(This film portion was written by Beka Perlstein.)
If you’re like me, you’ve seen the previews for Coco and thought, what is this movie and how is Disney going to make a movie all about death translate to kids. It didn’t stop me from jumping at the chance to preview the film and now I submit my apologies to Disney and the world that I ever doubted their creative genius. I’m loco for Coco and you will be, too.
I had the opportunity to see this film in a theater full of children, many of them from predominantly Hispanic backgrounds. I was blown away with how beautiful Coco was: the story, the colors, the animation, the music, and the way in which it reached out to a new audience that Disney hasn’t touched before. I truly believe there is something for everyone to take away from this film, and if you walk away feeling worse than before you probably don’t have a heart and should reevaluate some things.
Coco tells the tale of a young boy, Miguel, whose dream is to play the guitar but due to events that tore his family apart way back when, music has been banned- never to be heard, played or spoken of again. Instead, his family makes shoes. He doesn’t understand why he can’t pursue his dreams so he hides his passion and worships a deceased Mexican music legend, Ernesto de la Cruz. Miguel gets the idea to perform in a talent show in the city square but his family finds out and it causes a huge fight on the night of Dia de los Muertos when he’s supposed to be spending the night at home with his family. Miguel, in true young adult fashion proclaims he doesn’t need his family and runs off to pursue his dream of music in the square.
If you are a parent wondering if this is scary for kids, I saw it with my mom who is a first grade teacher and a room full of kids who didn’t seem scared at all. My mom wondered if it would cause fear when the first skeleton’s head popped off and was put back on, but then quite quickly, it becomes clear this is just another family. It’s like a family of penguins, or fairies, or lions, toys, or the like. In Disney films we have enemies and bad guys and the like, and in this film, we have a family that happens to be skeletons. They love and argue and laugh just like any other family. If the children have been exposed to the idea of death, then this movie will be fine for them. If they haven’t, then this will be a hard concept to explain. There are also moments of peril, other deaths, and a father leaving his family (although this has a happy ending).
There is quite a bit of Spanish mixed in but it didn’t bother me. It was a bonus for those that spoke the language but not a hindrance to those that didn’t. I can’t say enough good things about Coco and I can’t wait to go see it again. There are jokes and references for adults, and silly things for kids. It’s gorgeous and fun and heartwarming and you owe it to yourself and your kids to see something other than a princess movie- so get out there and enjoy.
If you aren’t familiar with the holiday Dia de los Muertos, you should do some research, not in order to see the film (they explain it quite well), but just because it’s incredibly cool and a really nice way to honor family. The majority of the film takes place as Miguel gets trapped in the afterlife where most of his ancestors are on the night they try to cross over. I am not going to spoil any more of the plot for you, but I’ll just say it’s filled with twists and turns with Miguel discovering the meaning of family. It’s filled with gorgeous animation from the skeletons to the spirit animals (yes, your pets come with you!), to the cityscapes.
The Video: ‘Coco‘ comes with a flawless 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This is what every animated film should strive to look like. It’s that good. Colors and detail are eye-popping and showcase just how fantastic and far the Pixar animated realm has come over the past decade. Even with the new 4K UHD image, this shows just how magnificent Blu-ray can still be, which is outstanding. Colors are vibrant and expand millions of colors on screen in each sequence. It’s one of the prettiest if not the best looking Pixar film to date. The bold warm colors of the village as well as the underworld look amazing with bright and rich reds, oranges, purples, and blues, which stand out greatly. Greens in the grass as well as the spirit animal is nuanced and rich as well.
The skin tones of these animated characters look realistic in both young and the elderly, while the off-white bone colors have many different shades. It was truly remarkable. Each scene is steeped in glorious color that it’s hard to take it all in with one viewing. Detail is sharp and vivid with this animation as every wrinkle can be seen in Mama Coco as well as her age spots. The bone splinters and lines that form each body bone can be easily seen as well, in addition to the highly detailed stitching in the animated wardrobe. Even the orange magical leaves show their detail in each piece. I was amazed to say the least. Black levels are deep and inky as well. There were zero instances of any banding, aliasing, or video noise here, leaving this video presentation with great marks.
The Audio: You would think this would come with a Dolby Atmos sound mix, but it doesn’t. Instead, we have a very good lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix that had me turn up the volume a tiny bit to get the desired sound level that I normally use. The music of the film is magnificent with every guitar chord heard very well and this track utilizes those sounds greatly and to its fullest. The horns and percussion are also robust and can sound like you’re at a concert hall at times during the bigger sequences where music is featured. Other quieter moments where music is played perfectly places the reverb and softness of the music perfectly as if someone is playing an instrument next to you.
Other sound effects are loud and well-balanced and feature some great directionality as people are on their adventure through the underworld. Ambient noises of crowds cheering and other musicians playing sound excellent as well in the rear speakers. The bass is strong and provides a great depth of sound in each scene, while the dialogue is always clear and easy to follow along with and free of all pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills. I just wish there was a Dolby Atmos track here to provide the height sounds, because there were a lot of moments that could have utilized those noises perfectly.
Audio Commentary – The two directors and producer deliver a good commentary track that talks about the origins of the story, Pixar’s involvement, the characters, voice casting, their research in Mexico, tone and other little easter eggs throughout the film. A very good commentary track for sure.
Welcome to the Fiesta (HD, 2 Mins.) – A short film that acts as pitch for the film with optional director and producer commentary.
Mi Familia (HD, 10 Mins.) – The crew of the film talk about the rules they lived by growing up and look back on their childhood. In addition to that, this shows some of the research the crew did in Mexico for the story and characters where they actually show some of the people the characters were based on.
Dante (HD, 6 Mins.) – This shows how the dog was created in the film, its characteristics and the actual dog that inspired the character.
How to Draw a Skeleton (HD, 3 Mins.) – A short sketch session that teaches you how to draw the skeleton from the film.
A Thousand Pictures a Day (HD, 20 Mins.) – This looks in more detail the crew’s research in Mexico and how it all influenced and inspired every bit of the film.
The Music of Coco (HD, 13 Mins.) – This dives into the music of the film with interviews and backgrounds on Spanish music and culture.
Land of Our Ancestors (HD, 6 Mins.) – This focuses on the land of the dead and how the animators and filmmakers came up with the place, along with real world inspirations.
Fashion Through the Ages (HD, 9 Mins.) – A look at the animated costumes and the research that went into it.
The Real Guitar (HD, 3 Mins.) – There’s a big guitar scene in the film and this shows how it was brought to life with CGI and live-action.
Paths to Pixar: Coco (HD, 12 Mins.) – A bunch of the crew talk about their childhood dreams and how they ended up working in films and at Pixar.
How to Make Papel Picado (HD, 2 Mins.) – This shows you how to make the Mexican decoration of paper and lights, usually featured at parties outside.
You Got the Part! (HD, 2 Mins.) – The young voice actor in the film is given the title role.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 33 Mins.) – There are seven deleted scenes with an introduction by the filmmakers here, which have some great moments, all of which are worth your time. These are not fully animated.
Trailers (HD, 14 Mins.) – Several trailers for the film.
THE ULTIMATE WORD
‘Coco‘ is an outstanding achievement in the animated world as well as story telling. I dare anyone try and not become emotional in that film. The characters and story are all excellent and have deep meaning. It’s also one of the best looking Pixar films to date if not the best one. The video presentation is flawless, but the lack of a Dolby Atmos track is bothersome, even though the 7.1 track is very good. There are a ton of extras, all of which are worth watching too. MUST-OWN for sure!