I was invited by Disney to Pixar for Coco. All opinions shared are 100% my own.
Alebrijes captivate imaginations. That could be an understatement. They also feed the imagination. The best part of them is that there are no limitations and in the end beautiful, rich, colorful, magnificent pieces enhance our lives with their unique art form. During my recent trip to Pixar to learn about the upcoming film Coco, we had an amazing workshop. It was All About Alebrijes in Coco and we even got a chance to paint our very own Pepita!
All About Alebrijes in Coco
Disney-Pixar’s Coco is very authentic and sensitive to culture. As a matter of fact, it is a love letter to Mexico. So, it is no surprise that Alebrijes are included in the film.
What are Alebrijes
A type of Mexican folk art. Alebrijes are made out of Copan, a soft wood that is very easy to carve. They are brightly colored figures of fantastical creatures. The art form is quite free and includes an incredible amount of love and dedication that can be appreciated in their intricate designs. Alebrijes don’t come from a mythical or religious background, and every artist brings in their creativity and inspiration to each scultpure. Like many things in Mexico, the beautiful color does stands out in every Alebrije.
Fun fact: Jacobo is an artist in Mexico who focuses on high-end Alebrijes.
The origin of Alebrijes
Alebrijes came to life after Pedro Linares dreamed about them during a feverish stupor in the 1930’s. He dreamed of being in a really colorful forest where these mixed matched animals started to appear. Because he came from a family of artistic pinata makers he started making them in paper mache form. Later people started making them from wood. Today it is one of Mexico’s most recognized art forms and are widely celebrated in festivals and parades around the country.
Fun fact: Nahuatl is a Mexican belief that each of us is spiritually represented by an animal. Alebrijes are a mixture of animals and Nahuatl are not.
Pepita – The Alebrije in Coco
While Alebrijes are not necessarily a part of the Day of the Dead celebration, Pepita is the perfect way to pay homage to the Alebrijes of Mexico. Taking some creative license, Pixar made Pepita be a spirit guide in the movie.
Fun fact: Pepita needed to have characteristics that would enable her to scare characters in the film, so she needed to be fierce when she wanted to.
Pepita is a mixture of animals. Ram horns, lizard tail, eagle feet and wings plus jaguar or tiger face. Her uniqueness made it quite intricate to digitally create her. Just consider that she is a tiger with a shoulder that needs to work as that of a tiger’s but also needs to have a realistic functional wing on it.
Fun fact: Pepita’s nails retract just like a cat or tiger’s would.
For the team perhaps the biggest challenge was to be able to mix the Alebrije sculpture art feel with an organic digital image. As you can imagine, every detail to make Pepita was carefully considered. Even the hair and the way that it felt or flowed when she flew or sat was pondered on. It goes unsaid that the fur of Pepita was also a complex issue to address for the team.
Fun fact: Pepita’s eyes and hair glows at times and illuminates the environment around her
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history. Coco opens in theaters on November 22nd.
Ready to make your own Pepita inspired Alebrije? Need Coco inspired Day of the Dead easy crafts? Get a couple here