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

“Coco,” the latest animated film from Pixar, is only a few months away from its official release. The Dia de los Muertos-themed movie features an all-Latino voice cast, including Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ulbach, Edward James Olmos, Gabriel Iglesias, and Jaime Camil. We had a chance to watch the first 30 minutes of the film, and it’s clear Disney/Pixar worked hard to create a film that authentically captures the feel of Dia de los Muertos.

Here are some things to keep an eye out for if you watch the film.

“Coco” uses Dia de los Muertos as a backdrop to tell a story about family.

CREDIT: Disney / Pixar

The film centers around Miguel Rivera, a boy who comes from a long line of shoemakers with an unusual aversion to music. Miguel, who is obsessed with the tunes of legendary singer Ernesto de la Cruz, hides his love for music because he doesn’t want to get a regañada from his parents or abuelita. But the call to become a musician is just too strong. So, Miguel makes a choice that feels right to him, but upsets his family.

Co-writer Adrian Molina says the film centers on family and all the dysfunction that comes along with it, which he had first-hand experience with growing up in a Mexican-American community. He explains it was his goal to be “truthful to the fact that families aren’t always completely functional” since that’s a “very universal thing.”

“Coco” is short for Socorro.

CREDIT: Disney / Pixar

Socorro, better known as Mama Coco, is Miguel’s bisabuela, or great grandmother.

The Rivera family’s hometown of Santa Cecilia is inspired by Oaxaca…

CREDIT: Credit: Pixar and gregw66 / Flickr

… and its breathtaking Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

CREDIT: Pixar and latona / Flickr

The Land of the Dead, however, is inspired by the city of Guanajuato.

CREDIT: Disney / Pixar and jubilo / Flickr

Sets supervisor Chris Bernardi says their research in Guanajuato turned up photos that had “an incredible sense of buildings being jammed in together to form new shapes and new neighborhoods and winding walkways.” Bernardi and his team worked to capture that same feeling with their imagining of the Land of the Dead.

For the Land of the Dead, production designer Harley Jessup said they were going for a “fantastical verticality” that would be a stark contrast from the flatness of the town of Santa Cecilia.

CREDIT: Disney / Pixar (Concept art by Ernesto Nemesio)

This early concept art that was created for the film became the inspiration for the Land of the Dead you see in the film. If you look closely, you’ll see that the base of this city features pre-Columbian architecture. As you go higher and higher, it goes from colonial architecture to more modern architecture. The design team did this to reflect the era in which spirits have entered the Land of the Dead, from past to present.

If you get emotional during movies, take extra Kleenex.

CREDIT: Disney / Pixar

Early on, the film establishes that Dia de los Muertos is the one day out of the year when the dead are allowed to return to the land of the living and visit their relatives. The scenes in which living families reunite with loved ones who have died will conjure bittersweet memories for viewers. It does a great job in honoring the spirit of Dia de los Muertos.

Somehow, they managed to give skeletons personality.

CREDIT: Pixar

How do you make skeletons express emotion? If you’re an animator for Pixar, that’s a question that leads to more questions: should a skull have lips? Should it have teeth? Should it have facial hair?

According to character art director Daniel Arriaga, the Pixar team went through concept after concept until they struck the right balance of eyes, lips, bone structure and face paint to give each character a unique look and personality.

The look of the skeletons was also inspired by the engravings of Jose Guadalupe Posada.

CREDIT: “La Catrina” by José Guadalupe Posada. Photo credit: Mundo del Museo

“The Posada engravings, especially the Catrina, is really iconic for the holiday. We really embraced the Victorian costumes and architecture and wanted that to be a part of the world of the dead,” says Jessup.

Ernesto de la Cruz, the legendary singer who Miguel idolizes, is inspired by Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete.

CREDIT: Disney / Pixar

Voiced by Benjamin Bratt, Ernesto de la Cruz is the most famous Mexican singer and actor of all time. Miguel feels a special connection with de la Cruz, whose music and movies inspire him to become a musician, despite his family’s wishes.

Gael Garcia Bernal, who voices a mischevious character named Hector, is one of the clear standouts of the film.

CREDIT: Disney / Pixar

The moment Hector appears on the screen, you know you’re in for lots of laughs. Garcia has great chemistry with Anthony Gonzalez, who plays Miguel, and it’s clear he’s having fun with it.

“Gael really went for it,” says Molina. “He started keying onto things like, ‘I want to call [Miguel] ‘chamaco,’ because that feels like an old-timey kind of way that this guy might relate to this kid.’ And we’re like, ‘OK, do it. Go for it.'”

The character of Pepita is inspired by alebrijes, Mexican folk art sculptures that aren’t normally associated with Dia de los Muertos.

