Ready to take another step outside of the comfortable boundaries of familiar European fairy tales? Coco follows an interesting, if not somewhat familiar, premise: A young boy travels to the land of the dead in search of answers about his family’s refusal to embrace its music-heavy heritage. It promises to explore themes of love and loss paired with themes of bucking family expectations and following one’s self. Beyond Coco Disney is often loathe to explore refreshingly unique tropes. To be entirely fair to them, however, this is a Pixar-created film with Disney new movie production gloss lain atop it.
Coco: The Scoop
If the premise of the story sounds familiar, you might be conjuring up images of The Book of Life. Created by Reel FX Creative Studios, it saw a 2014 release date and was met with moderate success. It’s hard to deny the similarities between the two. It’s also somewhat refreshing to see a movie aimed at children with a multicultural message in mind during a very odd period of political oddities.
The internet responds
Fan reaction to the movie’s announcement has been mixed across several channels. While some are happy to see more Dia de los Muertos films and creative productions featuring a Hispanic-heavy cast, others are quick to point out storyline similarities in regards to The Book of Life along with several other oddities with Coco Disney. When the film was first announced, for example, there were no Hispanic individuals attached to the project and no signs pointed towards that being an oversight until fairly recently.
To make matters worse, Disney attempted to trademark the phrase “Dia de los Muertos” in accordance with the working title of the film, only to be met with heavy backlash from the Hispanic community almost immediately. Disney’s history with copyright law isn’t a new revelation. Those of you unfamiliar with how American copyright law has expanded to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain might be interested in just how laborious a fight it’s been up to this point.
But what about Coco?
Controversies aside, what does the future hold for Coco? With barely over a month to go before its wide theatrical release and a teaser trailer that essentially bares the entire plot to the viewer, progress is looking unsurprisingly smooth. Aside from Cars becoming a horrifying merchandise zombie of a franchise that gobbles up more parental cash than wet wipes, Pixar has a solid track record with their animated feature releases.
If anything it’s nice to see a movie approach non-European culture with an open mind. The trailer seems to present many aspects of Hispanic history in a fairly respectful manner. The cast hasn’t been whitewashed but the story itself isn’t a new venture into unexplored territory. It feels like it may just be a rehashing of another mild success with Disney new movie flavoring and the Mouse’s marketing team to push it into explicit profitability.
So while there’s little doubt that it will be worth a watch for the visual spectacle and the cultural awareness it raises, don’t go in expecting to be blown away by Pixar taking a story to unexplored territory. Enjoy the movie industry’s baby steps into making the mainstream and mixing pot and cross your fingers for the future instead.
If you’re interested in seeing Coco you can scoop your movie tickets ahead of time with Fandango 😉