Pixar’s Coco either has some of the best or worst timing. It’s a movie celebrating Mexican heritage at a time when some aspects of American politics are running in the opposite direction. In a recent interview with Den of Geek directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina said they didn’t set out to make a message movie but it kind of inherently is one because of times.
“We don’t make message movies, but that being said, we are making a movie about a very particular culture,” Unkrich says. “We live in a global community, like it or not. There are a lot of different people, a lot of cultures, a lot of different colors in our world. And I think things aren’t going to get any better by everybody staying divided. We need to accept that we’re living with other people who have other cultures and different beliefs than we do, and I think putting a movie like this into the world, and humanizing the characters, and hopefully getting people wrapped up in the stories so that they are not thinking about the cultural aspects, but they’re just thinking of the people as people, these characters as people, might be a step towards more acceptance and of embracing our global community.”
Making a film about Día de los Muertos is not the same as creating a movie about Halloween. The two things are very different, not only in customs but also in tone. Halloween is about scary things and candy while Día de los Muertos is a celebration of those that aren’t with us anymore. Unkrich is happy they can educate people who might not know the difference.
“Yeah, I’m glad you brought up the whole conflation with Halloween, because that’s something that a lot of people, just because they don’t know better and because the two celebrations are so close together, and there are skeletons involved, it would make sense why people would conflate the two,” Unkrich says. “I’m really happy that we’re putting something out in the world that, on a global level, is going to be educating people on what this celebration is really about, and that it really has nothing to do with Halloween.”
For Molina it was about capturing a segment of his heritage that he didn’t know that much about.
“So my family’s Mexican, my mom is from Jalisco,” Molina says. “But in the town where she grew up, they didn’t have the practice of Día de los Muertos the way you see it in the film. But one of the things that I could really relate to, in terms of the way that death was treated in the family setting, was that it was always a home scenario where we would talk about people who had passed away, and she would talk about her little brother who she loved and told fun stories about him. He died before I was born, but you know, she would always talk fondly about him and share stories. Whenever there’s a funeral in the family, the occasion itself would be somber, and you’d be sad about the loss of that person. But afterwards you’d come together and you’d have music, and you’d have food and you’d tell stories, and everyone was there to live in the happy memories of that person.”
It’s okay to be sad about the people that aren’t in your life anymore but it’s also good to remember all of the good times you had with them when they were around. That’s how the dead live on; in our memories.
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector, and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
Coco, directed Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, stars Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Alanna Ubach, Benjamin Bratt, and Alanna Ubach. It will be released on November 22nd.