This holiday season I went with my very Mexican family and my very American partner, Tyler, on a trip to the state of Michoacán in central Mexico. Tyler, who had never been to this part of Mexico, was thoroughly enamoured by the familial atmosphere, the smells, flavours, colours, and of course, the enchanting music. Our last stop of the trip was the quaint little town of Pátzcuaro, which, coincidentally, is the town on which Pixar animation studios based the fictional town of Santa Cecilia in their latest sensation, Coco.
Coco is a film about a Mexican boy named Miguel who dreams of being a musician against the wishes of his shoe-making family, the Riveras. In his quest, he finds himself travelling between worlds as he discovers who he truly is and where his love for music really comes from. Mexican music is as diverse as it is powerful. It takes you back in time across cultures, and in the case of Coco, it can even transport you to different realms of life.
What is so precious about the movie was just how well it captures the same striking details that determinedly trapped Tyler’s foreign eye in Pátzcuaro. Every little light, petal, brick, and storefront has been carefully studied and adapted to perfection. Even the typography of Miguel’s family business the ‘Rivera’ shoemakers is portrayed in the classic Pátzcuaro fashion: a red “R” followed by black lettering painted on the half-white, half-maroon walls of the town.
When director Lee Unkrich called the film “A love letter to Mexico”, he was understating just how carefully and respectfully Pixar animation studios embraced the nuances of a culture that, at the end of the day, will never be able to be summed up in one singular film. Nevertheless, Coco succeeds at opening a window so that the world can catch a glimpse of the absolutely magical whirlwind that is Mexico and its relationship to death.
The visual layering that the animators of the film used to create the landscapes of the film is unlike anything that has ever been done before. What is even more enchanting is how adequately this layering represents the depth and richness that exists in the Mexican psyche—the cultural heterogeneity, the spiritual conglomerates, the passionate kinship—all wrapped up in a film about song that succeeds at capturing the hearts of children and adults alike.
Image: Disney-Pixar via image.net