The Long and Controversial Journey of 'Coco'

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By Richard Gonzalez

Disney-Pixar will release their Día De Los Muertos themed film Cocothis fall. After several months of teasing us with artwork and photos from “behind the scenes” of the production, we were finally treated to the first official teaser-trailer for the film this week, and given a glimpse of its amazing artwork and great soundtrack.

Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

The film follows Miguel, a young boy who spends his waking moments watching an old VHS tape of his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt)—a Vicente Fernández type character with accompanying distinct mustache and guitar. Miguel emulates his hero, playing the guitar and drawing inspiration from de a Cruz’ words, “I have to sing, I have to play, the music is not just in me, it is me.” 

While much of the film’s plot has yet to be revealed, we do know that the film follows Miguel and his dog Dante to what appears be the burial spot of de la Cruz, and Miguel subsequently ends up in a Día De Los Muertos-type world. Here, Miguel encounters the souls of his ancestors and proceeds to team up with a skeletal spirit (Gael García Bernal) in an attempt to find de la Cruz and earn his family’s blessing to perform in the Land of the Living.

Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Although the film looks great and has an exceptional team of people behind it, it has not been without controversy. The film was initially called a rip off of 2014’s The Book Of Life, which carries a similar premise. The director of The Book of Life, Jorge Gutiérrez, made an effort to dismiss any bad blood.

This, however, has not stopped fans from calling for a boycott of Coco. It should be noted that the project was initially announced in 2012, two years before The Book of Life was released, but it still enraged fans of TBOL when Disney touted Coco as a “unique idea.”

During that time, Disney also found itself under fire for attempting to trademark “Día De Los Muertos” as the name of the film in development. The attempt was met with huge resistance and outcry from the Latinx community, and Disney ultimately backed down. The drama only added to the problems for the film, ultimately leading to a huge overhaul during production. Famed Chicano artist Lalo Alcaraz (FOX’s Bordertown) was one of the most outspoken critics and was eventually brought on the creative team for Coco. He detailed the situation on Facebook.

Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

It would seem that the initial backlash gave Pixar enough perspective to ensure that the project was done correctly and with the best possible people in place. As mentioned before, Lalo Alcaraz was brought in to make sure that the details were culturally responsible. Gael García Bernal and Benjamin Bratt were cast in the film, and Camilo Lara, of Mexican Institute of Sound/Mexrissey, was brought onto the music team for the film. With such a strong team of Mexican creatives in place and with the initial problems in the past, we can only hope that all of the attention to and respect for detail will showcase what director Lee Unkrich describes as a “love letter to Mexico.” The world will have to wait till November 22nd to find out, but until then, take a look at the teaser-trailer below.