Swimming against the trend of the current mainstream US movie market, Pixar is a studio that boldly continues to create its own original stories. From Toy Story through to the upcoming Incredibles 2, any film from Pixar promises audiences something stimulatingly new. You can expect a movie that’s heart-tugging, full of fun, and features tip-top quality animation.
Coco, its 19th feature, continues the stellar tradition of Oscar winners like Up and Inside Out. It’s the tale of a 12-year-old boy called Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), who dreams of being a star like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), the most famous musician in Mexican history. Miguel’s family have other ideas. For generations they have banned music. Let’s just say that they won’t be nominating him for Latin American Idol. So Miguel is forced to practise in secret, with his homemade guitar and his collection of Ernesto de la Cruz fan memorabilia.
Coco is a coming-of-age tale of a boy who must defy his family, shape his own destiny and follow his dreams. Yet Coco is uniquely Pixar. The characterisation is always extensively considered and rigorously authentic, giving the story an engaging quirkiness. The humour is sophisticated, with the something-for-all-ages gags you’d expect (like all Pixar films, this is an animation for adults as much as kiddies), and then there’s the stunning, boundary-pushing visuals.
John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer (a post he also holds at Disney), once said that every movie has to do three things: tell a compelling story that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats; populate that story with memorable and appealing characters you really care about; and locate all the above within a believable world.
Like Inside Out, Coco is a movie set between two worlds. The first is the Land of the Living. Scrupulously researched by animators from their field trips to real Mexican villages, it has a tangible dusty authenticity. Note: the voice talent here is all of Latino origin. The second is the Land of the Dead. According to Mexican tradition, these two realms happily co-exist side by side for most of the year, until one festival, the Dia de los Muertos, when their paths cross. In Coco, these worlds truly come alive with a unique sense of colour and energy.
Miguel’s adventure sees him journey on a quest to fulfil his dreams, aided by Hector, a trickster voiced by Gael García Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries). Coco tells a story that teaches the importance of family, and that we’re all a part of what comes before us. It is a film that you cannot miss when it is released in January.