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Pixar Hired Cultural Consultants To Help With ‘Coco’ And It Looks Like They Definitely Helped Shape The Movie

Several years ago, Disney sparked a bit of controversy when they attempted to trademark “Dia de los Muertos.” Although they weren’t trying to trademark the holiday itself – the filing was for the title and related merchandise for an animated film – the move was seen as an attempt to cash in on a holiday that is sacred to many. After a backlash from the Latino community, Disney/Pixar withdrew its trademark attempt and eventually hired one of its vocal critics, cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, as a consultant.

“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,'” says Alcaraz. “My second reaction was, ‘PIXAR WANTS TO TALK TO ME.’ A combination of joy and terror.”

CREDIT: Pixar

Fast forward to today, and Disney/Pixar is just a little over a month away from the release of “Coco,” a Dia de los Muertos-themed film that appears to honor and respect the holiday as it is celebrated in Mexico.

After viewing the first 30 minutes, it’s clear Disney/Pixar worked hard to create a film that authentically captures the feel of Dia de los Muertos.

Co-director Lee Unkrich hopes the film resonates with those who celebrate Dia de los Muertos.

“We hope that our audience in those communities feel like we got it right,” he says. “That we spent the time to get the details right. That 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.”

CREDIT: Pixar

As important as telling a story that resonates with both Latino and non-Latino audiences is to co-director Adrian Molina, he also understands the importance of representation for Latinos.

“One really beautiful thing about this film, in particular, is to be able to feature a Mexican family, to be able to feature Mexican protagonists,” he says. “I think there’s something really beautiful and necessary about being able to see yourself up on screen – see yourself as the hero. For a Mexican-American or Mexican family to be able to go together and have that experience, I think that would be a unique thing that they could share in watching this film.”

Marcela Davison Aviles (President and CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corporation in San Jose, Calif.), playwright Octavio Solis and political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz were brought on by Pixar as cultural advisors for “Coco.”

When asked how big of a role Pixar’s cultural advisors had in shaping the film, director Lee Unkrich revealed Pixar did something they’ve “never done on any other film” by inviting the team of cultural advisors as well as other figures in the Latino community from across the country to every one of their screenings.

CREDIT: Pixar

Alcaraz says each advisor brought something different to the table: “We each gave individual notes, we each have different strengths, so it was good to feel like between all three of us, the team members had it all covered. Marcela is a musical expert and writes extensive notes like a lawyer (because she is a Harvard trained lawyer) and makes me feel like I am a lazy slob. Octavio is a playwright and performer, and is really good on the theatrical aspects of the production. Me, I’m the cynical angry cholo whose strength is sometimes looking at things literally and catching what most people might miss. What a motley dream team!”

Unkrich, who co-directed “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Toy Story 2,” says the cultural advisers were an integral part of the filmmaking process.

“Some of them were very wary about what we were doing and not sure about what our intentions were and how seriously we were taking it, but I think we put them at ease pretty quickly,” he says. “But [we] also made them feel comfortable giving us, sometimes, big notes. We made some big changes in the story based on the input that we got from the advisers.”

Alcaraz says they wanted to film to feel authentic but not didactic.

“I looked for elements of the film and story that could be misconstrued as stereotypical or racist. I looked to include more Mexican elements in the film when possible, like additional Spanish in the dialogue, and made suggestions on specific words. I listened for pronunciations of Spanish words to make sure they didn’t sound off. I think we struck a good balance on giving comments that helped the cultural authenticity of the story without bogging it down as if it were some kind of Dia de los Muertos documentary.”

CREDIT: Pixar

Alcaraz believes that Pixar’s hard work on the film will lead “Coco” to resonate far beyond the Mexican/Mexican community in the U.S. and Mexico.

“This movie will resonate with family, and will also send out good family vibes to everyone out there, Mexican/Latino or not. 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. Like one of the Pixar fans out there in Twitterlandia said, ‘While some build walls, Pixar builds bridges.’ Also, the beauty of Mexico comes across clearly here, and also a note to the viewers and to future studios where I will be pitching movie ideas: Brown people sure do look really nice animated.”

