Over Thanksgiving weekend, my family and I watched Disney/Pixar’s Coco.
The film follows Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old Mexican boy who aspires to be a musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. However, the Rivera family has a strict no-music policy, which originated generations ago when Miguel’s great-great-grandmother was abandoned by her husband — a musician.
Miguel comes from a line of shoemakers, and he’s set to follow in their footsteps. His dreams conflict with the life his family planned out for him, and it causes tension between him and his grandmother, who actively tries to keep music out of his life.
Though well-intentioned, her efforts drive Miguel away on the night of Día de los Muertos. He longs to perform and he is finally given the opportunity at a local talent show, but he is in need of a guitar. His only option is to use the guitar atop the tomb of the late de la Cruz.
Through Disney/Pixar magic, Miguel ends up in the afterlife. Though not dead himself, he is able to communicate with his deceased ancestors who are visiting on the one day of the year they are able to cross over to the living world, unbeknownst to the living. The rest of the story centers on Miguel’s quest to get his family’s blessing so he can return home and keep their memory alive.
I heard nothing but good things prior to watching the film, but I was curious to see how a movie meant for children would handle the topic of death. Spoiler alert: It does show the death and murder of certain characters, which I found shocking given the target audience, but overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the film dealt with the topic.
The afterlife isn’t portrayed as a dark and scary place, but rather a magical, ethereal city where the deceased go to be reunited with their family and essentially continue their lives together. Every Día de los Muertos, they travel to the living world, collect the items laid out for them on the ofrendas, and spend as much time with their living kin as they can before the day is over.
As someone who lost loved ones pretty early in life, the image of one’s ancestors watching over them was comforting and I can see how this film, and the overall tradition of Día de los Muetros, can help a child cope with loss. I especially appreciated that the film teaches children to honor their ancestors and keep their memory alive through tradition. Though not Latino myself, I come from a family-oriented culture that also emphasizes the importance of remembering one’s ancestors and staying connected to one’s roots, so it was heart-warming to see those values portrayed on the big screen.
While this movie is relatable across ethnicities and cultures, Coco does a beautiful job of celebrating Latino culture. With the portrayal of a Latino family from a small town in Mexico and the bits of Spanish spoken throughout, it could have easily been stereotypical and othering, but instead it felt authentic and inclusive. It’s a great opportunity for non-Spanish speaking children to learn about and gain an appreciation for another culture, which is an important part of working towards a more accepting society.
It’s refreshing to see Disney/Pixar providing positive representation for ethnic minorities, especially in an industry where that representation is limited. When I watched Moana, I remember getting goosebumps finally seeing someone like me in a Disney film. And when I watched Coco, I saw so many Latino kids looking at Miguel with bright eyes and I knew how validated they felt to see a kid like them and a family like theirs represented on the big screen.
Coco is a fantastic family movie. It’s an emotional roller coaster complete with shocking plot twists, tearjerking moments, and a lot of light-hearted humor. It’s a beautiful tribute to Latino culture and tradition, the importance of family, and, above all, “seizing your moment.” Altogether with Pixar’s incredible animation, it’s no surprise Coco was the #1 movie in the box office over Thanksgiving weekend. I highly recommend everyone and their families to watch Coco.
Have you seen Coco, or are you planning on watching it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!