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Disney/Pixar’s Coco

Legion of Leia had the pleasure of being invited to attend Disney-Pixar’s COCO press conference, where we learned more about what inspired the initial story idea behind the film, how auditions came to influence the characters we saw in the finished product, and how much work went into bringing the characters to life onscreen through not just animation, but also through the voice acting. Below we list the top 5 things we learned from Disney-Pixar’s COCO press conference:

  1. Lee Unkrich’s interest in Dia de los Muertos fueled the initial inspiration of the film. It has been hard not to miss the prominence of the Day of the Dead in all of the COCO marketing campaigns and for good reason. It is the core of the film. However, for those who weren’t brought up in the culture and the traditions, it may seem like a very specific tradition to focus on for a film. Director Lee Unkrich had been interested in pursuing on a story idea surrounding the Mexican holiday after working on Toy Story III, but hadn’t known much about it. At the press conference he described the rabbit hole research process he went through when he was debating whether or not to pursue this particular story idea: “And the more that I dug in, the more that I learned about how central family is to this celebration, and that Dia de Muortos is, you know, is all about this obligation that we all have to remember our loved ones, and to pass their stories along. And I just really started to see the potential to tell a unique story, to tell a story that could only be told in animation, that could be visually dazzling, but also had the potential to have a real emotional core to it. And that was really kind of the beginning of this journey.” Many trips to Mexico later eventually came to pull together the pieces needed to create the film we have today.
  2. Anthony Gonzalez’s audition ended up driving the character development of Miguel. Could you believe that Miguel wasn’t originally supposed to be singing? Neither could we until it was mentioned how Anthony had surprised them at the audition by bringing a CD with a song he had written on it: “At his very first audition, you know, we had him read a bunch of scenes, script pages. And then when we were all done, he took out a CD, and he said, “I brought a song I want to sing to you.” And at that point, we didn’t even know if Miguel was going to be singing in the movie, so that wasn’t part of the audition. And unfortunately, we didn’t have a CD player that day, where we were. So Anthony, true to his great spirit just said, “Oh, well, whatever – I’ll just sing it a cappella.” And he launched into this beautiful, like, 10 minute long, sweet rendition of this song, sung just to the few of us. And you know, we were already wowed by his audition, and then that just really sealed the deal.” Given how intrinsic music is to the plot of COCO and having seen the film, we don’t know what would have happened if Anthony hadn’t auditioned for the role and infused his singing into the creative development process behind the character.
  3. Benjamin Bratt pulled inspiration for Ernesto de la Cruz from a family member. The character of Ernesto de la Cruz is one that can’t be missed. He’s evocative of the golden era of Hollywood as well as the golden era of Mexican cinema, where we recall actors like Pedro Infante. However, it was revealed during the press conference that a lot of the personality and performance we heard from Benjamin Bratt was heavily influenced by his memories of his father: “[M]y own father, who’s now deceased, and who I lost touch with many years before he passed on – I lived with him in some very formative years, from 12 to about 17. And although he was quite a bit different than who Ernesto de la Cruz is, he was larger than life – 6’3”, massive frame, broad shoulders, and a booming voice, and the kind of person that no matter which room he walked into, he commanded attention… [I]t was the kind of thing that I could draw on because it was familiar to me.” It was intriguing to hear that he had pulled those memories and was able to use them in his performance. Even more so due to how much COCO revolves around the concept of family.
  4. COCO will remind us what happens when we stop telling the stories of our loved ones. Throughout the course of the past couple of months of press, we’ve learned more details about the rules that occupy the realm of the dead in Disney-Pixar’s COCO. However, at the press conference, we learned one of the hardest rules about the land of the dead i.e. what happens when no one is telling our stories or remembering us when we die. Actor Edward James Olmos, who plays Chicharron, told us: “If you don’t remember your loved ones, they’re gone. If you don’t tell the stories of that loved one, they cease to exist. And it was that simple.” We won’t spoil anything, but one of the hardest and heartbreaking moments in the film surrounded this rule. When we cease to be remembered, we just disappear and no one knows what happens after that. It is final.
  5. The story of Coco transcends Mexican culture. It is truly universal. This may be more of an opinion than a fact. However, I have to include this. I have argued with people online regarding whether or not the story of Coco will be too focused on a specific market to do well. And I say nay. The themes within the story are universal and will make everyone sob and reach out to their families after the conclusion of the movie. Actor Edward James Olmos shares the same sentiments during the press conference when he described the impact the movie had at a screening he went to for the film: “And by the time it got to the end, I was in heaving sobs. And – I mean, harsh, heaving sobs, you know, like one of those kind of things that – not only is pride taken over, because I am Mexican, full blooded on everybody’s side; not only am I a person who has been inside of this industry for over 50 years; not only have I really tried to understand myself inside of this art form – but this really became something really profound. And so what ended up happening is that I looked around immediately, because I was in the last chair, in the back. And I looked around, and you know, these people were all crying – everybody. Everybody was like so intensely, just trying to hold onto it, and wiping their faces, and holding on, and watching the movie. I said, “Hell, this thing just hit everybody like a ton of bricks.”” We 100% agree. This movie will hit us all the a ton of bricks and it all has to do with the themes present in the movie combined with the amazing visuals and epic performances given by the actors.

Disney-Pixar’s COCO will be released tomorrow on November 22, 2017. We here at Legion of Leia highly recommend you all see it and to bring tissues. Seriously, bring tissues.

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Sarah Musnicky

Sarah is a freelance writer and self-described workaholic. She loves fantasy and sci fi and will admit having dual loyalties between Star Trek and Star Wars as well as Marvel and DC. When she's not being socially awkward, she is in a corner obsessing over dragons, cute things, and a need to master all languages on the planet. She would like to be a professional blanket burrito when she reaches the peak of maturation.

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