Pixar’s latest animation Coco celebrates Mexican culture. The film is rich with tradition, music, with family being the central focus. Pixar does an amazing job exploring what family means in their films but Coco is a little different. The concept of the film is based around the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). There are two worlds in the film- the Land of the Living as well as the Land of the Dead. The colorful town of Santa Cecilia is delightfully picturesque but the Land of the Dead is an animated masterpiece. One of the characters that truly moved me was Chicharrón who is voiced by Mr. Edward James Olmos. His role is brief but especially significant. His scene is when we learn what happens to the Dead who are forgotten. Edward explained what the role meant to him as well as what he thinks Chicharrón does for the movie:
“When Lee and Darla invited me to come up to Pixar they said that they were doing this film, and they wanted to inform me about it and ask me my opinion about it. They were so incredibly respectful of the material that they were working with, that immediately, it transcended into understanding on my part. And when they asked me to play the role, I was privileged. I mean, this became a real honor, because that character is what the story is. Every single person that’s seen that movie understands very well what it means- if you don’t remember your loved ones, they’re gone. If you don’t tell the stories of that loved one, they cease to exist. And it was that simple. So when they asked me to do it, I said, “Of course. It’d be my honor.” They’ve been working on this for six years, and so two years ago, I did my part. And lo and behold, I go see the piece. The movie started and amazing feeling came across immediately. The quality was superb- the feeling, the music, the sound – everything. Performances were extraordinary. Then my part came in, and I said, “Oh, my God,” I felt emotional for this guy. And Chicharron, within a matter of a minute and a half to two minutes, became someone that I could identify with and then – boom – when he leaves I was like “Miguel! Where’d he go?” He answers that Hector gives him was right on. He said, “Well, nobody’s thinking’ about him anymore, and he – he’s disappeared now; he’s gone.” So then the story started to evolve. And by the time it got to the end, I was in heaving sobs. Not only is pride taken over, because I am Mexican, full-blooded on everybody’s side; not only am I a person who has been inside of this industry for over 50 years; not only have I really tried to understand myself inside of this art form – but this really became something really profound.”
“People who are gonna see this movie, are gonna come out really moved, especially if you haven’t thought about your parents, or you haven’t thought about your loved ones, and you haven’t really gotten into your own family. You’ve been so busy living your life, that you haven’t gone back to even say thank you. You haven’t been even to maybe the cemetery, where they’re buried now for 30 years, or 20 years, or however long they’ve been away from you. You know – when’s the last time you visited your great-great-grandmother’s burial site? Most of us don’t even know who they are, because the stories weren’t passed on. So, they’re gonna walk out, and they’re gonna feel an emptiness, and they’re gonna try to fill that emptiness with the knowledge of what they just witnessed. So they’re going to investigate, and move forward. That’s why I’m so grateful. I mean, six years ago, you didn’t know that we’d be politically in the shape that we’re in – nobody did. Nobody knew that Mexicans were gonna be treated like they’ve been treated over the last year – nobody. You know, the last two years have been very difficult for us, and it’s hard not to come about and have an attitude. So, you try to stay strong, knowing that the pendulum swung one way – it’s gonna swing back. And when it does, it’ll have a different reaction, and we’ll have another sense of who we are, and the changes. This thing placed us in a very strong position for the future. People are gonna say thank you to the Mexican culture for introducing them to a value that they did not know anything about!”
Olmos ends with, “So I am, as Chicharron, doing that one scene, feeling one of my proudest moments in the art form.”
I was extremely moved by what Edward Olmos shared and ashamed of what has been going on in this country. I too believe in change and that this is a wonderful introduction to a culture that some people aren’t familiar with. I thank Pixar for producing such a thoughtful film and paying homage to our neighbors in Mexico.
Coco is in theaters on November 22 and is rated PG.
We attended a screening/junket for review purposes. Photos of Edward James Olmos by Tee Burgess. Movie images courtesy of Disney.