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Why Coco’s Mexican backdrop will transform the Pixar movie


There’s no studio quite like Pixar. Responsible for classics like the Toy Story trilogy, Ratatouille and Inside Out, its reputation is well earned and it can even be argued that once Pixar’s name is attached, that’s all the seal of approval that anyone needs.

While Cars 3 is certain to satisfy fans of the franchise when it is released this summer, it's their upcoming film Coco that has whipped fans into a frenzy. What is really exciting about Coco is that it has its roots firmly planted in Mexican culture; here’s why the backdrop will truly transform the Pixar movie.

The story is inspired by Mexico's Day of the Dead

On this day people go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the dead and build private altars containing food and beverages as well as photos and memorabilia of the departed.

Celebrations can sometimes take on a light-hearted tone as well as people often remember funny events and tell amusing anecdotes about the departed. Pixar are excellent at telling stories that are poignant yet humorous at the same time.

The Day of the Dead may seem morbid to some, but is a far from gloomy tradition – it is, in fact, a colourful celebration that is central to Mexican culture. All of these features make it the perfect backdrop to get the most out of Pixar’s talent for such things.

Mexican music will feature heavily

Director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) says the film isn’t "a break-out-into-song musical," but rather one "set against the backdrop of musical performance."

Coco tells the story of a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who longs to follow in his idol’s footsteps and become a renowned musician, so the one thing we do know is that music will play an integral part.

The musical talent for Coco has been derived from artists directly from Mexico with the director making frequent trips to the country in order the ensure authenticity.

Camilo Lara from the Mexican Institute of Sound is working on the music for the film. Mexican styles that have been recorded for the soundtrack so far include Son Jarocho, performed by Grupo Mono Blanco, and Banda, played by Oaxacan musicians, as well as love songs sung by fictional Mexican music idol Ernesto de la Cruz.

This will be Pixar’s first time showcasing this culture’s music and we can’t wait to see what the outcome will be.

The film has secured an all-star voice cast

We also get a chance to hear the film's characters voiced by some of the finest Latino actors around which is really exciting. The wonderful Gael Garcia Bernal will voice Hector, a charming trickster in the Land of the Dead who must enlist Miguel’s help to visit The Land of the Living.

Bernal has already proved how talented he is in movies like Babel, The Motorcycle Diaries and Desierto. One of the great things about Pixar deciding to focus on a Mexican setting is that it will create more opportunities for talented actors like Gael Garcia Bernal that might not have been there otherwise. Coco will also include great actors like Cheech Marin, Edward James Olmos and Jaime Camil in supporting roles.

It may inspire Pixar to depict different cultures in their movies

Perhaps the most transformative thing about Coco’s Mexican backdrop will be the fact that it will encourage Pixar and other animation studios to tell stories influenced by a wide range of cultures.

After all, Disney recently reinvigorated itself with the luscious depiction of the Pacific islands in box office hit Moana. Pixar might very well do the same after Coco becomes the hit we all predict that it will be, given Pixar’s amazing track record. They could draw from a vast array of rich cultures and incorporate them into everything we know and love about the marvellous Pixar formula.

Coco is released on 1st December.

Andy Furlong is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.

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