How Coco's Mix Of Pixar Magic And Cultural Accuracy Won Over Audiences In Mexico

'Coco' is the country's highest-grossing film of all-time.

While Coco’s catchy songs, emotional moments and hidden life lessons are things it shares with Pixar’s previous films, its culturally conscious story marks new ground for the animation studio.

The plot follows 12-year-old Miguel, whose Día de Muertos celebrations come to a standstill, when he accidentally finds himself in the Land of the Dead, facing a race to get home before sunrise.

And while box office takings and reviews are usually used to determine a film’s success, Coco’s cultural significance means there’s a third way for the film to be judged: What was the reception like in Mexico?

It’s fair to say that prior to its release, there were concerns about how the Day of the Dead holiday would be depicted, something HuffPost Mexico entertainment editor Cristina Diaz explains. “We were scared that Disney would make a ‘funny’ movie, using mexican cliches, like tequila, Mariachi and the jorongo,” she said.


Upon its release though, many fans breathed a sigh of relief when they saw that the resulting movie was not a cheap attempt at using Mexican culture for laughs. Instead, Pixar have crafted a sensitive, heartfelt, and often educational, look at the most colourful date on the country’s holiday calendar.

As is often the case with Pixar, their success comes in the attention to detail. Take Miguel’s dog, Dante, who may - to British viewers - seem like any other stray, but is actually an Xoloitzcuintli (or Xolo for short), an ancient breed of Mexican hairless dog.

The use of cempasúchil flowers as part of the Día de Muertos decorations, and the matriarchal structure of Miguel’s family also helped win fans over.

By combining Día de Muertos traditions and customs with a dose of Pixar magic, the resulting film (unsurprisingly) resulted in many emotional moments at cinema screenings.


“Many people cried during the movie and that’s the beautiful part of it,” Cristina added. “We must not forget our love ones. We must respect then and keep talking about them even if they are dead.”

“I bet this year, thanks to ‘Coco’, Día de Muertos is gonna be bigger than ever.”

And while we’ll have to wait until Friday 2 November to see if Cristina is right, ‘Coco’ has already become the highest-grossing film in Mexico’s box office history and when it did so, screenwriter Juan Manuel Meyer pointed out another reason why Pixar’s decision to make it was an important one.

“Film and television play a fundamental role in changing the perceptions of people, they are not everything, nor can they achieve everything,” he wrote. “But a film that presents Mexico with the strength, energy and beauty of ‘Coco’ can be a thousand times more powerful than the image of a wall of fear.

“Thank you to Disney, Pixar and the creators of this extraordinary film, for giving Mexicans a voice and a face.”

‘Coco’ is out in UK cinemas now. Watch the trailer below...


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