For decades the dynamic medium of animation has been extremely popular in children’s film and Disney Pixar has long been churning out some of the best films the industry has to offer. It seems miraculous that Pixar can come up with so many concepts when limited by a strict Disney checklist. A checklist usually consisting of a moral lesson, an asexual romance, a cute quirky animal sidekick and at least one intense time sensitive chase scene. However, Disney has a key understanding of their audience and almost always delivers an impactful story tackling many of life’s emotional issues making them accessible to children.
The latest animation film to join the collection is Coco (2017), whose impact will hopefully change the animation film industry as we know it. The audience finds themselves in Mexico with a story centering on a young boy called Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) and his family celebrating Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as The Day of the Dead. Miguel’s dream is to play music to the world. Unfortunately, listening to and playing music in all its forms is banned within his family. These drastic measures were taken by his great-great-grandmother after her singer-songwriter husband walked out on her to tour the world. In an exciting turn of events Miguel finds himself entering the Land of the Dead on a quest to find his great-great-grandfather in a musical sensation of sorts. Coco poignantly tackles the notion of grief, loss, remembrance and the importance of family values whilst simultaneously representing the hispanic cultural festival.
It is refreshing to see Disney branching out and portraying an often underrepresented ethnic background challenging some of the societal constructs surrounding hispanic backgrounds. It’s cultural value is extremely prevalent and a step forward in animation, moving away from the stereotypical Disney plotlines. We have seen other racial backgrounds portrayed in Disney animation such as Mulan, The Princess and the Frog and Moana. However, we have not seen a hispanic representation in Disney or a Disney Pixar collaboration until Coco. On top of this important notion of showcasing another ethnic background, Coco depicts the well-known cultural festival of Day of the Dead. In the film, the dead and death as a whole is sympathetically portrayed shown not as ideals to be scared of but rather to remember and feel nostalgic about. The dead have never been so present, quite literally.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2018 Academy Awards, it is easy to see why this alternative world is one of Disney’s most ambitious yet. Coco has created a film critic frenzy because the audience are watching dead characters for almost all of the 105 minute duration which steps away from what we have come to expect from Disney. Pixar have pulled it off this time creating a bittersweet and compelling animation film that is making an impact in the industry and revitalising viewers’ faith in their ability to include all races and celebrations.
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