Out Thanksgiving Day is Disney’s second Pixar movie of 2017: “Coco.” A dynamic picture centered around family and music, “Coco” also touches on friendship, heroism and memory.
The film draws its identity from the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), which takes place between October 31 and November 2, and opens on the Riviera family’s preparations of their ofrenda (altar) to remember their deceased family and loved ones. Due to long past and unforgotten grievances, the Riviera family bans all music and deeply distrusts musicians. Naturally, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is drawn to music, particularly the work of Ernesto de la Cruz, and makes plans to enter a Día de Muertos singing competition. After quarreling with his family, Miguel finds himself in the Land of the Dead where he encounters familiar faces from his family’s ofrenda, alebrijes (mythical animal guardians), new allies and dangerous enemies.
Though “Coco” centers on a different holiday, it is fitting that it comes to theaters in the United States on Thanksgiving (the movie premiered in Mexico in time for Día de Muertos).Día de Muertos is often erroneously equated to Halloween. Rather than a candy fueled masquerade, the holiday represents a deeply meaningful tradition of family and gratitude, in a similar vein to Thanksgiving. The film not only explores the layered emotions of a family, but also goes further in order to look at how we remember our loved ones and how we wish to be remembered.
It feels unnecessary to wax poetic about the beauty of the animation in a Pixar movie, but the visuals of “Coco” are truly special and unique beyond even what Pixar has created in the past. Miguel’s home village of Santa Cecilia is painted so vividly with elaborate images of the Riviera family home and store, plaza and cemetery. Once Miguel reaches the World of the Dead, the animation truly seems to reach a different dimension. Though populated by stylized skeletons, the World of the Dead is teeming with technicolor life beyond imagination.
“Coco” is touching, funny, revelatory and beautiful. It is also unexpected: though it hits familiar emotional beats, it does so in the most innovative way possible with a slightly more dynamic plot than most other Pixar movies. It is a delicate look into the ways that many Mexican families celebrate and remember loved ones, and (as is frequently emphasized by the creative team and cast of the film) an important and timely celebration of Mexican culture. “Coco” is a gorgeous, unique picture, and a must-see film this holiday season.