Movie fans were once again faced with the choice of which movie to see over the long Thanksgiving holiday. Pixar’s 19th movie and first original film since releasing sequels for Cars and Finding Nemo, Coco stole the show with $71 million over the weekend, winning out over its biggest opening competitor, Justice League.
Family is always the biggest theme during the holiday season. This time of year everyone is focused on traveling to see their family, passing down old stories, and arguing in close quarters when everyone gathers to one place. Disney brings us all these familiar feelings of being surrounded by family during the holidays in Coco.
Coco is set in Mexico at Dia de los Muertos or “The Day of the Dead”, a holiday dedicated to bringing all living family together to celebrate and remember those family members that have passed. In the midst of all this holiday hustle and bustle is the Riviera family preparing for their own family’s Dia de los Muertos celebration. The story focuses on 12-yearold Miguel Riviera, a young musician in a family that has a multi-generational ban against music. Miguel struggles to find his place in his family, thinking himself too different and misunderstood to possibly fit in. Miguel takes matters into his own hands and seeks out the only person he believes will understand him, in the Land of the Dead.
Fans are not only met with the beautiful scenery, interesting and heart wrenching storytelling, and lovable, believable characters that they expect from a Disney/Pixar film, but it is also culturally accurate and well researched. Wary of delivering clichés and appropriation, Pixar Director Lee Unkrich brought on Lalo Alcaraz, a cartoonist and tough critic of some of Disney’s creative choices, as a cultural consultant. With his assistance and critical eye, Pixar’s first film to feature a minority lead was rich in culture, traditions, and an honest Mexican family dynamic that would have otherwise been lost without his input. Fans not only got a glimpse of Miguel’s family life in Coco, they also got a taste of his language as well. Miguel and the other characters slip in and out of Spanish-speaking, an anomaly in most American films, but a big part of Mexican-American life. Octavio Solis, a Mexican-American playwright and a consultant for Coco said “for us, language is binary, and we code-switch from English to Spanish seamlessly.” The attention to detail and the focus on bringing the Riviera family to life in a real way made Coco the success that it is.
Coco was a box office hit globally. Premiering in Mexico in time for Dios de los Muertos, it immediately beat out Marvel’s The Avengers for the number one movie of all time. Coco was also a hit in China, surprising many Chinese theaters. After word-of-mouth spread about Coco in China, fans flocked to theaters. Chinese exhibitors increased showings by 50% the day after the premiere, but shows were still sold-out. Fans in the U.S. may have shown up for the Disney name and the almost 20 minute Frozen short that played before the film, but were pleased to find that Coco was a star in its own right.
Coco is in theaters now through the holiday season and the perfect excuse to get the whole family together while the kids are on winter break. It’s a great conversation starter to talk about your own family stories and traditions and what makes your family unique. This is the can’tmiss animated film of 2017.