Entertainment

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.

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.

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: Pixar and gregw66 / Flickr

… and its breathtaking Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

Pixar and latona / Flickr

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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

WATCH: Guillermo Went Back-To-Back With Actors From Disney, Marvel And ‘Star Wars’ Franchises

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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!”

“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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