Though the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) may have already passed, Disney kept the celebratory spirit alive for the premiere of the new Pixar film “Coco” at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. The event on Wednesday night featured a pre-party and performances by a mariachi band before the screening.
“Coco” tells the story of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young Mexican boy who dreams of becoming a musician and is forbidden by his family from pursuing his passion. When Miguel tries to defy his parents and perform in the local talent show on Dia de los Muertos, he kicks off a chain of events that result in him being trapped in the Land of the Dead.
Although the film was the subject of controversy due to comparisons to the 2014 movie “The Book of Life” and early attempts by Disney lawyers to trademark the phrase “Dia de los Muertos,” which was the initial title of the film, it has since gained public favor as a respectful depiction of Mexican culture and for featuring an all-Latino voice cast.
“It was never even a choice. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to have an all-Latino cast,” director Lee Unkrich said. “From the moment we conceived this idea, we wanted a film that wouldn’t have any cliches or stereotypes and that would be as respectful as possible.”
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“Any negative comments people made about our film were only made because people hadn’t seen it,” he continued. “‘Coco’ and ‘The Book of Life’ are both about Dia de los Muertos so there was an assumption that they were going to be the same, but it’s a beautiful tradition that we believe is deserving of multiple stories. There are many Christmas movies and people don’t seem to be complaining.”
More than just a celebration of a Mexican tradition, “Coco” comes at a time when President Donald Trump has faced criticism regarding his statements about Mexico and Mexican immigrants. The film’s stars voiced their strong support for how the movie contrasts the negative picture being painted about their culture.
“I want to dedicate this film to all the children who have ancestors from Mexico and Latin America,” said Gael Garcia Bernal, who plays Hector. “In this moment, these kids are growing up with a lot of fear because the established narrative says that they come from families that come from rapists, murderers, and drug traffickers. We are such a complex and profound culture, and these kids need to be empowered to stand up and say that what is being said about them is a complete lie.”
Natalia Cordova-Buckley, who voiced famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, said the film sends a universal message.
“Dia de los Muertos is so universal. We all lose family and loved ones, and we all somehow try to find a connection with them,” Cordova-Buckley said. “It might sound like only a Mexican tradition, but to be proud of the people who came before you is something that all cultures and faiths can relate to.”
“Coco” hits theaters on Nov. 22.