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 Alanna Ubach and Anthony Gonzalez, along with a spontaneous performance of Remember Me! Yes!!
Now playing in theaters everywhere, Disney*Pixar’s COCO is a beautiful story, one so original that it demands to be seen, and on the big screen – (you have seen my Pixar Coco Movie Review, right? No spoilers!).
With an over $71 million domestic 5-day opening weekend, it has secured a spot as one of the top Thanksgiving openings in history. I dare say COCO will go down as one of the best original animated stories ever, with plot twists, creativity, and yes, tearful moments.
Two of the stars of COCO may not be household names, but you will recognize one from films like Legally Blonde, and the other, well, you will fall in love with the newest member (and one of the youngest) of the Disney*Pixar family. I’m talking about Alanna Ubach (voice of “Mama Imelda” and Anthony Gonzalez (voice of “Miguel”).
Anthony Gonzalez (voice of “Miguel”) & Alanna Ubach (voice of “Mama Imelda”)
In COCO, Miguel’s adventure takes off when he finds himself in the Land of the Dead. To get back home to the Land of the Living, he discovers that he’ll need a blessing from a family member. But Miguel’s great-great-grandmother Mamá Imelda’s blessing comes with an unfortunate condition, he’s not sure he can make.
This is the backdrop for these two characters to interact on the big screen. And no worries, no spoilers here, as I want you to fully enjoy this film! It is a treasure.
Anthony Gonzalez (Voice of “Miguel”) – He Serenades Us!
When 13 year old Anthony Gonzalez walked into the room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, you couldn’t help but feel his energy. I am positive that this energy conveyed to the team at Disney*Pixar that Anthony could handle being the main character in a movie.
Invigorating. Energizing. Fun.
This new teenager had such excitement in his voice. Of course, wouldn’t you? He stars in the family film of the year. He’s part of the Disney*Pixar family, and has been since he started working on this film around age 9. Toys from COCO fill his room (and mine). I mean have you seen all the Coco Toys, books, and more?
Anthony told us, “Actually, I actually never thought I would be an actor. But I would start going to this television show called Univision, where I would read books in Spanish with all my siblings and other kids. And one day a director was present, and she thought that me and my brothers would be great actors, so she gave us an agent, and I’ve been with him since I was four years old, and, yeah, look, here I am!”
One incredible feat in this film – Anthony Gonzalez not only is the voice of Miguel, but he does all the singing for Miguel. If you have seen the movie, you know what a big deal that is.
Music is everything for Miguel, so music is throughout.
Anthony shared, “I feel like me and Miguel just both want to pursue our dreams. Miguel looks at his idol. He wants to be just like him. That’s the quote he says — “I want to be just like him.” And I have a lot of singing idols and acting idols. I want to be just like them, too. So I’m very similar to Miguel, because we both just love the music. We both care about of our families, a lot, and we know how important that celebration of Dia de Los Muertos is. That’s what I love most about really doing the voice of this awesome character.”
There is no doubt this is but the first step in a long and vibrant career for Anthony.
BUT WAIT…the SERENADE!
Ah, yes. Truth be told, we started off the interview in somewhat of an usual way.
Anthony Gonzalez talked of his love of singing and he kindly said he would sing for us. You can imagine 25 bloggers with phones at the ready!
Enjoy Anthony Gonzalez singing “Remember Me”!
Alanna Ubach (voice of “Mama Imelda”)
Just as Anthony Gonzalez entertained us with his voice, you can bet Alanna Ubach would too. Though we might know her from Legally Blonde and Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, she has an incredible voice, one perfect for her role as Mama Imelda. And she sang, serenading us as she does her 12 week old baby boy. Yes, this mama couldn’t help but talk about her newborn, and when she did it, well, it got a little emotional.
Ubach said of COCO, “Well, I think it just paints such an exquisite picture of the afterlife, and when my son is old enough to see this film, he’ll be able to say, “Mama, if this is what the afterlife is like, I’m not afraid of death.” It’s just as beautiful as birth.”