Disney / Pixar         Pictured: Pepita (top), Alebrijes (bottom)

Alebrijes were invented in the 1930s by an artist named Pedro Linares, who had a fever dream about animals and insects with different body parts. Imagine a tiger with the head of an eagle, the wings of mosquito and the legs of a giraffe. He was inspired to create sculptures of these creatures, using papier-mâché to create the colorful animals, which gained popularity with artists such as Frida Kahlo.

Pepita, a chimera-like animal who is a spiritual guide in the Land of the Dead, was not originally designed as an alebrije. Animator Alonso Martinez, who grew up collecting alebrijes as a kid, said his colorful collection helped influence the eventual look of Pepita. And since alebrijes are a relatively new art form, they aren’t attached to any celebration or religious event.

“There’s no specific mythology or religious background that this comes from,” says Martinez. “So each person can bring their own meaning and symbology to it.”

Dante, the adorable street dog who becomes Miguel’s sidekick, was one of the toughest characters to animate.

CREDIT: Disney / Pixar

Dante is a xoloscuinctle, an ancient breed of dog that the Aztecs believed would guide the dead toward Mictlán, the land of the dead.

Dante was difficult to animate because he’s essentially hairless, save for those wayward strands of hair on his head and tail. That means Pixar had to carefully animate the dog’s body movement because there’s no hair to hide behind. Look at those wrinkles on Dante’s back in the screenshot above. Now imagine having to animate those intricate details for every movement Dante made in the film. ?

Pixar’s cultural advisers played a significant role in the film.

CREDIT: Pixar

According to co-director Lee Unkrich, some of the notes they received ended up making “Coco” more entertaining. In one of the early versions of the film, Miguel’s abuelita carried a wooden spoon and smacked people with it. “It was one of our advisers who said, ‘No no no no, it has to be her chancla. She’s got to pull off her slipper and beat them with it.'”

Watch the latest trailer for “Coco”:

Credit: Disney/Pixar / YouTube

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ICE Is Taking Advantage Of Migrants Who Can’t Read Or Write In Their Court Proceedings

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ICE Is Taking Advantage Of Migrants Who Can’t Read Or Write In Their Court Proceedings

Sandy Huffaker / Sandy Huffaker

Last summer, images of undocumented immigrant children went viral. These images didn’t show them crying, or being taken away from their parents. These children were pictured alone in court. The nameless children had no one by their side, no one to represent them, and had no clue what was going on, despite the fact that they were there trying to seek asylum. In some cases, these children wore headphones as a means to translate what the judge was saying. However, given that they were just children, the translation was almost useless. Reports are now servicing that immigration officials are using the language barrier as a means to keep them out of the U.S. 

An op-ed, written by a volunteer at the border, states that asylum-seeking immigrants cannot read or write in English or in their native tongue and immigration officials are taking advantage of that.

Emily Reed, a recent grad student from Barnard University, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post that stated she witnessed this manipulation from immigration officials against illiterate undocumented people. Reed was at the border in Texas volunteering with classmates at the South Texas Family Residential Center volunteering with the Dilley Pro Bono Project when she witnessed this manipulation. 

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection often conveniently exploit asylum seekers who cannot read. Along with an unfamiliarity with our deliberately complex immigration system, the illiteracy of Central American migrants, especially women, facilitates the deportation of parents and separation of families,” Reed wrote. She added, “By manipulating illiterate refugees who often unwittingly sign away their rights, the U.S. government is violating the basic tenets of the internationally recognized and protected right to seek asylum.” 

Reed added that her volunteer program with the legal center provided Spanish documents to the migrant families, but they couldn’t under that either.

“Simple translation is not enough,” she wrote. “The Dilley Pro Bono Project provides documents in Spanish, but even this paperwork was difficult for many migrant women to understand. Many women I helped to fill out paperwork struggled simply to write their children’s birth dates.”

The migrant families are being rushed within the court and legal process, which in turn, is causing deportation to happen a lot faster.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported that the haste paperwork at the border made it possible for immigration officials to rush and deport undocumented immigrants. The ACLU stated this process should not be rushed because people need to take their time and understand what is going on and what it is that they’re signing. 

“This waiting period is crucial to ensure that parents have an opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to fight their own removal cases, leave their children (who may have their own asylum claims) behind in the United States, or make some other decision,” the ACLU stated lasted year. “In short, families will be making life-altering decisions after months of traumatic separation — and the fact that the government is trying to shortchange them a matter of days to do so is galling.”

A New York Times report showed that 58,000 asylum seekers are currently stuck in Mexico under Trump’s policy because they’re awaiting asylum hearings.

The backlog for these asylum hearings is up to six to eight months, and when they’re ready for their hearing the majority of them won’t understand what needs to be done. This is why they need proper representation, and a patient legal system so they comprehend what is being asked of them and what the next steps are. 

What makes this matter even worse is that there’s not enough legal representation for each family unit, or individual, at the border. 

