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Pixar Went to Great Lengths to Keep Coco Respectful to Mexican Culture

Caroline -
go to original
September 5, 2017

COCO Official Trailer: Disney Pixar Animation (ONE Media)

As the next film from the esteemed and inimitable Pixar, Coco has all the makings of something huge. But as a film about Mexican culture, it also represents a potential minefield when it comes to the ways it represents people’s very real cultural heritage and personal identities. Pixar has experience with films about other cultures, from Brave‘s portrayal of medieval Scotland to Ratatouille‘s setting in France. But centered as it is on a non-white and non-English speaking culture, Coco presented an even greater challenge. Luckily, the filmmakers were keen to do it right, as GearsOfBiz learned on a recent press trip to Pixar’s Emeryville, Calif. headquarters.

Set in a small town in Mexico, Coco follows a young boy named Miguel who longs to be a famous musician like his idol, the celebrated Ernesto De La Cruz. The movie takes place during Mexico’s famous Dia de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead - celebration, the one day a year when passed family members are invited back to the land of the living. The movie’s focus rests entirely on family, but there’s the conflict, too: Miguel’s family hates music and musicians. He practices on an acoustic guitar while cloistered in a hidden attic where nobody but his street dog amigo, Dante, can find him.

It’s natural to feel wary when a gigantic company - even one with as phenomenal a reputation as Pixar - appears to seek to capitalize on another culture. The filmmakers confessed that they worked hard to navigate potential pitfalls.

...Years of research and work on the part of countless individuals both inside and out of Pixar have gone into making Coco not just a great Pixar film - but a culturally respectful one, too. Ultimately, the filmmakers appreciate this responsibility, and they emphasized that they believe they’ve done their best.

“I took the responsibility very seriously, and I have for many, many years,” Unkrich said. “It’s been great having Adrian at my side, and all of the cultural consultants that we’ve gathered, and the many Latino members of our crew that have been a part of this for a long time. I hope we got it right. If we have any missteps, it’s not for lack of trying really hard.”

Based on what we’ve seen of Coco so far, it’s a safe bet to say that their efforts paid off. Pixar’s Coco hits theaters Nov. 22.

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