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Disney-Pixar’s COCO: A Story about Family & Culture

We attended a press preview as a guest of Disney

Disney-Pixar’s COCO is a beautiful film that will immerse families in the Mexican culture as it tells the story behind the meaning of Día de los Muertos. The story is about a boy who is stuck between two worlds and is also a story about what it means to be a family.

Before starting to work on the film, the filmmakers started with research. They made many trips to Mexico during Día de los Muertos to learn how the different regions embrace the cultural event. During Día de los Muertos, the souls of the dead are invited back to the land of the living. It is a grand family reunion where families are joyful, and get out into the streets, a beautiful tradition.

The filmmakers used the traditions to create a story. They knew that Miguel would have a dream that his family would not approve of, and they wanted to put pressure on that relationship. The pressure of the family tradition gets harder on him when they want to make him into a shoemaker. His true passion is hidden under the ofrenda, and they wanted to have ofrenda be part of this discovery and the connection to his passion – music.

The film shares through the power of storytelling, three important parts of Día de los Muertos, The ofrenda (offering), Marigold Petals, and the Cemetery vigil.

The ofrenda is an alter that is decorated to greet the spirits. It is a key part of the tradition and feeling that our ancestors are watching us, and are connected to us. Photos are displayed on the ofrenda to remember the faces of their loved ones. Often times, the photos will inspire memories that the family will share during the holiday.

When visiting different regions of Mexico during Día de los Muertos, you will more than likely see marigold petals along the streets. Families lay the petals on the streets to help guide the spirits back to the cemetery. The color and the scent get the attention of the spirits. The filmmakers decided to make a bridge out of the Marigold petals that are an iconic part of the story.

Then there is the cemetery vigil. At night, families will come out to the vigil. It is quiet, but also joyful. The cemetery is full of music, and candles. There will sometimes be a parade in the town. It is a moment of togetherness and unity. The filmmakers decided to make the cemetery vigil a place where he would meet his family because they felt like it was a natural fit.

Music is a big part of Miguel’s life and a big part of the story. The filmmakers knew Miguel would be motivated by music. They wanted to convey that music is in the air that he breathes, and that is in his bones. Miguel’s love for music is something that he must hide from his family, and they created a hidden space (in an attic) where Miguel would fuel his passion. In the attic, Miguel creates his own ofrenda, where he was taking the traditions of his family and using it in his own way.

The voice of Miguel’s guitar tells its own story, and you’ll have to find out more about it when seeing Disney-Pixar’s COCO in theaters on November 22nd.

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

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