Last year, it was very apparent that there were not enough lawyers or legal help for undocumented immigrants at the border, and this year there’s even more undocumented people awaiting help and attempting to seek asylum. There people like Reed who want to help asylum seekers, but it’s not as easy as they might think. 

“People see the crisis happening, and they want to do something right now, which is great. But when we explain that this is a long-term fight, and we need your long-term commitment. That’s when people sort of back off.” Zenén Jaimes Pérez, the communications director at the Texas Civil Rights Project, told Huffington Post last year. 

If, however, you are willing to put in the time, or you’re interested in learning more about how you can provide legal help, or assist legal teams at the border, please reach out to: the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (“ProBAR”); the Immigration Justice Project (“IJP”); the ACLU of Texas; and RAICES.

READ: Selena Gomez Announces New Netflix Series ‘Living Undocumented’

New Report Confirms That Trump’s Border Wall Is Jeopardizing Native American History And Sensitive Environments

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New Report Confirms That Trump’s Border Wall Is Jeopardizing Native American History And Sensitive Environments

Agh! Every time we read or hear the words “Border Wall” our stomach ties up in a knot and we whisper “Y ahora qué se trae este pinche gringo?”. But well, being aware of the repercussions that the Border Wall could have is part of being socially and civically responsible. Being informed is what makes us make better choices when it comes to politics, and next year is a preeeeetty big year when it comes to deciding what the future holds not only for the United States, but for the world at large.  

The Trump Border Wall is just the “gift” that keeps on giving, isn’t it?

Credit: Giphy. @luisprado-0557

We have all discussed the impact that the proposed Border Wall (which seems very close to becoming a reality, particularly if Trump wants to secure a second term by appealing to his core voters) could have on social, cultural and political terms. We know that it will make an already tense border situation even worse, and that the US vs THEM mentality that some hold could get even uglier. This, of course, can lead to further instances if vitriolic racism and violence (vigilante groups will feel vindicated). But as the months go by and the Border Wall seems to become a reality, new findings are discovering its impact in other spheres… 

22 archeological sites in Arizona could be decimated by the Border Wall

Credit: Instagram. @aztassociation

The Border Wall will be constructed right through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. The National Park Service commissioned a report to assess the impact that the construction could have on 22 archeological sites in the Park. And the results are alarming. 

The Roosevelt Reservation would be particularly impacted.

Credit: Instagram. @
And the threat is imminent. Contractors have basically set shop and started to build fences around the place. The exact extent of the building plans have not been disclosed, not even to National Park authorities. As Andrew Veech, a member of the National Park Service’s Intermountain Region Archaeology Program, wrote in the report: “Precise design plans for this expanded border infrastructure have been left to the discretion of the contractors, and no details about the building project(s) have been furnished to the National Park Service”. This is just plain wrong, as any efforts to preempt potential problems are impossible. This area is tricky, as it is made up from federal, state, tribal, and private lands. 

The past is being erased.

Credit: Instagram. @pnolbert

The National Park holds invaluable archeological assets left behind by the original indigenous owners of the land. As the Tucson Sentinel reports: “One site located near the Sonoyta River includes artifacts scattered throughout, including dozens of stone artifacts, stone fragments, a “hammerstone,” pieces of broken pots known as sherds, as well as shells presumably from the Gulf of California that were probably used during the Hohokam Period, between 1150 to 1400″. Researchers are still putting the pieces together to unearth the particularities of the human groups that first inhabited what is now the United States-Mexico border, which is key for the identity of a cultural formation. Archeologists argue that these 22 sites yield important information about Native-American populations before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores. 

And the Border Wall will also have an environmental impact.

Credit: Instagram. @arizonasfamily

Geopolitical borders are a human construct, so flora and fauna don’t really care where a country starts and another ends. This is why the environmental impact of a monstrous Border Wall would be nothing short of apocalyptic for Arizonian environment and indigenous communities. As reported by The New York Times: “The unearthing of the area surrounding the barriers and the installation of lights on the wall will devastate wildlife and contaminate cultural lands”. The scenario is dire for animal and plant species in the area, as a former worker of the National Park told NYT: “‘The lights that will be installed on top of the wall, blasted into the wilderness, the ground water being sucked up — it’s more than just a border wall. All of these activities will just increase the desertification of the region”. Just look at the beauty of this landscape, the millenary cacti, the shrubs sucking up water to survive: are we really willing for it all to just become a wasteland?

Trump’s wall would also decimate indigenous populations in Arizona.

Credit: Instagram. @oodhampodcaster

Let us not forget that this area, as happens with long stretches of the border, has been home to Native-Americans for centuries. But their future is at stake. As The New York Times states: “The Organ Pipe Cactus Monument is sandwiched between the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Tohono O’odham Reservation. Leaders of the Tohono O’odham say the border wall would virtually split the indigenous community in half”. And really, is there anyone more American than the very first, original Americans?