With any film, there’s a moment.
It’s either a moment where you find yourself checking your phone for messages or going to grab more food, utterly bored. Or it’s a moment where you are so mesmerized by the story unfolding on the screen, that you forget where you are, who is around you, and the multitude of problems awaiting you at home. This last moment, that is how I knew COCO was Pixar’s next masterpiece.
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 COCO Director Lee Unkrich, Writer & Co-Director Adrian Molina and Producer Darla K. Anderson
On Making COCO – How PIXAR Created A Masterpiece
On Making You Cry
There are different kinds of movies, but as I think back over the years to the movies I remember so clear, it’s the ones which told a story so original, so well, that always touched me heart. Many of those involved me shedding a tear or two. Or a hundred. Okay, I’ll admit, I’m a crier.
It doesn’t take much for this seemingly strong mom of one to find a tear rolling down her face. For all the beauty and blessings in my life, my road has not been without challenges. The biggest challenge, finding the strength to get up every day and move forward in the midst of overwhelming grief. That after losing my two biggest “cheerleaders” in life within 3 months of each other – my mom and my grandfather.
So with that personal history, and a film focused on family, and remembering those who came before you, I knew Pixar would have that lump in my throat sooner than most.
In talking with Director Lee Unkrich, he addressed the tears and said something so profound:
I don’t know that I like making you cry, but I like making you feel something. – Lee Unkrich
I can understand that. Really I can. The tears are only there because there was something greater than anything – LOVE. That’s not a bad thing. It’s the greatest thing. I’ll gladly sit down to a film that moves me to tears because of the love I’ve had in life. That’s better than not feeling anything at all.
Unkrich continued, “I mean, I know that when I go and see movies, they’re very few and far between where I actually feel genuine emotion or, or a movie really sticks with me after I’ve seen it. So, when we make our movies we try to do that. There’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to, but I think that’s the most satisfying for us if we can have the audience feel something personal to themselves and, we know we’re on the right track when we have those feelings ourselves.”
Unkrich then talked about a scene that really made me feel every emotion. It’s a scene where Miguel sings to his great-grandmother, mama Coco, who is pretty obviously suffering from dementia. My own great-grandmother had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I had only met her one time, but I recall the tears shed when her daughter, my grandmother talked about how her mama couldn’t remember her, didn’t know who she was. Unkrich commented, “It was then years afterwards that we continued to refine the movie and change the story leading up to that point, and we had to just trust in that initial feeling that we had when we first put that scene up.”
Producer Darla A. Anderson added, “But in order to feel all those feelings, you’ve had to go on a journey with all of our character, and you’ve had to laugh with them and be on big adventure with them, and become completely invested with them. We have to earn, we have to earn all of that emotion. So, it comes out of a multitude of the emotions from the movie.”
And that adventure she talks about – it’s INCREDIBLE!
Speaking of “INCREDIBLE”…how about a few Easter Eggs to look for in the film?
COCO EASTER EGGS:
Ones I spotted (though admittedly during a second screening where I had more time to “look around”):
- Keep a look out for a nod to Pixar’s next animated film, The Incredibles 2, in the Land of the Dead. You’ll spy our favorite animated superhero family on the wall in the area of where the talent show takes place.
- In the Land of the Living, specifically the village area marketplace, look for Toy Story characters in the shape of pinatas/dolls hanging.
Easter Eggs mentioned by Unkrich, Molina, and Anderson:
- There are two cameos of, of actual living people in the film. One is Michael Giacchino (the famed composer), and the other is our music consultant, Camilo Lara, who plays the Dj at the party. Giacchino is easily recognizable – great job!
Unkrich and Molina both have a line in the movie:
- Unkrich is the guy who says, “What did I miss?” – you’ll know it when you see the scene
- Molina is the voice saying, “The guitar, it’s gone.” – after Miguel takes the guitar and the light shines in on the window.
You have read my Pixar Coco Movie Review, right? No spoilers!.
Making a Film TIMELESS
Timeless. That’s what Disney and Pixar movies are. Each generation loves discovering the films and you know you can and should invest in them, because your kids and grandkids will want to watch them over and over. (I still have my original VHS Disney tapes to prove that) – problem is, we don’t have a working VCR anymore. HaHa!
Unkrich said, “We were always striving to make a film that felt kind of timeless. It’s kind of set now, but I’m hoping that it will always feel like it’s kinda set now. Not matter when people see it. I remember when I was a kid after school watching Warner Brothers cartoons, like Bugs Bunny, and every once in a while one would pop up that would be full of people I didn’t recognize. They’d have like a scene in a bar and there’d be Edward G. Robinson and a lot of movie stars from that time that I didn’t know who they were, but I knew they were somebody famous at some time.”
Anderson added, “But they were so totally entertaining when you were a kid. It didn’t matter that you didn’t know who they were.”
An All-Latino Cast? Well, Sort Of
You may have heard it said many times during the past few weeks that COCO had an all-Latino cast. Well Yes and No.
Unkrich acknowledged that it was a non-negotiable aspect of the film, to have an all-Latino cast, but then added, ” I mean, we knew we had to put John Ratzenberger in the movie.”!
FUN FACT: Did you know that John Ratzenberger (best known in my day for being Cliff from Cheers), is in every PIXAR film? It’s true! Anderson joked that he is the magic that holds it all together!
Unkrich said, “It was very important to us because it was the right thing to do. I mean it would have been very strange to not. And it didn’t make casting a challenge; it definitely narrowed the options.”
On The Mexico Premiere
Many were surprised that the actual world premiere of COCO happened before the Hollywood premiere, in Mexico. It was this that I wanted to ask them about and had the opportunity. I wanted to know how important it was to them to premiere in Mexico.
Writer and Co-Director, who is Latino himself, Adrian Molina answered, “We try to talk as much as we can about how much research that we did on this film, and, and part of the effect that that research had on us wasn’t just on the story. It, it was the fact that, that we were meeting these families and we were making these friends, and we were collaborating with artists all over Mexico. And, and the least we could do to, to pay homage to the beauty of the tradition and the place where they came from; we were just over the moon to have the opportunity to premiere in Mexico, especially in Mexico city at the Palace of Fine Arts.”
Molina added, “All we could do to say thank you so much for opening your hearts, opening the doors, and maybe a gesture on our part to say what a beautiful tradition. This is where it comes from everyone. Take notice.
Post Credits Scene/Image You Must Not Miss
While this will largely be missed as people leave theaters as soon as the credits roll, treat this as a Marvel movie, for one special reason.
There is a large collage at the end of photos. It’s important.
Unkrich explains, “We ended up extending the opportunity to everyone in the company to submit a photo of somebody who they had lost who was important to them and we did that. My grandmother’s in there.”
Anderson’s mom is on what they call the digital ofrenda. Molina’s grandparents. An animator they had lost. Steve Jobs. Don Rickles. And yes, Walt Disney.
How They’d Like to Be Remembered
Molina: “I would probably like to be remember as someone who tried to use their art to make the world a better place.”
Unkrich made us laugh by saying what Molina said and then, “And I will add on to that the same think I always tell my kids; the only thing I want for them is to be kind people. That’s always the most important thing to me, so I would like to be remembered as somebody who was kind and fair.”
Anderson said what Molina said plus what Unkrich said, and added, “I think especially as a woman who had courage to learn how to find my voice, and to set an example for other- I’m always conscious of that in the world. If you’re in any kind of a public figure to set an example to find your voice and speak out loud about things that matter.”
I can’t wait to see more from these talented folks in the future. They have truly created a timeless masterpiece.
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
Interview with Alanna Ubach and Anthony Gonzalez
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!