Disney films are all about hope, and dreams, and magic. The new animated feature film Coco lives in this place. A young boy named Miguel idolizes his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz. He has a shrine dedicated to this iconic figure, an actor in the Mexican cinema who declares, “I have to sing. I have to play. The music is not just in me – it is me.” Miguel is inspired, and wants to become a great musician. In his quest to become closer to his hero, Coco finds himself connected to El Tierre de la Meurte, the Land of the Dead – and the dead are just as surprised about it as he is. He embarks on a journey to discover why music has been banned in his family for three generations, and to find his place in the world.
The film has not been without its controversy. Preproduction began in 2012, and 2013, Disney tried to trademark the phrase “Dio de los Meurtos”, to the disgust of many. More than 21,000 people signed a petition on Change.org, saying that this was commercial cultural appropriation at its worst. Disney backed away from the idea, saying that they no longer needed the trademark since they were planning to change the title anyway. We can’t imagine why somebody at Disney legal thought that this was going to be a good idea in the first place, but we’re glad they didn’t try to force the issue.
It is also not untrodden ground. The Book of Life came out in 2014, and that movie, the hero was named Manalo, who loved music more than the life the world had chosen for him, and also must travel to the Land of the Dead in order to find his true calling.
The movie features Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel, Gael García Bernal as the puckish Hector, Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz, Renée Victor as Abuelita, and Ana Ofelia Murguia as Mama Coco. It debuts in a crowded release schedule with other Disney films this November 22, 2017.