We’ve all seen the trailers, but I guarantee you will be surprised by Disney*Pixar’s next biggest hit, COCO. There will be unexpected twists and turns just like any great adventure, and there will be characters you fall in love with and despise. One character who made this cast complete – Hector, played by the talented Gael Garcia Bernal.
Disclaimer: Disney*Pixar invited me to California on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for my coverage of events, which included an exclusive interview with Gael Garcia Bernal regarding his role in COCO.
Gael Garcia Bernal Couldn’t Say No To Pixar
Imagine sitting down with some of the most brilliant minds at Pixar. Even if you aren’t the most die-hard animation fan, you would know this is big, momentous.
That’s how it was with Gael Garcia Bernal, an actor and director who has been honored with a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical – Mozart in the Jungle.
It was an easy decision to make to work on COCO, a film 6 years in the making.
Garcia Bernal described that moment with Pixar, recalling that his daughter was with him. Let’s stop right here. Having visited and been able to tour Pixar headquarters myself earlier this year, I can only imagine what it was like to take your own child. It’s like being a kid in a candy store, but better! Pixar even pulled out some Finding Dory toys for his daughter to play with.
Pixar didn’t have a script at that point, and showed Garcia Bernal little images they had of characters, but that was it. Hey, it was Pixar. You know it’s going to be good. Pixar is the master of storytelling – no one does it better.
And just like that, Gael Garcia Bernal was part of an incredible all-Latino cast (except for John Ratzenberger, who is in every Pixar film), which includes Benjamin Bratt, Edward James Olmos and more,.
Yes, He Sings in the Movie – For Real
Fluent in both Spanish and English, Gael Garcia Bernal admits that it was daunting, the fact that he had to sing in the movie.
I can only imagine. He liked the challenge of it, but to be honest was counting on his “postal code”. By that he meant his roots from Guadalajara. He mentioned, “I think that’s why
we are able to do those shouts, you know, those mariachi gritos because they, if you’re not from there it’s very difficult to do it.”
I have to say that listening to the mariachi gritos, or what is commonly known as a Mexican shout, I was so impressed. Garcia Bernal knew he could do a mariachi grito. He added, “Sing properly? Maybe not.” I think he did just fine in that department, but you’ll have to find out for yourself this week.
Talking about Dia de los Muertos
Gael Garcia Bernal shared with us the beauty of this Mexican tradition, one I’ve come to love and respect having now seen the movie.
I didn’t really know much about it at all before the film, but just why it is so important was touched on by Garcia Bernal.
He said, “It (the movie) just shows the complexity of a tradition that is incredibly deep and incredibly profound and necessary. Because ultimately this reflection leads you to be a better human being, leads you to build a better society, leads you to build a better future as well to live life in a much more essential way.”
How COCO’s Portrayal Changed Me
Day of the Dead can sound a little scary. It’s the words. Noone likes to talk about death, much less those of us who have tragically dealt with it in one way or another. But COCO had me thinking about death in an entirely new way. It’s not about religion, never has been. It’s about remembering and honoring those who came before you.
Garcia Bernal thinks that COCO will change Dia de los Muertos. He thinks it will be very different, more engaging, and those who celebrated it before will value it even more.
That value, from COCO, it was unexpected.
It’s a Disney*Pixar movie, so I knew I would adore the film. I even knew from the trailers that I would be touched. There would be tears. Pixar is that good at grabbing the emotion and putting that lump in your throat that just won’t go away. What I didn’t expect – for the beauty of a tradition to so touch my heart, that I would think more about how to honor those who have gone before me.
You see, I lost my mom very unexpectedly a decade ago. When I wake up every morning, the pain is still there. My daughter was born in the midst of that pain. She has grown up in a world where a visit to the cemetery is common. She never knew 3 of her grandparents, but had the privilege of knowing 2 greats, one of whom is still alive (something she shares with COCO’s Miguel).
Though I thought we were doing pretty good, in that we always talked of our parents in the hopes that our little girl would somehow know them, COCO challenged me to do better. So this past weekend, we made a very special trip. We visited the cemetery. We ate incredible food. We visited her grandparent’s house, and by chance had the opportunity to visit with a neighbor and old friend of the family. My daughter listened (and giggled) as stories were told.
While I have to say that the day wasn’t void of any tears, great pain meant there was great love. This was just the beginning, one of the many plans we have to remember those who meant the world to us.
I’ve heard other actors mention it. Did Gael Garcia Bernal see any of his own characteristics and mannerisms in an animated Hector?
Yes, and Garcia Bernal described how that came to be. He shared, “They have a camera when you’re recording and sometimes they use certain things that you do and certain ways that you do it. Yes, yes, yes.”
He added, “Lee Unkrich asked us to be very expressive about it because everything that we do helps you know, when constructing the character for them.”
Hector is a one of a kind character. I can’t wait for you to see.
On “Seizing the Moment”
Gael Garcia Bernal was asked, “What is the biggest seize your moment episode in your life until now?” It’s a recurring theme in the movie.
The answer was very surprising.
Garcia Bernal shared, “This is a very personal opinion about seizing the moment. I think that what’s nice about the movie is that it shows De La Cruz carrying the flag of seizing your moment and I think it has been one of the most damaging aspects of western society you know, the notion of seizing the moment.”
He continued, “Because, it has made us burn the forests that we have in front of us, you know, it has made us live the now as if there was no tomorrow. As if we’re not engaging with a responsibility that freedom gives us to know that there’s a future and there’s people that will come after. And it is not a rush, life is more, it’s more a craft.”
He went on, “Little by little, it’s built little by little and seizing the moment sometimes makes you fall into trap that it is now or never, you know. And there’s moments that it is now or never but you know when that is, it’s not that there’s a rule that you have to follow that path. I think it has very been the really very damaging that notion. And it is, I don’t know, it is interesting that in the film it kind of comes in play.”
A Beautiful Memory with his Daughter
Did you know Gael Garcia Bernal’s daughter has a part in COCO?
He talked about this once in a lifetime opportunity, saying “It was beautiful, it was beautiful. It’s one of those moments. Acting definitely
gives you such moments, that you think, ‘we’re so lucky, you know’. ”
He added, “And then you get a chance to have a beautiful postcard for life. This is gonna be something that my daughter one day will see when she’s, I don’t know, sixty. And
it will be really, really fun to her to remember and to hear ourselves there you know, and it was such a great opportunity.”
Read my No-Spoiler COCO Movie Review, which answers the questions and also addresses any concerns parents might have.
Now, let’s take a look at the final trailer released just a week ago…
COCO opens in theatres everywhere on November 22nd!
More from this Disney/Pixar/ABC Press Trip (more coming daily):
Pixar Coco Movie Review – No Spoilers, but parents questions answered!
Hollywood Coco Premiere – My red carpet experience!
Interview with Benjamin Bratt from Coco
6 Things to Know about Big Hero 6 The Series – premiering Nov 20th!
Interview – Kevin Probably Saves the World – Politics, Religion, and Jason Ritter!
Interview – Designated Survivor – Italia Ricci and more!