Disney-Pixar’s upcoming animation film Coco is authentically cultural and rich in many measures. I am sure it is a story that will captivate all of us. It will warm our hearts and dazzle us with a fabulous folklore education and stunning imagery. Before we get to enjoy Coco, it is time for us to plunge in and learn 4 Day of the Dead Basics to Start The Celebration Plus Discovering the Land of the Dead in 6 Fun Facts
Why Celebrate Family on the Day of the Dead
The celebration itself is about family. Yes, it is a big family reunion, but beyond that, it touches the family unit at its core. It goes to the foundation, the roots, and branches that make our family tree via the honoring and remembrance of those who came before us. The Day of the Dead, primarily celebrated in Mexico, goes back to indigenous pre-colonial times. Conceptually, it is a day when the should fo the dead are welcomed back to the land of the living to be reunited with loved ones. It is not a somber occasion at all. Quite the contrary, it is a colorful and joyful family celebration that is not only beautiful but replete with tradition. The storytellers at Pixar were inspired by it and embraced it fully. Grounded in the universal question of what it means to be a part of a family, Coco is the story of a boy stuck in the land of the dead, needing his family to get back safely to the land of the living.
4 Day of the Dead Basics to Start the Celebration
Means offering ins Spanish altar decorated to greet the spirit of those that come back for dia de muertos. At the altar, things food, drinks and things the deceased loved are left to welcome them back. This traditions definitively keep the feeling that ancestors are watching over us and are connected with us
Putting up photos are an active part of remembrance, love, and respect that inspires memories and stories. Photos will remind us of specific moments and encourage the sharing of stories within the family.
Marigold paths are meant to guide ancestors from cemetaries back home thanks to the unique smell and color of the petals. They are a symbol of connection between generations.
During the day families will clean and decorate graves of loved ones. The whole community comes out in mass to do this. At night family stands vigil in a quiet and joyous occassion of togetherness and reunion.
The Day of the Dead Symbols in Coco
The Day of the Dead traditions are crucial to the story of family that Coco is. The intricacies of Miguel’s family come to light from the start. For Miguel, the boy at the center of the film, pressure comes from the family legacy in the way of the family’s ofrenda altar as the symbol of the family’s past.
The love, tradition, and passion
The ofrenda is a setting that keeps him trapped and the vehicle to what is to happen next to him, Dean Kelly explains. He goes on with Adrian Molina to share the importance of the ofrenda altar for Coco: Miguel is fueled my music. How do you convey that feeling? How do you make the audience connect with that feeling? Music is the air that Miguel breathes, and how do we share that? If Miguel says it, people understand that but you don’t necessarily feel it. How about if Miguel sings about wanting to be a musician? Tests showered still there was no emotional connection. After much work, we get to witness Miguel’s hiding hole, and what happens when he sits and watches old re-runs of his favorite singer. This finally conveyed the passion that this kid has that allows as well for a connection accross generations because he has all this memorabilia that really is an ofrenda for his hero. It is the perfect quiet moment of connecting with someone from the past. A moment of communion with people from two generations where the guitar becomes the voice of his passion that lead into a duet that expresses what he loves to do. It is in this moment that we finally get the emotion that is involved.
Images and flowers
As an important element to ofrenda altars, Adrian Molina adds that photos become a very important factor. Miguel takes his abuela’s photo and unaware prevents her from coming back to visit. You can bet she is not happy about it! She will not get to cross the marigold bridge. That marigold path guides deceased family home visual iconic poetic mage and moment that comes to life in the cemetery. Ultimately, the cemetery is the perfect place for Miguel’s family reunion in the land of the dead.
Discovering the Land of the Dead in 6 Fun Facts
OK, I haven’t had Miguel’s adventures nor do I know of anyone who has ventured to the land of the dead. That said, what I discovered during our Pixar visit and after watching 38 rough minutes of the movie, I am blown away by the imagery created which was inspired by Mexican victoria era and the city of Guanajuato in Mexico which is a layered city that has a network of tunnels under it. Discovering the land of the dead has to be my favorite part of our visit. Here are fun facts about this surreal city:
- Mexican engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada heavily influenced the design of the land of the dead
- Skulls are incorporated in the architecture itself. How many will you be able to spot?
- Complex interconnected single towers make the infrastructure of the vertical city
- I totally identified the “grand central station” type office of the day of the dead that registers those coming and going with the office of postal service in Mexico D.F. It has been a while so I might be wrong, but I can totally see so much of Mexico in this cool colored version of the land of the dead.
- Did you know there is no vegetation in the land of the dead apart from marigolds?
- Candles light the way for returning ancestors
- Marigolds blend the living and dead world thanks to the crossover bridge plus foga and copal smoke.
- The land of the living is lighted by warm colors as opposed to the cool colors of the land of the dead.
- 2/3 of the film is set at night
- green is the least represened color in the land of the dead
- the top towers in the land of the dead are always under construction
The land of the dead is mesmerizing and the love to create it shines through colorfully! It definitely looks like nothing we have ever seen before. of course Pixar developed special technology to place complexity into the happy images of the land of the dead. We all want our ancestors living in a place like this one!