Disney extended an all expenses paid invite to Pixar to talk all things, Coco. All opinions shared are my own.
Music, love, kindness. Those are the things that make the world go round. They all speak to us in different ways and are an important tool of filmmaking. There are many kinds of genres that speak to each of us. Not surprisingly, Mexico is rich in music types and abundant in samples of each of them. We were extremely fortunate to get a tour of The Sounds of Mexico and The Music of Disney-Pixar Coco with a fabulous team of Pixar and Mexican talent. Let’s talk Coco: A Music Story.
The Sounds of Mexico and The Music of Disney-Pixar Coco
Adrian Molina, co-director, and writer of Coco leads the panel and explains to us about the process used to get authentic and relatable music for the animated film. There are three types of musical distinct components that are present. Those are
- Source music: made up with the diversity of Mexican sounds.
- The Score: used to hold up the emotions of the film as well as create the themes for the characters and explore the environment motivations and quirkiness of the setting of the film
- Original music: In Coco, much of the music is performative and Pixar wanted to give the film this iconic voice to each of the characters via original songs.
Adrian introduces us to songwriter and arranger Germaine Franco, music composer Michael Giacchino and music consultant/artist Camilo Lara who spoke to us at length about the sounds of Mexico that inspired the music of the Disney-Pixar animated film Coco. They also shared the process of the music of Coco, their inspiration and ultimately on what we listen when we watch Coco.
Fun fact: a jaw bone rattle plays a part in Un Poco Loco!
Camilo Lara and Germaine Franco take the floor to educate us on source music. Franco tells us that the aim was to get the sounds of the music as if you were in a little plaza. Normally there are two or three different bands playing at the plaza and the idea was to give us something that we couldn’t buy at the record store, yet something played throughout Mexico. At the same time, they wanted to include many different Mexican types of music other than the traditional Mariachis which is what people readily identify as Mexican music. So they set out to find musicians and samples of this broad variety of classic, folkloric and traditional tunes.
Fun fact: some of the musicians would read music. Others did not because music is more of an oral tradition in Mexico. When they needed to play a score Michael Giacchino has supplied, someone would read would play and help the rest to get it.
Source Music in Coco
As the team listened to all this music and recording they were constantly thinking in terms of “what tune is the character, or what moment can it be”. We can see this work come to life in the scene where Miguel and Hector visit the zone of the less remembered people in the land of the dead. In this instance, big banda style sounds give a mysterious nostalgic sense to the scene.
Source Music in Animation
When we talk about source music, Franco shares that a video camera rolled as musicians were performing. Animators took those video clippings as reference to work the real movements that happen while playing music.
Fun fact:Pixar starts working on the music of Coco way earlier than they normally do
Coco’s Iconic guitar was created for Ernesto de la Cruz. For storytelling purposes, he needed to have an instantly recognizable beautiful guitar. So, Pixar teamed up with an expert guitar maker German Vasquez Rubio. This was the introduction for Federico Ramos, the guitarist who played the examples and Michael Giacchino. Giacchino explains that his process begins by watching a rough draft of the film and translate the feelings he experiences via music. Then via his musical creations, he should help guide the audience through the story.
Fun fact: tthe road test for score music, is starting off with a simple instrument a guitar or a piano after that it goes to the orchestra where it gets perfected bit by bit until it is time to record.
The theme Michael Giacchino came up for Miguel is inspired by himself as a boy wanting to do film and music. He chose a happy upbeat melody that is used throughout the film in different ways.Giacchino says he saw Hector as a vacuum salesman so a little waltz is what he created to musically identify him.
Those themes are heard throughout the film in different ways with a big orchestra or on simple lonely guitars.
Un Poco Loco
Music and Coco
Molina adds that having such an ample soundscape allowed the filmmakers to give a real feel to support the emotions of the story. In short, the huge musical undertaking allows us to enjoy a powerful film that talks to us passionately not only through what we see on screen but what we hear as Hector played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel go on their adventure.