You’ll Go Loco for Pixar’s ‘Coco’

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For over 30 years, Disney Pixar has created animated features that are full of emotion, sentimentality and pure imagination. Their newest feature, “Coco,” shares all those characteristics — but with a twist. With vivid colors and a charming storyline, “Coco” is a mesmerizing exhibition of Mexican culture in an animated film.

In a society where movies tend to follow a traditional, white narrative, “Coco” feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s a film that deviates from the stories that have been featured for generations and finally puts the spotlight on another group of people. The best part is that it does so in a way that respectfully celebrates Mexican culture and tradition, rather than appropriating it like so many other animated films before.

Set in the small town of Santa Cecilia, the film takes place during Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), a widely celebrated Mexican holiday. Despite the film’s title, the movie actually centers on Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) — a spunky, 12-year-old kid with one dream: to play music for the world like his role-model Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).

There’s only one problem: Miguel’s family has kept up a generations-old ban on all kinds of music. The ban, which originated from his great-great-grandmother Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach), was put in place after she and her daughter — Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía) — were abandoned by her husband for a musical career. Since then, the Riveras were strictly a family of humble shoemakers — not musicians.

As Miguel desperately tries pursuing his musical dreams, he suddenly finds himself transported to the stunning Land of the Dead where he meets his deceased family members. With the help of his new friend, Héctor (Gael García Bernal), Miguel ventures through the Land of the Dead not only to determine his future, but also to discover his family’s past.

Essentially, the film boils down to a story about family. “Coco” is unique in the sense that it doesn’t just focus on how your present family shapes who you are, but also how your family’s lineage is equally as formative. Throughout the film, the biggest lesson that Miguel learns is that there’s no way you can know who you are without knowing where you come from.

Stunning animation complements the cultural aspects in this film, evoking a sense of astonishment. At some points, the film doesn’t even look animated, with deep-focused close up shots that make the characters appear almost real, as three-dimensional figures. Vibrant pinks, oranges, and yellows dance across the screen throughout the film, creating a visual masterpiece that draws the audience to the captivating cultural features on the screen. “Coco” is proof that the magic of animation never dies — there’s always going to be an air of amazement along with it.

Perhaps what sets “Coco” apart from past Pixar animations is the way it deals with darker themes with a lighter tone. Seeing as how it takes place in the Land of the Dead, the film obviously deals with heavy topics such as death and the afterlife. But rather than portraying death as something scary or mysterious, “Coco” brings an air of joy to the topic. Commemorating the dead is no longer a scary occurrence, but rather just another way to celebrate life.

“Coco,” which co-director Lee Unkrich called “a love letter to Mexico,” is another wonderful addition to the Disney Pixar repertoire. With striking visuals and a heartwarming story, you won’t be disappointed when you see it on the big screen.