My Spoiler Free Review of Disney/Pixar's Coco
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this review are entirely my own as a Disney and Pixar fan and all photos are the copyright of the Disney Animation Studios.
I know that I haven’t posted in a while, due to a crazy studio schedule and the Thanksgiving holiday, but while on break I did get a chance to go see Pixar’s new movie Coco, so I thought that I’d share my thoughts on this latest film. I will try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible.
For starters, I knew that I would automatically love this film because it’s new territory for Pixar. By that I mean that it’s not a prequel or sequel to any of their other films, and with Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 in the works, we’re not likely to get another “new” Pixar movie until 2020.
Coco follows a young boy named Miguel and his family on the night of "Dia de los Muertos." Right off the bat, you understand that Miguel wants to be a musician, but because his great-great grandfather abandoned the family to perform his music, Miguel's grandmother continues the tradition of forbidding anyone in the family from playing or even listening to music.
Also, within the first five minutes of the film, you learn that the title "Coco" refers to Miguel's Mama Coco, who is his great grandmother. At first, you probably think, "why would they name the movie after a side character who is practically mute?" But by the end, it becomes clear just how important Mama Coco is to the plot. I'm not going to say anything more than that, though, since I promised to keep this review free of spoilers.
After watching the movie and having some time to think about it, there are really three aspects of the film that I thought Pixar nailed and I'd like to highlight them.
The first is the visual effects. This is something that Pixar always nails with their films, and always pushes the boundaries of animation to achieve, yet it always surprises me how beautiful their films look.
For each film they focus on some new challenging element of animation. For example, in Finding Nemo, they had to animate underwater, and for Brave they had to animate Merida's crazy hair. In Coco, it's all about the lighting! They developed new software that rendered candle light in a more believable manner and was able to hold the data for millions of light sources. This made the "underworld" scenes possible, since that realm is entirely lit by artificial lights (i.e. not sunlight, which is a million times easier to render!)
The second aspect of the film that really stood out to me was the beautiful story. At first, you think that it's about a little boy following his dreams of becoming a musician, and this is also how the previews presented it, but at its heart Coco is a story about the importance of family and remembering your heritage.
I also loved that the story presented such a positive view on death. I think so many Western cultures, especially, have a very morbid and fearful outlook on death. I like to think that Coco will help a new generation to have a more positive outlook on the afterlife.
I can't speak too highly as to how accurately it represents the customs of Mexico, since I'm not Mexican and not familiar with the ins and outs of their culture. But I have seen countless videos about Pixar animators traveling to Mexico for research for the movie, so I like to think that it does the country justice. Plus I know that Pixar has gone to extreme lengths in the past to accurately represent their films' settings. When making Ratatouille, the entire animation team took cooking lessons to see how a real restaurant kitchen functioned!
Lastly, we can't talk about Coco without mentioning the soundtrack! This is HUGE for a Pixar film! With the exception of Cars (which you can read more about on my list of the top five underrated Disney soundtracks) most Pixar films only have one iconic song, usually sung by Randy Newman, and then the rest of their soundtrack is made up of the score. Coco instead weaves the lyrics of its songs seamlessly through its story line.
I would like to point out, though, that Coco is not a musical. It's not like Moana or Frozen or most Disney films where the characters randomly burst into song. Instead, the plot centers around music, and characters only sing when they are performing, or when the story calls for it. I think this makes Coco feel like a much more authentic story than some of the Disney musicals.
So what's my overall takeaway? I really enjoyed Coco. I thought it was a fun family film, yet I don't think that it'll rank up with the Pixar classics like Toy Story, Up, and The Incredibles. I honestly think that Pixar played it too safe with this one. They've always challenged storytelling and made us question, "what if?" What if our toys came to life when we weren't looking? What if superheros lived among us as everyday citizens? What if we could attach a bunch of balloons to our house and fly it to South America? Coco didn't have a strong "what if" and I think that that left it feeling a bit predicable.
That being said, there was a bit of a twist in the plot towards the end that I didn't see coming, so I'm super excited to go back and watch the film again, knowing this big reveal!
I've always had a theory that every kid inevitably has their Pixar movie. The one that they remember watching when the were young that they'll constantly defend as their favorite. For me, it's Finding Nemo. I remember seeing it in theaters with my Grandma and Aunt and it was like a homecoming when I got to see Finding Dory with them thirteen years later.
Although Coco might not rank as one of my favorite Pixar movies, I can easily see it being the Pixar movie for many little kids.
So have you seen Coco yet? What did you think of it? And what is your Pixar movie and why? I'd love to talk about it, so let me know in the comment section, below!
Thanks for reading! Now go see Coco!
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