Coco

 

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Disney’s first all-Latino animated feature is a colourful and rambunctious if somewhat convoluted affair.

 

COCo
  

The twelve-year-old son of Mexican cobblers, Miguel worships the legendary singer and guitarist Ernesto de la Cruz. However, music is banned in his family so, on the sly, he sets off to find a guitar so that he can enter a local talent competition – on the Day of the Dead. He is determined to become a successful musician, even if it kills him.

 

Since the release of its 1995 hit Pocahontas, Disney has been at pains to celebrate minority cultures. Following Mulan, The Princess and the Frog and Moana, the company has now produced the most expensive cartoon ever to feature an all-Latino cast. Yet for all its leaps of imagination and novelty, Coco does suffer from comparisons with two other animated features, namely Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Book of Life. The latter featured a guitar-strumming Mexican youth who, on the Day of the Dead, ends up in the afterlife. He was voiced by Diego Luna. In Coco, a guitar-strumming Mexican youth (Anthony Gonzalez), on the Day of the Dead, ends up in the afterlife. Here, Miguel is accompanied by a guitar-strumming musician called Héctor, who is voiced by Gael García Bernal. As it happens, Bernal and Luna are best friends and business partners, but there most comparisons end. Even so, the similarities are remarkable.

 

While championing its agenda of diversity, Disney – in collaboration with Pixar Animation – has ended up with a tricky property. The Mexicans just love their skeletons and dear departed, but to set a children’s film in the afterlife is both brave and problematic. There is even an alternative level of the deceased – in The Book of Life, a place dubbed the Land of the Forgotten – where the dead who have been forgotten by the living end up in an ethereal limbo. Scary stuff. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – whose skeletal anti-hero Jack Skellington and the other ghouls, zombies and mummies lent themselves to stop-motion animation – was aimed at a maturer demographic. And older kids just love that kind of stuff.

 

Coco might have actually benefitted from an edge of the macabre, but then it would have wrong-footed its intended audience. As it is, it is a joyous, colourful romp with lashings of mariachi and salsa music, along with a street dog called Dante, the most galling animated creation since that damnable goat in Ferdinand. The film’s message, though, is clear: that we must cherish the memory of our forebears come hell or high water.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Voices of  Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Edward James Olmos, Alfonso Arau, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger.

 

Dir Lee Unkrich, Pro Darla K. Anderson, Ex Pro John Lasseter, Screenplay Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich, from a story by Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz, Matthew Aldrich and Adrian Molina, Ph Matt Aspbury and Danielle Feinberg, Pro Des Harley Jessup, Ed Steve Bloom and Lee Unkrich, Music Michael Giacchino.

 

Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios-Walt Disney Pictures.

104 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 19 January 2018. Cert. PG.