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Pixar’s ‘Coco’ honors Mexican tradition thanks to cultural advisors

Sara Elliot November 2, 2017 November 2nd, 2017

A few years ago, Disney/Pixar made the controversial move of attempting to trademark “Dia de los Muertos”. They wanted to trademark the title and related merchandise for a film, but it was still questionable and heavily criticized. This holiday is sacred to many, and there was a lot of backlash from the Latino community.

However, they took this as a learning experience. After dropping their trademark attempt, they hired one of their critics, cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, as a consultant for the movie.

Alcaraz told mitú about the moment he received the offer: “My first reaction was ‘Wow. Is this for real? Should I do this? It’s pretty risky. Are they going to ask me to just rubber stamp stuff, or are they going to listen to what I have to say, cuz, you know, I have strong opinions.’”

That was a couple of years ago. Today, we’re getting closer to the release of “Coco”, Disney/Pixar’s Dia de los Muertos-themed film. From what we’ve seen, they definitely listened to Alcaraz, since the film appears to honor and respect this Mexican holiday.

“We dove deep and really did our best to come to understand the traditions and the intricacies of the holiday, and communicate it in a way that spoke to those communities but was also accessible to everyone in the world,” says co-director Lee Unkrich.

For co-director Adrian Molina, representation for Latinos is essential. “I think there’s something really beautiful and necessary about being able to see yourself up on screen – see yourself as the hero.” he said.

Bringing in cultural advisors was something new for Pixar, and it definitely shaped the film. Marcela Davison Aviles (President and CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corporation in San Jose), and playwright Octavio Solis served as advisors alongside Alcaraz.

Alcaraz highlights that they wanted the film to feel authentic, but not didactic. He looked to include more dialogue in Spanish and remove possibly stereotypical elements. The advisors wanted to make the film real without turning it into a documentary.

Finally, he hopes that the movie will resonate with families and send out “good family vibes” to everyone.

“This is a time that we need to show how beautiful and rich other cultures can be, and how The Other is not scary, but just a person who happens to not be you.”