The Voices of Disney/Pixar’s Coco talk about Music, Family Traditions, and Latin Culture.

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Disney Pixar’s newest animated film, Coco, is filled with Latin culture and traditions. The press conference began with a surprise folkloric dance with mariachi.

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Across the cast, everyone was humbled by the opportunity to share the Latin tradition of Dia de Los Muertos with the world. We had the opportunity to meet with the cast, producers, and directors to hear how Coco came to fruition.

The panel began with the host directing the questions and then opened the floor for those invited to the event to ask questions. The host began by asking how the cast felt about the premier of the film, premiered at El Capitan Theater. The cast felt like they were on Cloud Nine from the modern cultural masterpiece.

So how did Coco come to fruition? Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina discus this topic:

LEE UNKRICH: So Darla, and Adrian, and I all worked on Toy Story III together. And when we finished that film, I started to think about what was next, and I had a few different ideas that I was kicking around. And one of them was the idea of telling a story set against Dia de Mortos. I had always been interested in the tradition, and I spent some time doing some research, and really trying to understand more than I already knew. And the more that I dug in, the more that I learned about how central family is to this celebration, and that Dia de Mortos is, you know, is all about this obligation that we all have to remember our loved ones, and to pass their stories along. And I just really started to see the potential to tell a unique story, to tell a story that could only be told in animation, that could be visually dazzling, but also had the potential to have a real emotional core to it. And that was really kind of the beginning of this journey. And we immediately headed down to Mexico and started – went on the first of what proved to be many lengthy research trips, to spend time learning about the traditions, learning about the culture, and spending a lot of time with many beautiful families down in Mexico.

HOST: Interesting. Adrian, for you, having a Mexican background, how does it feel to be writing and co-directing this film?

ADRIAN MOLINA: It has been a pleasure. It has been, you know, the highlight of my career up to this point. I started on the film about a year and a half to two years into the production. I had finished the storyboarding on Monsters University, and it just one of those ideas that ticked off so many things, or checked off the boxes of so many things that I’ve always wanted to see in a film – that it deals so strongly with this idea of family, Miguel and his musical passion, and especially the expression of these Mexican traditions. You know, it’s one of those things that I felt like I had a lot of experience to bring to it, and also just the – the way we work at Pixar, it’s such a collaborative effort, and to be able to work with all of these actors, all of these musicians, and to really bring to life this culture on screen was something that I was thrilled by.

We got to hear from the voice of Miguel, Anthony Gonzalez, about his experience with his first movie.

ANTHONY GONZALEZ: Oh, well, I just really loved the making of it. I loved being with Lee, Darla and Adrian in the booth, and other people. And there was just so much fun, because it was very easy for me because I had the guidance of them three, and it was just – it was like a breeze for me, and it was just so much fun doing the voice of Miguel.

Anthony Gonzalez is a talented and ambitious 13 year old. This is one of the reasons why he landed the role. Lee explains his experience with Anthony Gonzalez auditioning for the role of Miguel.

LEE UNKRICH: At his very first audition, you know, we had him read a bunch of scenes, script pages. And then when we were all done, he took out a CD, and he said, “I brought a song I want to sing to you.” And at that point, we didn’t even know if Miguel was going to be singing in the movie, so that wasn’t part of the audition. And unfortunately, we didn’t have a CD player that day, where we were. So Anthony, true to his great spirit just said, “Oh, well, whatever – I’ll just sing it a cappella.” And he launched into this beautiful, like, 10 minute long, sweet rendition of this song, sung just to the few of us. And you know, we were already wowed by his audition, and then that just really sealed the deal.

Coco showcases a lot of Latin culture, specifically Mexican culture, throughout the entire film. So how did the rest of the cast feel about the opportunity to share their culture? We got to hear from Gael Barcia Bernal, voice of Hector, and Edward James Olmos, voice of Chicharron.

