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A long way from home

A Behind the Scenes of the upcoming Disney/Pixar movie, Coco, with Dean Kelley

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'Coco' will greet US theaters next month with stunning animation.
Courtesy of Pixar and Disney

Directed by Lee Unkrich
Music by Michael Giacchino
Produced by Darla K. Anderson
In theaters Nov 22, 2017

On Oct. 27, LSC hosted a behind-the-scenes look of Pixar’s upcoming movie, Coco. Dean Kelley, one of the artists, was able to come to MIT that Friday to give us a preview of some scenes. A Boston native, Kelley joined Pixar Animation Studios in 2009 as a story artist for Monsters University before being placed on the art team for Coco. Before joining Pixar, however, Kelley had worked at FOX on “The Simpsons” and later worked for Nickelodeon on “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Penguins of Madagascar.”

Coming to most theaters next month, Coco is the newest story in the Pixar family. The main character, Miguel, adores music. His family, on the other hand, has placed a very strict ban on music of any sort. Wanting to pursue his dreams, Miguel runs to the cemetery. A scene from the movie shows Miguel going into the tomb of Ernesto de La Cruz to borrow his guitar. This is where Pixar really begins to flex its movie magic.

If there is one thing that can be said about Coco, it’s that it continues to uphold the Pixar tradition of spectacular world-building and wondrous colors. One guitar strum, and the marigold petals on the tomb flutter to life. There is a glow to them — Pixar’s trademark vibrancy. Throughout the presentation, we got to see more and more of the Land of the Dead. This world, however, is teeming with life. The amount of care to Mexican culture is apparent. Coupled with the expansiveness of this world, Pixar really has managed to both create a new world and pay homage to the culture from which it came from.

I do have some fears about the film. One involves its respect for Mexican culture. The concern arises from the fact that it’s a rather easy pitfall for studios attempting to be “cultural” to carelessly shoehorn in references without being mindful of what they actually are. This doesn’t seem to be quite an issue, since Kelley has mentioned that he and some other people visited Oaxaca and interacted with the locals to get a better sense of the culture.

The only other concern that I have is Coco falling into cliched story beats. While having the main character enter the Land of the Dead does seem interesting, it could easily follow a similar pattern to movies such as The Wizard of Oz. After watching a scene where Miguel avoids his relatives in the Land of the Dead, I could only wonder if one could come up with the ending halfway through the movie. That realization could spoil the ending or at the very least lessen the impact of the conclusion.

This could all be incorrect. It could be that Pixar could manage to tug on our heartstrings once again as it did with other movies. Coco comes out next month, and one can only hope for the best.