I’ve been hearing buzz about COCO, Disney Pixar’s latest release since February when I got to hear from someone at Disney Studios talk about planned movie releases for 2017. I couldn’t garner much about the storyline but it was clear that it was intended to honor Mexican culture much in the same way MOANA shared cultural myths from Oceania.
But it’s Disney Pixar so the storyline honestly didn’t matter much to me because I knew I would want to see it.
The synopsis painted a bit of a clearer picture:
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector, and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
And based on this, I expected to have my senses enlightened with the sights and sounds of Mexico and enchanted by the sweeping color and textures of the Land of the Dead. For this expectation, I wasn’t disappointed.
Most of the action takes place on Día de Muertos, a Mexican holiday known as the Day of the Dead. If you’ve seen sugar skulls before, you’re probably at least familiar with some of the icons of the holiday. But not being of Mexican descent, I didn’t know a lot about the holiday. And Disney Pixar provides the perfect introduction to this aspect of Mexican culture.
On Día de Muertos, Miguel and his family create an ofrenda, or altar to honor deceased relatives. On the altar is placed photos of the dead along with objects, like food or drink or trinkets, that are favorable to the lost loved ones. On that night, the deceased cross over to visit and commune with their living relatives, in spirit only.
Somehow, Miguel ends up crossing over and spending the night in the Land of the Dead where he learns about the origins of his family and ends up learning about family history that has been misunderstood for generations. It’s a colorful, musical, heartwarming story about family. But some of you still might have questions.
Will the skeletons scare my children?
I didn’t have any young children with me but it didn’t seem to be an issue for any of the kids that were sitting near me. They make the skeletons as human as possible (with eye, makeup, and clothes) and quite comical at times.
Will this offend my religious sensibilities?
I hope not. This is a movie about cultural traditions, not necessarily religious ones. And the overall message is about the importance of family, a message that transcends most religious ideals.
Are there any scary moments in the movie?
None whatsoever BUT… I didn’t find anything that I thought would be frightening. My 10 year old, who enjoyed the movie, told me he thought it might be a little dark for young children. He wasn’t sure how they would handle the concept of Miguel hanging out with all of his dead relatives. He also thought some of the elements that are introduced, like murder, or disappearing once you are forgotten by your family, might be a little too much for young kids.
On the other hand, my kid is a overthinker and perhaps these were concepts that were bothering him. I don’t think younger kids will put too much thought into it.
What is the right age to see this movie?
This is definitely a good family movie and seems to skew slightly to the younger audiences. The story is sweet and complicated enough to hold the attention of older kids but not so complex that younger kids won’t like it too. I’d recommend this for ages 4 and up.
What about the Pixar short at the beginning?
You guys. This is almost always my favorite part so imagine my surprise when the movie started with NO short at the beginning! They are actually showing Olaf’s Frozen Adventure at the beginning of the film but chose not to show it at the screening I attended.
Overall, this is a winner for Disney Pixar for several reasons.
It’s visually stunning, as expected, but the animation is amazing. You’ll especially want to pay attention to Mama Coco (the character for whom the movie is named). The texture of her skin is so realistic.
We’re treated to a young boy as the main character. With so much focus lately being on girl power, it’s nice to take my son to see a positive male character who is kind and loving and bent on pursuing his dreams.
Finally, Disney Pixar’s COCO highlights Mexican heritage in a way that makes us curious to understand more. Definitely a great family movie to kick off the holiday movie season.