GAEL BARCIA BERNAL: Oh, wow, it – I mean, it is such a privilege to be here, I mean, to be now, right now, talking to you, to be talking about the movie, to know the result of it, because it is – it is always an act of faith in a way, no? I mean, and then 

you get invited to – when I got the invitation to meet with Lee, with Adrian, and with Darla and talk about the movie, I remember how already I was so convinced about it, you know, before going into the meeting with them. And after the meeting, I was just amazed by the amount of research; also the incorporation – the – kind of like the holistic kind of approach that they were trying to do to the Day of the Dead celebration, that they were also putting forth a very personal point of view, as well – which ultimately, personal point of views are what make a movie good, you know – is what makes a movie good. And I was willing to jump into that, into that trip, you know, and to interpret that point of view. And now the results – I’m just – you know, I’m – it has transcended all my expectations. And this is what happens when the film becomes good, as well, but there’s nothing you can expect that will match a result when a film is good. It’s just – it overcomes it, you know, it’s impressive. So I mean, I’m really happy for, and proud, and lucky to be part of this, with all this great team, with all this collaborative effort, me being a little part of it, being able to put forth, as well, into the world, a very, you know, story, a little fable about a mythology, and a tradition that I hold very dearly, like the other mortals, and that – very proud, as well, that Mexico can give this to the world, you know, and everyone in the world can adopt this tradition, this reflection on death – you know, which is a very, very important thing to do, I think, in life.

EDWARD JAMES OLMOS: when they asked me to play the role, I was privileged. I mean, this became a real honor, because it – that character is what the story is. I mean, every single person in the room that’s seen that movie understands very well that what it means is 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. And so when I ended up – they asked me to do it, I said, “Of course. It’d be my honor.”… And as it went along, and I – then my part came in, and I said, “Oh, my God,” I emotionally – I felt emotional for this guy. And Chicharron became, within a matter of a minute and a half to two minutes, became someone that I could identify with, you know – a relative, a friend, a person, that – and is said, “Wow.” … It’s gonna take that long for it to resonate throughout the planet, and really take hold of what art does to people in their subconscious mind, and what it does to – I mean, people who have never – 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, and you haven’t – you’ve been too busy living your life, that you haven’t gone back to even say thank you.

Coco is a very touching movie that will make you feel the love for your family and friends. The cast talks about how they felt about the movie. Alanna Ubach, voice of Mama Imelda, shares her experience about sharing the film with her family. 

ALANNA UBACH: Waterworks. I was sitting in between my husband, and my mother. And I told my mother that I had a surprise for her, because she used to sing [PH] Laorona to me when I was a little girl, in order to make me go to sleep. Laorona will put you to sleep if you don’t go to sleep. No – that’s another story. But I was – I kept telling her, “I have this surprise for you.” And she said, “Oh, I can’t wait. I love surprises.” And so the lights dim, and she’s watching it, and she sees Coco, the [PH] Awella for the first time, and she says, “Aye, [PH] yo [PH] Solana.” You’re Coco. I’m like, “No, no, no, Mom. Just keep watching.” She said, “Okay.” I watched her cry, like three times, and then Miguel is finally introduced. “Ay – Alanna, you’re Miguel? You’re the voice of Miguel.” I’m like, “No, Mom, keep watching. Keep watching.” And finally Laorona came on, and it was just waterworks.

The press had the opportunity to ask the cast some questions. Since Coco was an evolving story that was in production for about 6 years we were curious to know how Miguel’s role as a musician developed.

PRESS: Can you talk a little bit about, you know, when you went in to record your music part, you know, how did you feel, and were you thinking about some of your own family members when you sang your songs?

LEE UNKRICH: Well, to just quickly answer the first part of it – from the very beginning, this was an evolving story. We went down a lot of different paths. I think we always knew that Miguel was going to be a musician that he’d be playing the guitar, but we didn’t know that he was going to be singing, necessarily. So at the time that we auditioned Anthony, you know, we weren’t sure of that. But once we knew he could sing we tried to take full advantage of his talents.

ANTHONY GONZALEZ: Okay. Well, when I knew that I was going to sing that day in the booth, I would get so excited, because you know, I love to sing, and especially these wonderful songs that Adrian Molina, Germaine Franco, and other people made – they’re just, they’re just incredible messages. They send incredible messages, and they’re just incredible lyrics that – I love to sing, like Pragardocon, I just love the rhythm, and the melody, and the lyrics, like, “Remember me” – it’s very sentimental. And for me, my grandfather passed away when I was six years old, and he was very special to me because he would always support me in my music career. And so yeah, every time I would come to sing like, songs, it would remind me of him, and it would make me feel like he was there, and he was present with me.

The film is out on November 22, 2017. A perfect time during the Thanksgiving holiday for families to experience this heart-warming film. Coco is filled with surprises that have an emotional core around family values while being a visually appealing film.