Entertainment

‘The Book Of Life:’ Looking Back At The ‘Other’ Día De Los Muertos Movie That Is Also Awesome

Sometimes two movies of a very particular theme come out within a few years and, sadly, one of them sort of overshadows the other. Pixar’s “Bug’s Life,” for example, became the epitome of insect kids movies and the very smart and very funny “Antz” from DreamWorks, has been sort of forgotten. 

This is the case with the two Day of the Dead films to come out of major American studios. Yes, almost everyone remembers Pixar’s amazing “Coco”, but fewer in mainstream audiences hold the same place for Twentieth Century Fox’s “The Book of Life.” They are both amazing films that, surprisingly for a Hollywood production, respect Mexican traditions and do their homework to avoid cultural appropriation. Of course, there are some stereotypes and twisted facts when it comes to history and Mexican lore. 

1. “The Book of Life” was released in 2014, three years before “Coco” hit the screens.

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

In fact, it could be argued that “The Book of Life” prepared the ground for “Coco” to be a success. Us Latinos are used to traditions involving the dead, but not many international markets are. Day of the Dead might seem “weird” or “creepy” for some cultures that are less used to dealing with the afterlife. 

2. The film was produced by Oscar-winner Guillermo Del Toro, the wonderful Mexican director.

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

And well, we know that he has high respect, and even reverence, for tradition. The director oversaw every aspect of the production and we can see his imagination permeate some of the shots in the colorful, joyous movie. 

3. Yeah, yeah, but what is the movie about?

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

The movie follows Manolo, a man who has to follow his own path in life even if this goes against his family tradition. This adventure takes him in three realms of reality, or worlds, in which he encounters the mysteries of life and death. Does it sound a little bit like “Coco” to you? Yeah, it kinda does eh? Well, but Manolo is an adult and of course, there is a damsel in the picture. 

4. The film was going to be called simply “Day of the Dead.” “El Matador” was also considered.

Oh, man, they really dodged a bullet. If they had called the movie “The Matador” we can only imagine the many rightful protests that animal rights organizations would have staged. And, to be honest, “The Book of Life” really celebrates the meaning of Day of the Dead: it is a celebration of past and present lived experiences. 

5. The movie starts in the best place for any kid’s movie to begin… 

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

Yes, the story is told through a magical book found in a museum. What a good lesson for los chiquitos. 

6. And the music!

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

When you got an Oscar winner and the musical baggage of Mexico to score a film, chances are the results will be pretty spectacular. As The Saturday Star reported back in 2015: “Besides the original score and songs by two-time Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel) and veteran songwriter Paul Williams, there are fun, mariachi-flavored versions of pop hits like Mumford and Sons'”I Will Wait,” Radiohead’s “Creep,” and Rod Stewart’s “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” Yes, that is right, a mariachi version of “Creep.”

7. But the plot is much more than adventure, it is an ancient predicament.

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

The scriptwriters had to be super cautious with respecting tradition, so they came up with a new very interesting mythology. As The Independent summed up when the film was released, the story is pretty creative: “The plot is set in motion by squabbling married gods La Muerta (Kate del Castillo) and Xibabla (del Toro regular Ron Perlman), who make a wager as to which of the two men Maria will choose. Meanwhile, the Land of the Living is beset by the villainous monster Chakal (Dan Navarro) and his gang of bandits. Acerbically commenting on the proceedings from the sidelines is the whiskered, elderly Grandma, hilariously voiced by Grey Griffin.” Kate del Castillo fighting Ron Perlman? Yes, please! Woman power!

8. Critics just adored the animation and the magical world created on the screen.

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

The 3D visuals just pop with color and we can almost smell the copal and the flowers. The Satellite critic judged when the film was released: “The unique and mesmerizing animation is unlike any other film of recent memory and its quick wit makes it genuinely funnier than most major comedies”. And he found it sad that the film risked being ignored: “As we close the book on another school holiday, The Book of Life may fly under the radar of most moviegoers, especially with its late release and the loud roar of engines bursting through the walls of surrounding cinemas”. 

9. So yes, Ron Perlman collaborated with Guillermo Del Toro once again.

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

What an amazing creative pair. The “Hellboy” actor voiced Xibalba, an ancient indigenous spirit. He is big and amazing, just like Perlman, one of Del Toro’s most trusted collaborators and who acted in the director’s first feature film, “Cronos,” when young Guillermo was unknown. 

10. The movie shows a strong female lead.

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

Yes, the backbone of the film is the decision that Maria will take in terms of her romantic life. This might seem a bit macho at first, but you gotta see the film to realize that she is so much more than a damsel in distress.

