Going by Disney/Pixar’s unexpectedly dramatic teaser trailer for the upcoming Cars 3 and the first details released about next year’s original Pixar offering, Coco, 2017 is shaping up to be a noteworthy time for the animation studio. The latter film, as it were, is being co-directed by Toy Story 3 helmsman Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina – a story artist on Toy Story 3 and Monsters University, in addition to being a co-writer on The Good Dinosaur – and will be the closest thing to a full-blown animated musical that Pixar has produced to date.
It was previously revealed that Coco revolves around Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy with dreams of becoming a professional musician like his idol, the late Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), despite his family’s mysterious ban on playing music. Miguel eventually winds up on a journey through the Land of the Dead with the assistance of a likable, if not entirely trustworthy, skeleton named Hector (Gael García Bernal) in search of the deceased Ernesto de la Cruz. Thanks to a new report, we now know how Miguel enters the Land of the Dead, too.
EW debuted the following official image from Coco, showing the key scene in which Miguel is visiting Ernesto de La Cruz’s tomb and decides to try playing the late musician’s guitar, which is kept hanging in his tomb. Because it’s Dia de Muertos (aka. the Day of the Dead) when this happens, Miguel winds up being sent into the Land of the Dead by accident and on his way to meeting his great-great relatives – who, naturally, aren’t so pleased about him breaking the ban on music that they decreed, back when they were still living.
Unkrich, when he spoke to EW, played down the idea of Coco being a traditional musical and instead described the film as being “set against the backdrop of musical performance.” The director touched upon a controversy that Coco drew earlier in its development too, back when the film didn’t have an official title and Disney attempted to trademark the general title “Dia de Los Muertos” – leading to the studio being criticized for attempting to co-opt the Mexican holiday itself. Unkrich expressed his regret over the matter during his talk with EW, but said that the backlash ultimately helped to improve the film:
“It reinforced our desire to make sure that we reached out to as many experts as we could and to involve as many people in telling this story accurately. This is a story we want to share with the world, but it’s also been particularly important to us that when the Latino community sees the film, that it resonates and it feels like we got it right, and that’s what we’re really trying to do. We all feel the gravity.”
The proof of that is in the pudding when it comes to Coco, as evidenced by the film having a primary voice cast composed of latino actors, as well as a latino co-director/writer. Pixar story artists also took several trips to Mexico for research purposes on the movie, to bring a greater sense of authenticity to the aesthetic of the film’s settings. Coco‘s inclusive approach to casting and creative talent is reminiscent of Disney Animation’s own work on this year’s critically-acclaimed animated musical Moana – and if the precedent set by that film is any indicator, Pixar could likewise soon have a new (semi-)musical hit of its own to add to its wall of beloved animated features.