Pixar knocks it out of the park once again with their 19th feature film, Coco.
The story revolves around Miguel, a young boy from Mexico who dreams about being a musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Unfortunately, due to an incident long ago where his great-great grandfather left his family to become a famous musician, the family has banned music of any kind within their household. But after a falling out with his family and strumming the guitar of who Miguel thinks is his great-great grandfather, he is taken to the world of the dead on a colorful adventure to discover his family roots and returning home once he’s gained the blessing of a family member that truly loves music.
Coco has the heart that many original Pixar films are known by while adding new spins to familiar tales. It brings out the realism many people have to face about while going against the grain of what is expected of Miguel from his family. It explores why Miguel feels that he’s destined to be a musician through the fantastical elements of the Land of the Dead and holiday of Dia de los Muertos.
Pixar has the unique talent of exploring the worlds and emotions of characters you wouldn’t think would have emotions. That tradition continues in Coco with the characters in the afterlife still having the emotions, fears, and desires that they held in life. You feel sympathy for the character of Hector, who is unable to go back to Earth to see his daughter one more time, and fears that he’ll be forgotten and disappear forever. The characters call it “being forgotten” when no one is left to remember you and is called “the final death,” where you really feel sorrow and fear of being forgotten and disappearing forever.
The animation, as per the usual PIxar standard, has stepped up its game once again in how they make these worlds and characters feel so real while also keeping a comedic edge to the characters’ movements. Where this film really shines is how they made the afterlife look so colorful and large. The characters in the afterlife have a functioning society from how they live after they die, to even reflecting how the living world works. There is a security check for people that want to cross over from the land of the dead and back from the land of the living which was very humorous. The colors in the land of the dead are so vibrant from the bright purples and oranges of the higher parts of the land, to the more solemn blues of the lower levels where there are people that are forgotten, showing a sort of hierarchy within that world.
The characters models are excellent with various appearances of the human characters to the differing designs of all the skeletons. Pixar was able to make the skeletons not only resemble what they would’ve looked like when they were alive but also making the skeletons look likable by having visible eyes in their eye sockets. No two skeletons look alike and, while some characters such as Miguel’s dead relatives don’t all have the same amount of screentime, they do appear to have a lot of personality from their designs alone.
What will make people remember this film the most, in my personal opinion, is the music. Music is an integral part of the story in how not only is being able to play music the goal of the main character, but how it means something different to each of the characters.
To Miguel, it is a means to go beyond what is expected of him from his family and finding purpose in his life beyond making shoes. To Miguel’s family, music only means sorrow and abandonment because of one mistake that his great-great grandfather made when he left to pursue a career in music.
Ernesto de la Cruz, Miguel’s musical idol, uses music as a means for fame and fortune. He does whatever it takes to keep that fame–such as stealing the music of his old partner and murdering him in cold blood.
Hector disliked the idea of music, as it was what got him murdered in the first place, but that love for what he did in life still shines through when he sings and plays guitar. You really feel for his character when you find out the song “Remember Me” wasn’t written for the world; it was written for his little girl Coco.
The connection Hector still wants to have with his daughter is shown through Miguel when he returns to the land of the living. Miguel only has a short amount of time to help her remember her father so he won’t disappear. The tearful rendition of “Remember Me” that Miguel sings to Coco, her eventually joining in, rebuilds the memories she had of her father and allows the rest of the family to get over their hatred of music. The final song of the film, “Proud Corazón,” shows that in the year that passed since Miguel returned from the land of the dead, he was able to reconnect with his family and is able to play music proudly like his great-great grandfather before him.
Coco is another masterpiece from Pixar that anyone will enjoy no matter what their age. Children will enjoy the colorful characters and catchy music while adults can enjoy the complexities of the story and fantastic animation. This film brought to life the culture of Day of the Dead while telling a heartwarming tale of following your dreams but not forgetting your family along the way.