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.


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.


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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This Cuban-American Producer Brought Lin-Manuel Miranda In As The First Brown Latino Duck In The New 'DuckTales'


This Cuban-American Producer Brought Lin-Manuel Miranda In As The First Brown Latino Duck In The New ‘DuckTales’


It’s clear from the moment I meet Francisco “Frank” Angones, the Emmy-nominated story editor and co-producer of the new Disney XD “DuckTales” series, that calling the man a fan of the series is an understatement. He has several cartoon memorabilia-lined shelves in his office, along with a cassette tape of the original “DuckTales” theme song. Angones is the real deal.

Frank Angones is the co-producer and story editor of the upcoming “DuckTales” reboot on Disney XD.

Courtesy of Disney

Perks of the job: getting your own “DuckTales” portrait.

A Cuban-American who grew up in Miami, Angones has a pristine childhood photo of himself dressed head to toe as the “DuckTales” spin-off character Darkwing Duck. Angones says he’s living a childhood dream: “I’m really lucky to be able to do the job that 10-year-old me would be doing backflips over.”

Angones and team have spared no detail, poring over everything in the reboot to make sure it’s new and fresh, but not unrecognizable, from the original.

Courtesy of Disney

I’m led through the Disney offices and to a production room where art from the show is proudly displayed. There’s a detailed map of Duckburg, which oddly reminds me of the “Game Of Thrones” map. There are detailed instructional drawings of the do’s and don’ts of illustrating duck bills, which Angones tells me is surprisingly hard to do because they have to remain stiff, yet malleable enough to allow the characters to speak.

The sheer preparation and thought that goes into making a show of this caliber and with this much at stake is fascinating — “DuckTales” has fans around the globe that grew up on the stuff and will be no doubt scrutinizing the rebooted series with a fine-toothed comb.

Several new faces were added to the original roster of “DuckTales” villains.

Credit: Andrew Santiago/ Disney

All these guys look like real bad guys, but it’s the quiet looking one at the end that’s really scary.

On our way to the writers’ room, Angones shows me several panels of what my untrained eye sees as just settings and backgrounds. But Angones breaks down how they’ve kept the 2D animation look, which many shows no longer use, while adding a comic book feel to it, like the original comic book series. He tells me that bringing the series back to life is this balancing act between paying homage to the old, while bringing it into the 21st century — about 25 years after its finale. Feeling old yet?

In the writers’ room, everyone scrambled quickly to remove secret characters from the walls so I wouldn’t write about them. But I saw them. Oh, did I see them.

I quickly got into the meat of what I wanted to ask about: Fenton Crackshell-Cabrerathe first Brown, Latino duck character in the series.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Disney

Crackshell-Cabrera and his family, his mom specifically, are as stubborn as goats (“Cabrera” means goat herder), which is why they chose it as the family name, Angones tells me.

An update to the original Fenton Crackshell, Crackshell-Cabrera is now Latino and Brown. He’s also the secret identity of Gizmoduck. Gizmoduck was the coolest of ’90s TV cartoon superheroes, combining “Inspector Gadget” style doohickies with Iron Man-like armor, a comedic duck version of RoboCop on wheels. He was badass, and he still is, but now, he’s even cooler because he’s being voiced by the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda.

“In the original version, [Fenton] was an accountant, he was fast-talking, he was very sincere, he had a million ideas all at once, not all of them worked out,” says Angones. “But he always meant well and he was always fundamentally heroic and wanted to prove his worth. And we said, ‘Well that’s Lin-Manuel Miranda.'”

If you’re looking for a Duckburg version of “Hamilton” or “In The Heights,” don’t get your hopes up, because Angones was doing his best to avoid tokenism, both of Latinos at large and of Miranda himself. “That was a pet peeve of mine in the ’90s, when you’d watch a cartoon and then suddenly there would be some kind of rap song,” he said, “Or like, ‘Do the Urkel,’ they were just trying to market on this.” The show is making sure they take representation seriously. 

Angones: “I knew we were looking for more representation, because we’re not just in Duckberg, we’re a globe-trotting show, and one of the things we take pride in is every time we go somewhere, we go to a different country or area, we always try to cast people who are actually from that country. If we go to Egypt, we’re going to actually cast Egyptian actors. If we go to China, we’re actually going to cast Chinese actors instead of voice actors who are trying to approximate that. I think that brings a level of authenticity to the whole thing.”

This importance given by Angones to representation perhaps is deep in his blood. Toward the end of our interview, he tells me the story of his great-great grandfather, who wrote the Cuban national anthem, and performed it as an act of defiance to Spanish aristocrats, asking other Cubans to stand with him and fight.

With all of the additions, updates and changes, however, Angones acknowledges the most important aspect of the show since its inception: family.

Courtesy of Disney

Unlike the original, each of the kids is performed by a different actor, thus allowing them to each have their own very distinct personality and voice.

“We knew that we wanted it to be a family show first. A real, relatable, weird, blended family,” says Angones. “Where a family is not just a mom and a dad and two kids. It can be triplets living with an uncle and their great uncle, and the housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s daughter is part of the family and this circle of people that you adventure with. Family is the greatest adventure of all.”

I had to agree with Frank, family is the greatest adventure of all. Well said.

Courtesy of Disney

This is the one photo I was allowed to take in the writers’ room. Top secret stuff is just offscreen to the right.

Credit: Andrew Santiago/ Disney

Several main characters were also removed right before I snagged this photo. NSA-level secrecy.

Disney XD has already released a movie length episode entitled “Woo-oo!” You can see it and on Disney Channel starting this week. You can also check it out here:

Credit: Disney XD/ YouTube

“DuckTales” premieres with two new episodes Saturday, September 23rd on Disney XD, the same week as the original Emmy Award-winning series 30th anniversary. Check your local listings for channel and times.

READ: His Voice Has Won Awards, Now He’s Voicing One Of Disney’s Most Iconic Superheroes

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