Sunday, December 25, 2016
Strumming Pixar: First Image and More Details from 'Coco'
What a lovely Christmas present... A bit of Pixar's next original movie!
That's right, a lovely-looking image and some more plot details on Coco have been released. The film is set to open Thanksgiving week of this coming year.
The new look at the film from Entertainment Weekly sheds more light on the musical side of the picture. This will not be a Renaissance Disney-style musical, where characters break out into song. In director Lee Unkrich's words, the film is "set against the backdrop of musical performance." So, still a musical in some way, but not the kind of musical you may be thinking of. That's good!
When Pixar was making Toy Story back in the early-to-mid 1990s, the attitude was essentially, "Let's not make a modern Disney animated feature." Nothing with musical numbers sung by characters onscreen, nothing with "I Want" songs, the usual with Disney's early 90s juggernaut hits. Pixar didn't want to make the next The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast, and this is partially why Toy Story took off in 1995.
Years went by. Some Pixar films had songs that were sung offscreen (the Toy Story films, the Cars films), some incidental musical numbers (Brave's 'Song of Mor'du') showed up, but other than that Pixar has mostly avoided musical movies like the plague. So to see them doing a movie where singing is integrated in a more realistic way is quite exciting, showing that animated musicals can be more than just what may be accustomed to. They can be more than the dramatic types where characters break out into song.
The article went on to stress how Pixar is being very careful with this film, and how they didn't want to resort to stereotypes when telling a story based in another culture. Upon apologizing for Disney's attempt to trademark the Day of the Dead holiday, Unkrich said, "This is a story we want to share with the world, but it’s also been particularly important to us that when the Latino community sees the film, that it resonates and it feels like we got it right, and that’s what we’re really trying to do. We all feel the gravity."
This comes hot off the heels of the recent controversy that surrounded The Hollywood Reporter's misfired animation roundtable on diversity. Coco certainly got some sneers when it came on the scene, many folk being concerned about the film stereotyping and appropriating Mexican culture. Some even suggested that Pixar, an American studio and director Lee Unkrich - an American without a Hispanic background - have no right to tell stories like these. (Funny, I didn't see them say that about the Portland-based LAIKA and director/founder Travis Knight, when they were readying their Kubo and the Two Strings.) Others spoke out in support of the project, despite the fact that it's mostly being spearheaded by Americans. One of those very supporters is Jorge Guiterrez himself, the writer-director of the other Day of the Dead, music-flavored animated film The Book of Life.
About the Day of the Dead... A new plot detail reveals a little something neat. As we learned last time, the music-loving Miguel comes from a music-averse family. They ban it because the kid's great-great-great grandmother was abandoned by her husband, who jumped ship on the family to pursue a career in music. Ever since, everyone in Miguel's family won't allow it. One night, Miguel does a little well-intentioned grave-robbing of his long-decased musical hero: Ernesto De La Cruz. On the Day of the Dead... And that sends him to the Land of the Dead! His music-averse relatives are sure going to like the sound of that!
This report and the previous one reaffirm that this will be the kind of Pixar film that seems to gel with everyone. This won't be a deceptively simplistic film like The Good Dinosaur, nor will it be a traditional kind of story that Brave was. Films like those proved to be divisive, Coco looks to channel the beloved Inside Out and WALL-E more than those films. As someone who quite liked those "lesser" films, and as one who is tired of animation having to have plots that are "dizzying" or "complex", I'm still excited about Coco. That's not because it's "true Pixar", but because of what it's setting out to do and then some. I'm also excited to see Pixar branch out into other parts of the world, too! How long before we see films of theirs that are set in Africa, Asia, and whatnot?
What say you?