Disney/Pixar hosted our trip for editorial purposes. Opinions are our own.
Pixar has always invested in telling the best stories they can with cutting edge animation and effects, memorable characters, rich storylines and beautiful soundtracks. Their newest full length movie COCO absolutely transcends previous movies. I was captivated with their story of a talented young boy who is passionate about music and has big desires.
During my recent Pixar Coco trip in August we met Co-Director/writer Adrian Molina, Orchestrator Germaine Franco, Consultant Camilo Lara and Composer Michael Giacchino who all shared how music is embedded into the storytelling of this film. Adrian started by sharing that, “We didn’t want music to be incidental, we wanted it to be crucial to the storytelling.”
The creators of this film started the music process earlier than any other Pixar Film. They knew that music would be incorporated into the story. Through many discussions they discovered that they needed to use music in 3 very specific ways- source music, score and original songs. The panel explain what each is:
Miguel lives in the fictional small town of Santa Sicilia. His musical idol Hernesto De la Cruz also comes from this town. Musicians come to this town to pay homage to Hernesto. The film’s music team wanted to fill the town with beautiful music, particularly the sounds of Mexico so that the world Miguel inhabits is filled with music and that, even though music was forbidden in his family the music around him inspires his musical journey. The musical team wanted the music to be as accurate as possible with the sounds and the rhythms of Mexico as well as the musicians who play this music.
Camilla elaborates, “We wanted to have a sound that makes you feel as if you were in a little plaza. All the different sounds you might hear, because sometimes you might hear more than one band playing at the same time. We wanted something that didn’t sound like you bought it at a record store. Mexico has a rich variety of genres of music. So we wanted to include lot of different types of sounds instead of the traditional mariachi which is what people are most familiar with. We wanted to go beyond that and include other styles like marimba and Banda.
The score plays the themes and holds up the emotions of the film. Themes explore the environment, motivation of the characters and other settings and actions of this film. Composer Michael explains, “For me, it’s about translating my emotions into music so the audience can be guided along in the story.”
Original music was written to create musical moments such as “Remember Me”, written by husband-and-wife songwriting team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (you may have heard of their other song? Let It Go from Frozen!). Film creators wanted a song that expressed the star power and their larger than life of character, Hernesto de la Cruz. He’s meant to be a star from the golden age of Mexican cinema and when you meet him in the film, you meet him at his highest moment with the song “Remember Me” that is loved by all the world. So Bobby and Kristen composed this song together that accomplishes all of that it. It expresses the Hernesto character instantly and it also has a message of being remembered and how important it is to have someone who remembers you.
When it comes to Pixar movies, I can honestly say I always think about the animation first. So, it was very special for me to get a break down of all the types of music used in this film. I know how important the music soundtracks are to films, but never really thought about how intense the research, composition, arrangement and performance of the music for films can be. Coco’s music and soundtrack is as bright, dreamy, touching and beautiful as the animation. It is rich with tradition, all kinds of audio and visual flavors and with reflection on all those who have passed on.
COCO is in theaters now.