In Coco, an animated movie produced by Disney, follows Miguel, a Mexican boy who dreams to become a musician. Unfortunately, in his family, all forms of music are banned. The reason for this is due to his great-great-grandmother, who was abandoned by her singer, songwriter husband so he could follow his dreams. An imprint of hatred toward music established in following generations as a consequence of his actions. Miguel is unable to understand their reasoning for forbidding all music, especially when his idol is the “greatest guitar player to ever live, Ernesto de la Cruz,” also known as the “town’s hero.” In the film, Miguel becomes trapped in the land of the dead, where he then teams up with a residential spirit to explore and discover the real story of Miguel’s family.
Coco’s set in Mexico, and the traditions of one of the most honored holidays doesn’t just serve as a scenery throughout the feature. They are the story of historic culture. Coco educates children and adults about “Dia de Los Muertos” known as the ‘Day of the Dead’ and its traditions. Dia de Los Muertos is a respected holiday where families celebrate the lives of deceased family members. They believe that cheerful spirits will provide “good luck, protection, and wisdom” to their families. In Mexico, the festivals are celebrated over three days starting October 31st and ending November 2nd. In some areas of Mexico, families find it traditional to take the time to spend all night beside the graves of their relatives as their way to celebrate the holiday. A significant part of the holiday is creating the family “ofrenda.” The ofrenda, know as the altar is usually decorated with pictures, flowers, candles, food, and beverages to honor the dead.
Offerings can include toys, photographs, clothes, money, and many more meaningful items. Family has a highly crucial role in Coco. This presented story highlights the importance that we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for our ancestor’s sacrifices. In this film, the grandmothers are the ones who keep everyone’s priorities in line. The movie assembles a discussion about death. Death is explained as a natural preservation of life that can’t be avoided. Coco presents death as being colorful and mostly joyous rather than scary and upsetting. The “Land of the Dead” is where Miguel transports to find more information about his ancestors. Here, the land is surrounded with different neighborhoods, and transportation methods that are fluorescent looking very inviting in this production. The established “scary symbols” of death look friendly. The characters look very different through the variations of size, shades as well as degrees of decay.
Colorful skulls are used as decorations while the skeletons themselves seem so lively you forget they are dead. Coco influences our view on Mexican culture by revealing more than the portrayed sombreros, ponchos, and mustaches. It takes a viewer through Miguel’s journey as he discovers his family’s history and learns a respect that he previously could not understand. These actions convey the message that all people are more alike than they are different. The way in which the Mexican culture is represented is not just done for an entertainment value, it is done respectfully and accurately. Death is presented as natural. It is not meant to scare the audience but rather engage it in a more probing question about legacy and family. Fear focuses not around death but rather being forgotten. Songs included in the film like “Remember Me” and “El Latido de mi Corazón” blend English and Spanish together in a way that lends itself as its own character. Whether it be the music, customs, or even the personalities of the characters, they give the film a real sense of authenticity in its goal to represent an important element of Mexican culture.