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Bringing the Skeletons to Life in COCO

We visited Pixar as a guest of Disney

The Disney-Pixar movie COCO is coming out in theaters on November 22nd. The movie is about family, culture, and music. It tells a story about the true meaning of Día de los Muertos. In the film, skeletons play a significant role, and while I was at Pixar Animation Studios learning about the film, I was fascinated by how they were able to give the skeletons life in the film.

Designing the Skeletons
Daniel Arriaga, Character Art Director, shared with us that it all started with research. They studied the skull and skeleton to find a way that they could make it appealing. They did sketches to see how they could give them character and adjusted the clothing. The next step was to make them into sculptures. By doing this, it allowed them to explore more of the skeleton shape. “Do they need eyes, teeth, tongues? We also explored with face paint, and with the concept of whether or not to give them hair,” said Arriaga. While in the sculpting process, they were able to find the best ways to face paint them.

Animating Skeletons
“We had never animated skeletons at Pixar before,” said Supervising Animator, Gini Santos. They had to come up with some rules and guidelines as far as an expression. “The minute that you take the skin away, the behavior changes,” said Santos. There were three things they focused on when animating the skeletons; physicality, character, and skull facial expressions. The face was a big part of the acting performance of the skeletons. “We gave the skeletons lips, and since skeletons don’t have tongues, we committed to that,” said Santos.

Skeleton Clothes
They decided to give the skeletons clothes, and they had never clothed a skeleton before. They knew that Hector would be the hardest because he shows so much bone. The clothes made it difficult for the team because the skeleton bones made gaps where the clothes would get stuck. They added some joints in-between the bones to keep the cloth from falling and getting stuck in the skeleton bones. They spent years working on this process!

Finally, they had to work on the shading of the skeleton bones. When shading they looked at three different things; color, texture, and response to light. They wanted the bones to be detailed, but not creepy. Once the shading was perfected, they were able to start working on the face painting. The skeletons all have the same skull shape which helped them with creating the face painting.

When watching Disney-Pixar’s COCO, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the work that went into making the skeletons a magical party of the movie. Fall in love with COCO in theaters on November 22nd.

Learn more about COCO online, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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