Entertainment

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.”

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.”

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.

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.”

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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America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

Entertainment

America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

It has been 20 years since America Ferrera’s dream of becoming an actor back true. She took to Instagram to reflect on the moment that her dream started to come true and it is a sweet reminder that anyone can chase their dreams.

America Ferrera shared a sweet post reflecting on the 20th anniversary of working on “Gotta Kick It Up!”

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A post shared by America Ferrera (@americaferrera)

“Gotta Kick It Up!” was one of the earliest examples of Latino representation so many of us remember. The movie follows a school dance team trying to be the very best they could possibly be. The team was down on their luck but a new teacher introduces them to a different kind of music to get them going again.

After being introduced to Latin beats, the dance team is renewed. It taps into a cultural moment for the Latinas on the team and the authenticity of the music makes their performances some of the best.

While the movie meant so much to Latino children seeing their culture represented for the first time, the work was a major moment for Ferrera. In the Instagram post, she gushes over the celebrities she saw on the lot she was working on. Of course, anyone would be excited to see Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt hanging out. Yet, what stands out the most is Ferrera’s own excitement to realize that she can make money doing what she loves most.

“I wish I could go back and tell this little baby America that the next 20 years of her life will be filled with unbelievable opportunity to express her talent and plenty of challenges that will allow her to grow into a person, actress, producer, director, activist that she is very proud and grateful to be. We did it baby girl. I’m proud of us,” Ferrera reflects.

Watch the trailer for “Gotta Kick It Up!” here.

READ: America Ferrera’s “Superstore” Is Going To Get A Spanish-Language Adaptation In A Win For Inclusion

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This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

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