We Saw A Preview Of Pixar’s ‘Coco’ And Here’s All The Cool Stuff To Look For When You Watch It

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The Funniest Latino on Twitter Just Got A Huge TV Deal

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The Funniest Latino on Twitter Just Got A Huge TV Deal

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Last week, ABC announced they are developing a sitcom about a Mexican-American family based on the life of writer Shea Serrano. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the show is based on Serrano’s experience of “growing up in a family with five uncles who all have different perspectives on manhood.”

Not familiar with Shea Serrano? Over the last few years, Serrano has gone from being a funny Twitter follow to a two-time New York Times best-selling author. Along the way, his witty, humorous takes on basketball (and other things) has helped him build a dedicated fan base, the FOH Army, who are ready to support Serrano in myriad ways, including raising money for charity.

Shea Serrano was a middle school teacher who picked up freelance writing to make ends meet. Serrano says he was “forced” to join Twitter in 2009 after getting a freelance gig for About.com.

I started following him in 2013 because his Twitter profile pic was Miklo Velka from “Blood In Blood Out.”

And that alone cracked me up.

It was super rare to see a Latino on Twitter talking genuinely about his life and culture in a hilarious yet touching way. And as his gained followers, others in started to notice. He’s written for various publications, most notably Grantland and now The Ringer.

Here’s a tiny portion of tweets that prove Serrano is an all-star on Twitter:

In 2013, he published “Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book.”

http://bit.ly/BuyRapColoringBook

Posted by Bun B's Rap Coloring and Activity Book on Thursday, September 19, 2013

The book, developed with fellow Texan Bun B (of UGK fame), featured coloring pages, paper dolls and other fun things for rap fans to do. It wasn’t just about Bun B — it featurs rappers such as Drake, Tupac and Childish Gambino. Fans loved it.

He followed that with “The Rap Year Book” in 2015, which put Serrano on the New York Times Best Seller list.

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Yeah, you can say that pretty much catapulted him to another level of awesome.

This month, Serrano released “Basketball (and Other Things),” his third book.

The book is based on Serrano’s email newsletter, which feature Serrano’s riffs on basketball, hip-hop, and pop culture as well as illustrations by Arturo Torres.

In a conversation with mitú, Serrano talked a bit about his latest project, a collaboration with Mike Schur, creator of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Parks and Recreation.”

What is it like to be a superstar?

[Laughs] I don’t know that that is the case. I stopped teaching about two years ago, which is not that long ago. But, yeah, it feels weird and fake.

What made you stop teaching?

I was in a position to be able to write and pay all the bills that we needed to pay. Before then it was a joined thing. I had to combine the teacher money and the writing money to get to where we needed to be.

What does your wife think about your latest project?

She was excited about it. Larami and I actually came up with the idea for the show together. She was excited because that was the first time her and I officially worked on something. Before then, I would ask her about writing and it was like, “How can I fix this? How do I fix that?” So with this thing, with the TV show, we were sitting down together and coming up with ideas and writing this thing as a partnership. So she was really excited about it, and I was too because she’s a lot smarter than I am. And I knew it was going to be good if she was putting her energy into it.

So she’ll be credited on the show.

Yeah, hopefully, it’ll be one of those situations like, “Created by Larami Serrano and Shea Serrano, and written by Shea Serrano.”

Can you tell us what the show will be about?

I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say about it just yet because it’s still developing. But it will star Mexicans, which will be cool.

What I’m most excited about is that its not like, “Hey, let’s sit around and talk about what it’s like being Mexican.” It’s not that. It’s more of a situation where they happen to be Mexican, but that’s just the wallpaper for the situation, but that’s not the big piece. [The show] will be based on when I lived in San Antonio before I met Larami.

What do your parents think about your new TV career?

I was keeping my mom and dad along with each step because it’s a long process to get to where we are. So by the time they announced it, they already knew that it was probably going to happen. So they were doing the parent thing like “We’re proud of you… whatever, it doesn’t matter.” My mom was like, “Am I on the show? What’s my character like??”

Serrano’s latest book, “Basketball (And Other Things)” debuted at number two on the New York Times best-sellers list (in the Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous section).

READ: Here’s What George Lopez Did After Getting Booed By The Audience At A Recent Event

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