Pixar has dominated the past few decades in animation and even with their sequels, they have proven to be a powerhouse in cinemas around the world. In the last few years, they have had a few missteps with Brave and The Good Dinosaur which has caused many in the industry to question the Disney backed studio’s ability to hold onto their dominance. Inside Out was a creative and box-office triumph and showed that they could still maintain a secure position within the market. Can they stay the course as they venture from the psychological to the spiritual realm with the Mexican celebration of Día de Muertos with Coco?
The introduced of the Day of the Dead tradition is lived through the 12-year-old eyes of Miguel Riveria (Anthony Gonzalez). From a long line of shoemakers, the Riverias are a close-knit family who looks to care for their relatives of the past through by remembering them on this annual celebration. Miguel has no problem with honouring his family, but he struggles because they cannot celebrate in song.
Due to a tragic event from the family’s past, music has been banned from the Riveria household. This sad decision is especially hard for Miguel, who loves to play his guitar and idolises the local musical and cinematic hero, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). On the night of the festivities, Miguel has a falling out with his family and finds himself acquiring the guitar of his musical hero. This act causes a chaos of events that leads him to the spiritual side of the land of the Dead and searching for his way to get back to the land of the living.
Two things that have been a mainstay for Pixar has been their originality and the penitent for ground-breaking animation. The animation in Coco continues to prove that this studio can push the standards of the cinematic experience, but their ingenuity questionable. Even though 2014’s The Book of Life was a different storyline, quite a few of the critical elements were evident in this new venture into the Land of the Dead. Beyond the overall theme, the storyline had elements that harken back to Robots, Mulan and Hercules.
These familiar overtones do not detract from the value of the story which celebrates the importance of family and the striving after dreams. It does not rise to the same emotional level as Toy Story or the magical familial elements of The Incredibles, but it does capitalise on the family unit to deliver the best parts of the film. The real value of the film is the concentration on the nuclear family and that the best and worst of life is better with family by your side.
The key distraction with this theme is that it makes things inaccessible for young children. During the press screening, many families had to leave because their children were scared. Fearful children are never a good response to a film. With the majority of the film occurring in the afterlife and most of the characters being skeletons, it is something for parents to consider before going to the movie theatre.
Coco opens the door for parents to discuss the issues of life after death and they will need to address the fictionalised depiction from this film. In the end, the good outweighs the bad in this outing for Pixar. It does have a fresh look and feels that will win over audiences, but in a pack of excellent films, it resides in the middle.