After a few years of development, Pixar Animation Studios announced in 2015 that it was moving forward with a film called Coco. The animated movie, directed by Toy Story 3’s Lee Unkrich, was announced that year at the D23 Expo, with the pitch that it was set in Mexico and inspired by that country’s Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead).
The film features a voice cast of Gael García Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle), Benjamin Bratt (Ride Along 2) and newcomer Anthony Gonzalez. Coco tells the story of a young boy named Miguel (voiced by Gonzalez), who dreams of becoming a musician even though that vocation is strictly forbidden by his family. Miguel teams up with a trickster named Hector (Bernal) to help solve the mystery of his family’s history. The film arrives in November and we’ll be getting a first look at it very soon.
Coco is one of two films from Pixar this year, along with this summer’s Cars 3; its corporate cousin, Walt Disney Animation Studios, will sit the year out after two releases in 2016 (Zootopia and Moana).
Is Coco worth looking forward to? It appears to be – it’s Pixar taking a rather sizable risk with an original story that’s not a sequel, and a different type of story than that which is typically told in studio animated films. Plus, with Disney Animation sitting this one out, and Cars 3 not likely much of a contender, Coco has to be considered the prohibitive favorite for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Speaking of sequels, Coco may be Pixar’s last non-sequel for a while – the studio will release The Incredibles 2 in June of 2018 and Toy Story 4 a year later. In fact, no other non-sequel Pixar movies have thus far been announced.
There’s also the possibility of the film courting controversy over charges of cultural appropriation. Disney drew fire in 2013 when it attempted to trademark the phrase “Día de los Muertos” in connection with the movie, then in early stages of development. This move drew outrage at the time from the Mexican-American community. While Disney enlisted cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, who had protested the effort, as a consultant on the film, it’s very possible the controversy will be revisited prior to the release of the movie this fall.