The Book Of Life characters successfully captured the essence of the Mexican “Day of the Dead” tradition, thanks to their backstories, design, and the actors who brought them to life. In 2014 director Jorge R. Gutierrez and producer Guillermo del Toro collaborated on 3D fantasy adventure The Book of Life. The film follows a bullfighter who embarks on an afterlife adventure in order to get back to the Land of the Living and reunite with the woman he loves.
The filmmakers behind Book Of Life took a lot of inspiration from the "Day of the Dead" celebration to design the movie, which is full of small details, such as sugar skulls everywhere and many elements from Mexican culture incorporated into the characters' clothing. The Book of Life also has a voice cast that included many Mexican and Latino actors.
The Book Of Life received mostly positive reviews, praising its animation style but criticizing the story, with some claiming it failed to update a folkloric story for modern audiences. Still, the film offered a visually stunning adventure, so here are the main characters and the actors who voice them.
Diego Luna as Manolo Sánchez
Manolo is a torero - or bullfighter - whose true passion is music. He comes from a family of bullfighters and his father Carlos (Héctor Elizondo) is hard on him and suppresses his musical aspirations. He’s kind and brave yet insecure and cares a lot about his family and friends. Manolo is later tricked by Xibalba and after being killed he's sent to the Land of the Remembered, where he has to go through a challenge in order to be return to the Land of the Living.
Mexican actor Diego Luna voices Manolo and contributed to the soundtrack with songs “I Love You Too Much,” “I Will Wait," and Radiohead cover “Creep." Luna is best remembered for his roles in Y Tu Mamá También, Elysium, and Rogue One.
Zoe Saldana as María Posada
María is Manolo and Joaquín’s best friend and love interest, leaving her in the middle of a love triangle. She is compassionate, spirited, and rebellious. Although she’s trapped in the middle of a bet between La Muerte and Xibalba on who will win her heart, she’s no damsel in distress – María knows self-defense and continuously stands up for herself.
Zoe Saldana voiced Marí, who has featured in films such as Star Trek and Infinitely Polar Bear. She’s part of the MCU as Gamora, a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy crew. Saldana is set to reprise her role as Neytiri in James Cameron’s Avatar 2 and Avatar 3.
Channing Tatum as Joaquín Mondragón Jr
Joaquín is Manolo and María’s best friend who, just as Manolo, has feelings for María. Thanks to a medal given to him by Xibalba as a child, Joaquín becomes the town hero since he can’t be hurt. He’s friendly, authoritative, and easily influenced by those around him. Voice actor Channing Tatum is known for 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike, and Foxcatcher. Aside from The Book Of Life, he has lent his voice to other animated films such as Superman in The Lego Movie.
Kate del Castillo as La Muerte
La Muerte is the ruler of the Land of the Remembered and Xibalba’s wife. She and her estranged husband make a bet on who will win Marías’s heart, with Manolo being her pick after showing his kindness by giving her a piece of bread when she approached him disguised as an old woman. She’s a generous goddess and believes in the pureness of humankind. However, she won’t tolerate cheaters, as seen when she learns of Xibalba’s dirty tricks. Kate del Castillo is a Mexican actress known for La Reina del Sur and Ingobernable. She has also had roles in The 33 and the forthcoming Bad Boys for Life.
Ron Perlman as Xibalba
Xibalba is the ruler of the Land of the Forgotten and La Muerte’s husband. He’s a manipulative trickster who gives Joaquín a medal that grants invincibility so he can be the one to win María’s heart, thus making Xibalba the winner of the bet. He’s not exactly evil but rather mischievous, and contrary to La Muerte doesn’t believe there’s good left in humanity.
Xibalba's performer Ron Perlman has appeared in many del Toro films, including Cronos, Blade II, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. He's also a prolific voice actor, having roles in Titan A.E, Batman: The Animated Series, and Hey Arnold!.
Ice Cube as Candle Maker
The Candle Maker is a benevolent immortal being in The Book Of Life who oversees the lives and stories of the living through candles and the titular book. He’s cheerful, easygoing, and eccentric, but always trying to follow the rules as he’s in charge of keeping a balance between the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten. Ice Cube's film debut was the acclaimed Boyz n the Hood, and he's since appeared in Barbershop, Are We There Yet?, and 21 Jump Street.