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Meet Pepita: Mamá Imelda’s Spirit Guide in Disney Pixar’s COCO

We visited as a guest of Disney

When watching the Disney-Pixar film COCO your children are going to be captivated by Pepita who is Mamá Imelda’s spirit guide. Pepita is an Alebrijes, and while I was at Pixar Animation Studios, Character/Rigging Artist, Alonso Martinez shared with us what are Alebrijes and the significance it has in the film COCO.

Martinez started talking about Alebrijes by sharing with us his own personal collection that he has been collecting since he was a child. Alebrijes are a type of folk art in Mexico created by an artist named Pedro Linares, who came from a family that made piñatas. One day he became sick and had a fever dream. In the fever dream he was in a forest that was colorful and all of a sudden animals started to appear. There were donkeys with wings, eagles with chicken feet, and more. When he woke from the dream, he knew that he needed to capture it. He first started making Alebrijes in a piñata format with paper mache. Now they are made with a type of wood from Oaxaca called copal wood that is very soft and easy to carve. Little did Linares know, but his art creation is now one of Mexico’s most recognized art forms.

When creating Pepita, they wanted to pay homage and shed light into the beautiful art form while sharing it with the rest of the world. The began to create her by exploring what her personality was and how they could make her into a rich character in the film. They spent a lot of time doing research and ended up making Pepita a blend of many animals. Pepita has ram horns, lizard-like tail, eagle feet, eagle wings, tiger arms, and a tiger inspired face. They wanted to pay homage to the real Alebrijes, and they imagined that the ones in Linares’ dream had to be very realistic and the would form have a graphical nature, so they went somewhere in the middle. Pepita has some features of the real wood carvings and is also a little more realistic.

The one thing they knew is that Pepita needed to be able to do is scare people and characters in the film, so they needed to make her look fierce. (although I don’t feel that she will scare your children in the movie).

Then they presented to us what Pepita looks like in the film, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of her.

After we got the first look at Pepita, we were invited into an art studio where we got to create our own Pepita. The staff at Pixar had created mini 3D printed sculptures of Pepita where we got to unleash our creativity to design our own version of Pepita. It was a magical moment that I will never forget and made me fall in love with Pepita more than I already had.

Don’t miss seeing the beautiful Pepita in Disney-Pixar’s COCO on November 22nd. Learn more about COCO online, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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