Disney’s “Coco” is another great push for more diversity and inclusion in entertainment, and a great celebration of Mexican traditions. For viewers unfamiliar with the Day of the Dead holiday, seeing this movie can be educational without necessarily realizing it.
Main character Miguel Rivera, age 12, is struggling to understand the significance of the tradition his family is trying to teach him because he feels a lot of resentment towards elder family members who have passed away, and have left him feeling cursed.
His late great-great-grandmother, Imelda Rivera, was the wife of a musician who left the family to further pursue his career. Ever since, music was banned entirely from the family, and her husband’s picture was removed from the ofrenda, an altar with photos and other offerings to welcome deceased family members home on the Day of the Dead.
This becomes a problem, because all Miguel wants to do is play music, so he sneaks off to do so in secrecy whenever he gets the chance.
Much of “Coco” is set in the afterlife after Miguel steals the famous guitar of the late Ernesto de la Cruz, whom he believes to be his great-great-grandfather, the musician who left the family. Miguel truly does become cursed because he stole from the dead. He is then only visible to those from the Land of the Dead, and needs a blessing from a family member in order to return to the Land of the Living.
The Land of the Dead is full of breathtaking animation as Pixar artists outdo themselves once again. In fact, before “Coco” begins, a message from the directors plays on screen to thank the hundreds of creators who brought the film to life.
Everything is so full of color, and there are huge scenes with so much detail that the art alone increases the rewatch value because viewers will want to catch more with every play of the movie. The alebrijes – spirit animals – are some of the most mystical and bright beings in the film.
It’s also worth noting that animators had a whole new task with the majority of the characters in “Coco” being skeletons. They move differently than traditional human or animal characters: Their bones even rattle when they walk, and they can jump from high places, hit the ground, fall apart, and put themselves right back together.
Skeletons and the concept of mortality aren’t as sinister as this movie gets, though. There’s an unexpected darkness that comes out of some of the characters, and plot twists that will leave viewers of all ages in shock. This results in learning moral lessons from the more subtle themes in “Coco.”
The movie does a great job of presenting ideas that can connect with people from just about any and every background. It talks about sacrifice and balance, and about selfish behavior being unlearned. From the very beginning, many viewers will likely connect with the family traditions and pressures that Miguel faces. He wants to be a musician, but he’s expected to help continue his family’s shoemaking business.
“Coco” will surely capture the hearts of people of all ages, as well as anyone who just enjoys being fascinated by rapidly advancing animation developments that can be found in most all Disney Pixar films.