11. The voice talent is amazing, like a Walk of Fame in a movie.

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

Our very own Kate Del Castillo, Zoe Saldana, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Danny Trejo, Channing Tatum and even the Spanish opera superstar Placido Domingo. Seriously, the voice talent by itself is a monument, an ode to diversity. That’s how it is done, mijos. 

12. Director Jorge R. Gutierrez draws from various visual traditions.

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

What makes this film so special is the number of influences that the director is able to conjure in the festive final product. Jake Wilson, from The Sydney Morning Herald, was super impressed: “Gutierrez’s style is colorful, even freakish: he draws from Mexican folk art, but also from Cubism, stop-motion animation – The Nightmare Before Christmas is a clear inspiration – and underground cartooning. Though the characters have a limited expressive range, their stiffness is given a neat rationale: they’re imagined as intricately carved wooden puppets, with visible joints, big blocky bodies, and spindly legs”. Yes, you can stop the film in any frame and just be impressed by the craftsmanship. 

13. And of course, the characters have gotten their own Funko Pops!

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

Yes, this is proof that they have broken into mainstream popular culture. 

14. Will there be a sequel?

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

It certainly seems so! In 2017 Gutierrez announced that a second film was under development. But let’s remember that they take years to be produced due to the complexity of the art.

15. In the meantime, here’s a wonderful padre-hija duo

Credit: the_book_of_life_manolo_sanchez. Digital image. Costume Works

Can we get a collective “Ay, cositos”?

16. But did “Coco” monopolize Day of the Dead culture?

Credit: The Book of Life / Twentieth Century Fox

No! Why can European folktales have multiple film versions and Global South traditions can’t? The more the merrier!

17. There is some pretty awesome fan art out there, in case you were wondering.

It is clear that “Coco” might be the most commercially successful telling of Día de los Muertos, however, “Book of Life” is one we all remember and love.

READ: Netflix Is Bringing Latinidad To The Fantasy Realm And LOTR Fans Gear Up

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Barbie Is Doing Día De Muertos Once Again In 2020 And Twitter Has Something To Say About It

Culture

Barbie Is Doing Día De Muertos Once Again In 2020 And Twitter Has Something To Say About It

Barbie / Mattel, Inc

Mexico’s famed Día de Muertos celebrations are coming up, the time of year when families honor their dead relatives with ofrendas, parades, visits to cemeteries, and many other festivities.

And, of course, Barbie wasn’t going to miss out on the celebrations.

Mattel – which makes Barbie – has just launched a new Barbie Catrina that is much more festive and colorful than the first one last year, who was dressed in black.

On this occasion, Mattel worked with Mexican-American designer Javier Meabe who wanted to reflect the joy and deep-rooted traditions of the country.

“As a Mexican-American designer, it was important for me to use my creative voice to design a doll that celebrates the bright colors and vivid textures of my culture, as well as the traditions I grew up with that are represented and celebrated in Barbie,” Meaba said in a statement from Mattel. 

Although, Mattel has enlisted the designs of a Mexican-American designer, not everyone is pleased with the launch. Some are worried that the entire Día de Muertos collection is potentially watering down a 3,000-year-old tradition and are accusing Barbie of cultural appropriation.

Barbie is releasing its second Día de Muertos doll and it’s generating plenty of buzz.

For the second year in a row, Mattel is launching a Día de Muertos Barbie modeled after the traditions of Mexico’s famed celebrations.

“We often look at different ways to continue to engage girls and families to gain knowledge and celebrate other cultures and other parts of the world,” Michelle Chidoni, a spokeswoman for the company, said. “Our hope is for this Día de Muertos Barbie to honor the holiday for the millions that celebrate and to introduce people not familiar with the tradition to the rich meaning.”

This year’s doll was designed by Mexican American designer Javier Meabe who was inspired by his personal background and family traditions.

“It was very important that the second Dia De Muertos doll felt just as special as the first in the Barbie series,” said Meabe in a statement. “As a Mexican American Designer, it was important to me to use my creative voice to design a doll that celebrates the bright colors and vivid textures of my culture, as well, as have the traditions I grew up with represented and celebrated in Barbie.”

He continued, “For this doll, I was inspired by the color gold seen throughout Mexican culture, jewelry, buildings, statues and artwork and highlighted it throughout the design. The roses represent emotions and moments in life including celebrations, birth, death, passion, and love and I also was inspired to introduce new textures and a new dress silhouette.”

Barbie lovers can buy the doll for $75 on the company’s website or at mass retailers such as Amazon, Target and Walmart.

Last year marked the first time Barbie celebrated the iconic Mexican holiday.

