Pixar’s next original animated film, titled Coco will not be “a break-out-into-song musical,” but instead one “set against the backdrop of musical performance”, according to the movie’s director Lee Unkrich.
The movie will be one where the 12-year old Coco will be “breaking all the rules.” The synopsis given tells the story of how the Riveras are an average Mexican family—except the family has banned music for several generations. The ban originated from a great-great-grandmother whose husband abandoned his family in pursuit of music. Not to be deterred by the rules of his family, Coco follows the advice of the deceased Ernesto de la Cruz as he pursues his passion. Unfortunately, Coco “borrows” de la Cruz’s guitar from his grave on the one day he really, really shouldn’t have—Dia de Los Muertos. Coco must then travel to the land of the dead and face the family that caused the ban on music from his life.
In the production of this film, Unkrich knew that there was going to be great pressure to get the movie culturally impeccable. He told Entertainment Weekly that:
The day John Lasseter gave the thumbs up for this movie, I immediately felt this huge weight drop onto my shoulders because I knew that we were doing something different than we had ever made at the studio and that for the first time, we were going to have this enormous responsibility to do right by this culture and not lapse into stereotype or cliché.
After an initial misstep in the beginning of the production process, he has thus ensured an all Latinx cast and has consulted many cultural experts to make sure that he avoided the pitfalls that generally appear in media. The movie was approved 3 weeks before the festival of Dia de Los Muertos, causing a scramble to get over the border to research the traditions. The misstep, which included an attempt to trademark “Dia de Los Muertos” in 2013 which received much backlash, did make their conviction stronger that they needed to avoid any more mistakes:
It reinforced our desire to make sure that we reached out to as many experts as we could and to involve as many people in telling this story accurately. This is a story we want to share with the world, but it’s also been particularly important to us that when the Latino community sees the film, that it resonates and it feels like we got it right, and that’s what we’re really trying to do. We all feel the gravity.
This movie will no doubt be an important step in the right direction to make sure that popular media does not continue to rely on common stereotypes or assumed information about cultures not necessarily in the majority in the United States. Coco will arrive in theaters on November 22, 2017.
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