Coco animation could very well mark a turning point in Pixar’s history. Until now, Luxo Jr.’s studio had always specialized in contemporary works with a look to the future and a feeling of melancholy, the few veins attempts to come out of its entrenchment (Rebelle, Le Voyage d’Arlo) did not get the results they hoped for and seemed to lock John Lasseter into his safe zone for a long time.
Coco animation critic
Then comes Lee Unkrich who, after the colossal success of his magnificent Toy Story 3, proposes the start of a feature film on the theme of El Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican celebration commemorating in festive form the spirit of the dead. After 7 years of intensive research and development, one of the pillars of the studio can finally present his new baby alongside Adrian Molina.
It will be understood, Coco is quite far from the usual framework of Pixar, placing its plot in a very traditional Mexico with little advanced technology. The whole stake is even to delve into the past of a people, to discover its customs, its celebrations and its folklore. And yet, all the themes of the studio are found in the story with its need to open up to seniority and to preserve what was once acquired.
The homage paid to the Latin American imagination is formidable. It will take more than one viewing to see all the details hidden in each shot. The imagery is breathtakingly beautiful and to put it mildly. The Land of the Ancestors is full of color and life, housing more dead than it can contain and mixing them with creatures from local legends. Visually, the animators have taken another giant leap forward.
However, the frame, which could not be more classic, takes a little time to take off. The first part is frustrating because it is difficult to ask. Everything is going too fast, it screams in all directions, we are rarely given time to appreciate what we are watching, a bit like Le Monde de Dory did last year. But everything changes from a great scene informing of what the movie will actually tell about the importance of memories. From this moment, Coco animation gains in intensity every minute.
He may abuse heavy scriptwriting strings (all the waiting before finding Ernesto de la Cruz is revealing of where morality is going) and certain limits (we will review the usefulness of Dante), the revelations are follow each other without gratuity for the sole purpose of deepening each arc launched, the characters take on a whole new dimension, they thicken, they make us aware of the inevitability of death and oblivion (we salute the audacity of Pixar used for the first time in animation Alzheimer’s disease) until an emotional climax. A masterful ending in line with what Vice-Versa had accomplished in 2015.
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But where Coco animation stands out the most is in its sound environment. Generally uncomfortable with everything related to songs, Pixar Studios have decided to make music the key element in their history. If it is not a musical, Coco lets the characters regularly push the song during shows or scenes requiring the contribution of melodies. Several artists have collaborated for the soundtrack, Michael Giacchino for the instrumental part transcribing well the musical culture of the country, Germaine Franco, Adrian Molina and the couple Robert Lopez / Kristen Anderson Lopez for the songs. They are lively and enhance the most beautiful moments of the footage like the heady and significant Remember Me.
Time will tell if Coco animation will join the pantheon of the greatest Pixars. He is not the most subtle or the most original but his feelings are incredibly correct and we cannot miss the reality of his message which, for sure, will move many children and adults for a long time. A strong, evocative and transgenerational film.