get messy: upon its announcement, Coco came under fire as people noticed the many characteristics it shared with the 2014 mexican film The Book of Life. The story seemed to be too similar: a young mexican male in a small town desperately wanting to become a musician, with his family deeply opposing this because of x reason, ends up in the Land of the Dead and must return to the world of the living. As Twitter user @Saxm13 pointed out, it was likely that Pixar’s autofame would leave the smaller studio’s film in the shadows. According to the crew of Coco, the movie had been under production for six years (the longest it’s taken a Pixar film), and when asked about it, Unkrich replied: “[Day of the Dead] is a beautiful, rich holiday and there are lots of ways to explore it, and to tell stories set against it, and I think there should be more. Yes, we are the second, but there should be a third, a fourth and a fifth.” [x] On the other hand, The Book of Life director Jorge Gutierrez expressed that he felt excited about Coco and supported the spreading and growth of the culture. Still, TBOL fans are skeptic and have not received the film with open arms. 

Finally, the movie has earned quite a lot of publicity, not all of which is good. It’s very easy to notice the similarities between the two films, and it does come off as sketchy that, if the mexican culture is so ‘rich’, why did the team decide to make the story about the same holiday and so comparable to the other film? If anything is to be praised is that Coco is far from what Pixar is used to, and to think that they’ve started incorporating diversity into their stories in a time where it’s being alarmingly threatened, the film is a reminder of what we can achieve when overlooking the distance between us. While there’s still skepticism surrounding the movie, to broaden representation in the media, tell stories about normally-overlook cultures and, very importantly, to have such a big studio like Pixar shine a light on the entire subject certainly takes us a step forward. All there’s left for us is to hope other studios follow behind Pixar, and we get to see more and more including tales.

You can watch the trailer for Coco here.