Cue the tears. But I couldn’t agree more. Though it is a fictional movie, COCO is a work of art that I believe will help parents talk about a topic that can be so difficult…death.
She added, “How would I like him to remember me? That I sang him funny, silly little songs, and that I loved him with my very soul. He breaks my heart every single day. He gets a hammer to my heart and pounds on it, and then hands it back to me, and then it takes me 23 hours to put it back together all over again, and then the following day he does the same thing. He’s my life. He really is my life. And I hope he remembers me as someone who — that he was my life.”
Every single one of us in the room felt like crying. We all had children of our own.
She continued, “He’s just everything to me. I never thought in a million years, that I would have such a love for this little potted plant, who is my life right now.”
My Question of Alanna Ubach
I had a very unique position the night before. You see, I had attended the red carpet COCO premiere and was sitting in the very front row directly in front of the cast. When the movie was over, it was an incredible honor to see actors like Benjamin Bratt shaking hands with friends and fellow cast-members.
One moment stood out. I saw it unfold right in front of me and I had to ask Alanna Ubach about it.
I mentioned to her that I had been in the theater and saw her husband staring in disbelief at her, gushing at how beautiful the movie was, and how in awe he was that this was his wife. It was a beautiful moment and I wondered what it had been like sitting next to her husband during the film.
Alanna Ubach said, “Oh. He was weeping. It was so surreal. I was sitting in between my mother, who is 78 years old. And my husband. And we just had a little boy. So, between the two of them… It’s too bad that I didn’t bring Kleenex. But he was just floored, he was just floored, and he didn’t really know that I could sing like that.”
She added that it was extra special to have her mother in the audience with her for one reason in particular. In one scene, Ubach sings a song, this story of llorona. It was a song about a character, this woman that Ubach’s mother had spoken to her about as a child. Full circle.
Ubach was hilarious in person. One moment in particular really tickled me as you can see in one of the photos above – she discovered there was a “Disney Tsum Tsum” plush of her character, Mama Imelda. She had to take a picture.
Taking photos and being starstruck – yes, Alanna Ubach is just like us. Starstruck? Yes. She told us, “It really did help to actually not meet Gael (Garcia Bernal) and Benjamin (Bratt) in person, because I was just given these figurines of them. So it made it even more magical to actually portray, because you’re actually looking at these figurines, rather than the person that you are star struck by.”
When she was working to get the character just right, she based Mama Imelda on her Tia Flora (Aunt Flora). Ubach said, “When I was a little girl, I remember her inflections. She was very grand. She was a very ornate character, and such an important figure growing up when I was a little girl, because, I remembered, it being eight o’clock in the morning, she had a full face of makeup on constantly, and she always wore her high heels. And at Christmas time it was — you know. When she entered the room, she was, “Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad!!” I was so put off by her as a little girl, because she was just too much, but now as a woman in my early forties, I can look at this woman with such respect.”
Ubach added, “She had such passion. She was the DNA of my family, and she was very passionate and had this stoicism that was so admirable when I was a kid, growing up. I never forgot her inflections. Her — to me, she was very sing-song-y, and she spoke the way she spoke Spanish when she spoke English, and so I thought, ah, I’m going to make this character. I’m going to base her on – after my tia Flora.”
As it should be. Remembering those who came before us – the heart of COCO.
Now, let’s take a look at the final trailer released…
COCO playing in theatres everywhere NOW!
MORE FROM THIS DISNEY/PIXAR/ABC PRESS TRIP:
Olaf’s Frozen Adventure REVIEW and Interviews!
Pixar Coco Movie Review – No Spoilers, but parents questions answered!
Hollywood Coco Premiere – My red carpet experience!
Interview with Benjamin Bratt from Coco
Interview with Gael Garcia Bernal – Hector from Coco!
Coco Toys, Books and Gift Ideas
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!