Coco (2017): ‘Pixar’s Dying Grace’ – A Film Review



The latest from Pixar is a tale focusing on Día de Muertos (the Mexican holiday: Day of the Dead, about remembering past ancestors) and comes seven years in the making as a brainchild of director Lee Unkrich. Pixar’s string of success for CGI animated family films has become Disney’s family films of the day. Coco, therefore, should perhaps be exactly what you might expect from Pixar, as there aren’t many films like them. Dreamworks are similar and are perhaps their main competitor, but since 1995’s Toy Story, Pixar have gone from strength to strength despite many of their sequels dominating the recent years with only Inside Out being the most recent original feature. Many studios will have dips in their output which is when the more experimental films, as well as sequels, start to emerge. Coco, feels very much in the vein of an experiment. It is the first Pixar film based upon an actual holiday and a focus on death sounds far too dark for Pixar but if you take a moment to consider that it’s about remembering family then it fits straight in with the usual happy and light tone of Disney Pixar.


The Characters within a Family

Quickly characters are introduced and backstories are given to us very quickly – it does feel simple at times. However, the importance isn’t exactly on individuals but upon the group. There is a question of the importance of family versus personal interest, which is played with as far as it can comfortably step. Since, despite the fact that personal interests may conflict and bring you apart from others, Coco instead wants to take a look at what a family can mean. Instead going from broken and conflicted to exploring unity. This message is simple but also quite heart-warming. The characters don’t have the most depth but they’re archetypes of a family, and especially a Mexican family – Pixar reportedly asked the opinions of many Latino representatives. Perhaps the simple characters are considering a target audience but the characters of previous Pixar films such as Toy Story or The Incredibles gave more depth to their characters.


Bright Colours of Pixar’s Día de Muertos

Visually, there is a lot to look at with a vast amount of very vibrant colours. Again this looks to the inspiration for their colour palette and is very appropriate and is down to taste. It keeps things soft, comical and warm, which is important for the subject matter, target audience and themes. Laced with a soundtrack that keeps a Latino inspiration and with a backdrop of other figures of importance in Mexico – such as Frida Kahlo, there is a lot here to say that the film is trying to bring a part of Mexican culture to life. Frida Kahlo does add a bit more depth to the culture but her placement is somewhat at odds with the happy tone and feels caricatured for the odd joke.



Pixar will always be, and feel, Pixar. Coco is fun and family free for a fun and simple ride through a respectful touch upon a Mexican holiday. Heart-warming and at times touching, the film can be predictably cheesy and simple. Though this never holds the film back too much. It is just a simple tale to enjoy but just doesn’t quite feel to the strengths of earlier Pixar films, though it is none-the-less important as Pixar’s first Holiday film; and for that will always be remembered.



Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez)is in a large family of shoemakers who hate music, but wants to be a famous guitarist. He takes a risk to get into a music contest and finds himself on the day of the dead to be amongst his ancestors, where he seeks his lost great grandfathers blessing as the only ancestor who may accept his musical aspirations.



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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Coco (d. Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina USA 2017)

Inside Out (d. Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen USA 2015)

The Incredibles (d. Brad Bird USA 2004)

Toy Story (d. John Lasseter USA 1995)



Further Reading

Official Site – Pixar

Interview with Gael García Bernal

Interview with the Directors

Interview with Cast

Behind the Scenes

Easter Eggs


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This was an analytical review of….


Coco (d. Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina USA 2017)


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