“Remember me, though I have to say goodbye.” With those words, Disney and Pixar launched one of the most popular films in the Pixar canon and paid tribute to the Mexican culture in the film “Coco.” The filmmakers studied the culture surrounding the holiday of Dia de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead.
“Coco” follows Miguel, a young boy who loves music even though he comes from a family that hates music. We find it was because his great, great grandfather chased his musical dreams and wound up leaving his family behind. But, when Miguel ends up in the land of the dead, he needs a blessing from a member of his family to get back home. His great, great grandmother give him her blessing as long as he doesn’t play music ever again, something he can not do. Miguel eventually finds a man who is about to be forgotten, who turns out to be his great, great grandfather; helps him get revenge on the man who murdered him, stealing his music and preventing him from returning to his family; and returns to the land of the living and plays music for his family helping them all heal in both the lands of the dead and the living.
This is one of the best, and most culturally sensitive films in the Disney and Pixar canons. The filmmakers traveled to Mexico to learn more about their culture, the history of Dia de los Muertos and it importance to the Latin people. While there are certainly some missteps along the way, the filmmakers did a better job of avoiding stereotypes that have plagued many Disney films in the past. The stories of the Disney Renaissance made for wonderful films, but many have been deemed insensitive by the cultures they are supposed to represent. “Aladdin,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Hercules” and “Mulan” have all been heavily criticized. But, this film gets high marks from actually learning about the Latin culture and presenting it in a sensitive manner.
On top of the cultural sensitivity, “Coco” brings one of the best soundtracks of the Pixar canon. While the great music is normally more associated with the Walt Disney Animation Studios, the Pixar Studios knocked it out of the park. The multiple versions of “Remember Me,” fast and slow, catchy and sincere help to elevate this film and make it stick out in the viewers’ minds. But, that’s not the only song that acts as an earworm. “Proud Corazon” and “La Llorona” are beautifully performed songs that have the ability to draw any viewer in. Much of the music from this film was performed live at the famous Hollywood Bowl and it makes perfect sense why the songs from this film were chosen.
When I ranked the 22 Pixar movies that have been released to date, this film ranked number 7 for me. It’s one of the best films Pixar has made, but Pixar has made almost all good films. This isn’t my favorite Pixar film. I don’t think it’s the best Pixar film, but it’s one of the most fun you’ll ever see.