Coco will be in theaters this November. Coco is about the holiday Dia de Los Muertos and while in Pixar Studios in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to learn more about the significance of the holiday and more about how the movie was created.
Coco – A Universal Story of Family
Story artist Dean Kelly and Writer/Co-director Adrian Molina took us on the journey of how the story of Coco came to be.
In 2011, they had a rough story pitch set in Mexico around Dia de Los Muertos. We learned that at the beginning of the movie journey, it always comes down to research so they traveled to Mexico to learn more.
The movie Coco looks to answer this question, What does it mean to be a part of the family?
Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead has origins from pre-colonial times. During this holiday celebration, it is like a grand family reunion where everyone is getting out into the streets and having fun. Molina shared that Dia de Los Muertos is a time to celebrate and be joyful.
Dia de Los Muertos Customs:
- The ofrenda is a special altar where offerings or gifts are placed to honor the dead.
- Food and drink are placed there so that the dead will have something to eat and drink after their long journey,
- Photos are displayed on the ofrenda to remember faces of loved ones and to inspire stories of them
To help the dead on their journey, a marigold path of flowers create a bridge to help guide them home and to the cemetery. This bridge connects The Land of the Dead with The Land of the Living. The vigil takes place all night long with music, parades, and candles to light the night. During this time, it is a moment of togetherness and reunion.
Tradition Makes the Story in Coco
Coco is a film that uses traditions to create the story. In addition the ofrenda for the family, we learn that Miguel has his own special ofrenda for Ernesto de la Cruz. Miguel has a passion for music but his family has banned music ( I can’t wait to learn more about why when I see more of the movie!)
Miguel struggles with following his family legacy and becoming a shoemaker. He wants to play his guitar and share his music with others but his family will not allow this. In his special hiding place, Miguel has his own ofrenda and it is where we learn many secrets and how he has a connection to Ernesto de la Cruz.
de la Cruz’s movie lines resonate with Miguel and his love for music and open up the storyline for what is to come:
“I have to sing. I have to play. The music is not just in me. It is me.”
“Never underestimate the power of music.”
“I had to have faith in my dream. If I want to be a musician, I have to seize my moment.”
COCO – Concept art by Zaruhi Galstyan. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
The Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead
Production Designer Harley Jessup shared how 5 years of research inspiration and design helped to create the concept of what places in Coco would look like. During their visits to Mexico, it was evident that candles created a magical feeling at night. One can see how this lighting inspired the style of The Land of the Dead.
Creating the City of The Dead
Once crossing over the marigold bridge to the Land of the Dead, it is as if one has entered a Grand Central Station.
The design of Land of the Dead has inspiration from the ancient city Tenochtitlan.
COCO – Concept art by Ernesto Nemesio. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved
Set supervisor Chris Bernardo shared that creating the city of the dead was a unique visual challenge. They wanted it to be as exciting and appealing as possible.
To create the tower, they paired artists from variety of departments to create and feed off of each other. They even created software to create a helicopter like movement around the tower.
The lower levels are built like a Mayan structure. The idea is that they always building as people are always dying. To develop, they went back and looked at photos from Mexico They wanted to formed a neighborhood like village to capture what they needed.
A fun fact about the Land of the Dead! The cobblestone is shaped like bones and when they pan out to a broad scene of Land of Dead, you see skull shapes hidden.
Danielle Feinberg shared about how cinematography and lighting come together. Fun fact – There are 7 million lights in a shot of The Land of the Dead.
Adding the stages of lights is a process to create the final vibrant city. Light can also highlight and create depth in images.
She also shared the use of Boca lighting to create a magical sense in the movie.
Using cool colors in The Land of the Dead and warm tones in The Land of the Living, one can differentiate from each of the lands and see how powerful color can be when using it wisely in the film.
This lighting technology helped to bring the world to life and created the backdrop for Miguel chasing after his dream and learning more about his family from the past.
Take a look at the official trailer of Disney Pixar’s Coco.