Credit: Barbie / Mattel, Inc

Last year, Mattel released the first Barbie doll celebrating the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), and it was a huge hit. The floral dress and headpiece on the doll combined with the traditional calavara makeup design was absolutely stunning, and the same can be said about the 2020 version that just launched.

This time around, the Barbie Dia de Muertos doll features a light, blush-colored lace dress over a layer embroidered with floral and skeleton accents. The intricacy of the makeup has been taken up a notch, and the “golden highlights in her hair shimmer beneath a crown of skeleton hands holding roses and marigolds.”

However, since last year many have been questioning the intentions of Barbie and whether or not this is a good move.

In Mexican culture, the Día de Muertos — or Day of the Dead — is when the gateway between the living and the dead is said to open, a holiday during which the living honor and pay respects to loved ones who have died.

The new Día de Muertos Barbie was intended less as a portal into the realm of the dead and more as a gateway into Mexican culture. At least that is what Mattel is hoping for.

However, not everyone agrees. Latinx Twitter has lit up with both excitement and anger, with some folks appreciating the design while others are calling Mattel out for cultural appropriation. The Día de Muertos doll is another way Latinx culture is slowly entering the mainstream. With acclaimed shows like Vida and One Day at a Time and movies like Coco and Roma winning accolades — it seems even a toy company is looking to capitalize on Latinx culture

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Kellogg’s Has Launched A Pan De Muerto Cereal And Here’s Why It’s Such A Big Deal

Culture

Kellogg’s Has Launched A Pan De Muerto Cereal And Here’s Why It’s Such A Big Deal

Omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Mexico has several deeply rooted traditions. Among them is the annual ritual of celebrating those who are no longer on Earth, known as Día de Muertos. During this celebration, people consume sugar skulls, an altar – or ofrenda – is decorated with the favorite items and foods of the deceased’s, and pan de muerto is widely eaten.

Across Mexico, there is a flurry of activity and traditions leading up to the main celebrations on November 1 and 2 and it’s become an international attraction – attracting foreigners who travel to Mexico in order to witness the celebrations.

The Coronavirus pandemic has people looking for some sense of normalcy and that may explain why you can already find pan de muerto in several panaderías and super markets. However, what caused fury among users of social networks was the launch of a cereal line inspired by the humble pan de muerto.

Kellogg’s has launched a pan de muerto cereal and social media is celebrating this big news.

What would Mexico be without its traditions? For example, without the Day of the Dead. Around the world, Mexico is connected to this day that revolves around serious traditions, rituals, and foods.

Now, it appears that international brands are catching on as Kellogg’s (yes, the international cereal company) announced that it’s decided to create and launch a line of cereals based on Mexico’s famed pan de muerto.

The new cereal by Kellogg’s has already landed in certain stores and includes the flavors of rollos de canela, churros and pan de muerto. On the packaging you can see the new labeling and ingredients such as orange blossom, butter and vanilla.

The origins of pan de muerto are deeply rooted in pre-Hispanic history.

Credit: thatgaygringo / Instagram

Pan de muerto is a type of pan dulce that’s commonly eaten in the weeks (or even months) leading up to the now famous holiday of Día de Muertos. It traces its origina back to the time of the Spanish Conquest, inspired by pre-Hispanic rituals that were largely modified under Spanish colonialism.

The delicious pan is a butter-based bread with orange blossom and anise scents, it has a soft flaky brioche-like interior; the crust is thin and golden and many people love the “bones and skull” pieces because they get a little crispy on the outside.

Although the cereal does have people asking – is this cultural appropriation?

As soon as the product hit shelves, it ignited a debate on the issue of cultural appropriation. Many accused the multinational of seeking to profit on the backs of one of Mexico’s most respected and prized traditions. Many pointed out that food is deeply connected to tradition and it’s a cultural symbol that should be respected – not packaged up for commercialization.

However, even if some are against the product launch, it’s too little too late as boxes of the new cereals are already hitting store shelves across the country. In fact, many Internet users are taking to social media to highlight new finds and to share the information so others can get in on the frenzy and give the new product a try.

Not everyone understood the excitement for a cereal…

Although the launch by Kellogg’s of this iconic food as a cereal caused much of social media to lose its cool, not everyone was convinced. Many expressed how confused they were that people were freaking out over a cereal…

While others were ready to spend all the money they have…

This Twitter user was so excited they’re ready to give up all their money for the cereal, saying “Take all my money!” Thankfully, they don’t have to give up all their pesos for a box – with it going for about $63 pesos (or about $3 USD) per box.

So what do you think? Should this product come to the U.S.? Would you be excited to give it a try? Or is it blatant cultural appropriation?

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