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What you need to know about Coco’s Day of the Dead festival

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Pixar’s latest, Coco, is set to arrive in the UK in January 2018 after and it's rave reviews from critics. In the film 12-year-old Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) arrives in the Land of the Dead on a hunt to find his great-great-grandfather. Accompanied by his loyal dog Dante, music-loving Miguel is on a journey of a lifetime (pun intended).

Coco is set against the backdrop of the Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated in Mexico where those who have died are remembered and prayed for. As this celebration is central to the events of Coco, we’ve created a handy little guide to give you a bit more context.

It's been celebrated for millennia

The Day of the Dead did not originate in Mexico, but pre-Columbian cultures. These traditions had been celebrated up to 3,000 years before the 20th century, and the festival has since become hugely popular in Mexico. Despite this. the holiday is not recognised in many international countries, which is why it’s so exciting that Pixar are bringing it to a global audience.


It's a three-day celebration

This festival starts on 31st October and ends on 2nd November. There are many links to Halloween (as you would expect, given it centres around death) but the Day of the Dead is more emotional. It celebrates the precious lives that have been lost over the year and is a time to remember those special to us.

This matches perfectly with Pixar, as they are known for pulling on our heartstrings in the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Inside Out. Bring your tissues as we don’t expect there’ll be many dry eyes in the cinema after watching this.


It's all about decoration

Those who celebrate the Day of the Dead clean the graves of their loved ones and decorate them with flowers and bright colours. Toys are proffered to the graves of children while for adults alcoholic drinks are placed by gravesides. Families create shrines to those who have been lost in their homes around this time, too.

Beautifully bright colours are used for the festivities to show that this is a time to reflect on happy times during the celebration, not sadness. The colours go hand in hand with Pixar, who are revered for their bold, vibrant and wondrous animation style.


Skulls. Lots of skulls

The iconic symbol of this well-known and celebrated holiday is a skull, known as a Calavera in Spanish. Skulls are used in the form of sweets, decorations and face paint. Popular gifts include sugar skulls, which are given to both the living and the dead at their gravestones or their shrines.

From the trailer alone, Coco had a heavy emphasis on skulls. Once Miguel is transported to the land of the dead, all of the dead that he sees are full-on skeletons. He even has to paint himself to look like a skeleton so he doesn’t arouse suspicion. While it looks like it might be a tad frightening, remember this film is a happy celebration and is fun for all the family.


There is no one way to celebrate it

The Day of the Dead traditions differ from town to town and between families. Some people believe possessing items such as skulls or a special token left by a loved one can bring good luck. In some places, the festival is a time for children to dress up and knock at doors for gifts, money or sweets, much like Halloween.

This is one of those festivals where there is no set way to celebrate and everyone can get involved. In Coco, we see Miguel light his shrine but he ends up doing more than just celebrating when he enters the Land of the Dead. Instead, he embarks on an adventure and voyage of discovery to try and locate his long-lost relative.


Even James Bond has joined in

At the beginning of Spectre (2015), James Bond (Daniel Craig) is on a special mission in Mexico City where the Day of the Dead festival is taking place. Although not much of the festivities are shown, we’re due an even more immersive and spectacular experience in Coco.

Catch Coco when it hits Cineworld cinemas on 19th January 2018.


Nadine Shambrook is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.