COCO: HOW PIXAR BROUGHT MUSIC TO LIFE FOR THE FIRST TIME
By Josh Osman
With the awards season finally over and 'Coco' managing to win the 'Best Animated Picture' award at the four largest award ceremonies (those being the Academy Awards, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Annie Awards), it seemed appropriate to write a review on the film.
Going into 'Coco', I expected nothing short of the cinematic magic brought across in other Pixar classics such as 'The Incredibles', 'Ratatouille' and 'Up'. Even with the tough competition, it's fair to say that 'Coco' without a doubt manages to live up to the exceedingly high expectations set by its predecessors.
The film tells the tale of a young boy, called Miguel, who has always strived to become a musician, like his celebrated great-great-grandfather, Ernesto De La Cruz, despite his family's long ban on music. Upon abandoning his family on 'Dia de Muertos', a Mexican holiday, entering a local talent show and making a few unwise moves, Miguel ends up in the 'Land of the Dead', where the deceased go to after death and where he searches for his great-great-grandfather. Through its touching moments and well-executed plot twists, the somewhat simple story manages to become a power emotional journey that only gets more captivating as the movie progresses. But most notably, it manages to do a very good job of paying tribute to Mexican culture, through its setting of 'Dia de Muertos'.
For those who aren't aware, 'Dia de Muertos' is a traditional Mexican celebration held at the end of October where families gather together and remember their ancestors, whilst over the three-day period, their ancestors come back periodically to visit them. It's a very heart-warming ceremony and the film captures this well with the story centring around the festival and giving a wonderfully artistic interpretation of the 'Land of the Dead' and a beautiful representation of the traditions that the people of Mexico have of 'Dia de Muertos', such as putting up pictures of their ancestors onto a shrine-like structure called an 'Ofrenda'. 'Coco' does an excellent job of capturing all the traditions of 'Dia de Muertos' without becoming more of a tribute and less of a film; that in itself is a noteworthy enough feat.
Even more unique about the movie is the fact that it is a musical; something that Pixar has never attempted before. Despite some Pixar movies having wonderful songs (everyone knows 'You've Got a Friend in Me' from Toy Story), they've never actually made a feature length musical. I'd like to say this is a good first attempt, but it's more; it has music that competes with that of Disney classics from the Renaissance, with tributes to Central and South American styles of music, combined with that little bit of charm in the beat and lyrics that makes it distinguishable as Disney. The songs come up throughout the whole of the movie and, as with many good Disney musicals, I found all them memorable, played at the perfect point; just when the mood was getting a little dark, or somewhat sad, a jolly tune would come to put a smile on the faces of the audiences. Everything about the original soundtrack (except the one song that isn't original; ‘A Mexican Lullaby’) fits perfectly into 'Coco': it changes the tone when it needs to and shapes the scene as well as the characters on them. The song ‘Remember Me’ even shocked, winning Best Song at the Oscars.
A major point to discuss is the moral of the movie. 'Coco' initially presents a somewhat confusing ideal, that one can abandon their family as long as they pursue and achieve their dreams. However, as the movie and the characters, specifically Miguel, develop, we begin to see the true moral and meaning behind the story: that no matter what our dreams or ambitions may be, family always comes first and we should cherish its importance. The story manages to carry the moral well along with it; we begin to learn more about the secrets of Miguel's family as the movie slowly unravels its true meaning, as if the two are parallels and the story flows excellently with the moral behind it. Like with many other Disney or Pixar movies, it carries its moral through very well without making it seem forced and having an impact on the plot.
Lastly, the animation is something that cannot be overlooked. The movie lives up to Pixar's high standards of animation, while bringing a wonderfully abstract interpretation of the 'Land of the Dead', with bright, beautiful colours and attention to minor details, which is reminiscent of the similarly beautiful presentation of the mind and brain presented in 'Inside Out'. It's fair to say that this is yet another strong feat of the film.
With its charming songs, heart-warming story and vibrant visuals, 'Coco' presents a fresh take on the traditional Mexican festival, 'Dia de Muertos' while still retaining what was always there: the magic of Pixar.