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Coco is Pixar's 19th film, released in 2017. Based on an original idea by Lee Unkrich, it is directed by him and co-directed by Adrian Molina. The concept of the movie is related around the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday.
Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12 year old living in the sleepy Mexican town of Santa Cecilia, along with his extended family, which includes his senile great-grandmother Mamá Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía). Miguel is an extremely talented musician, but has the extremely bad luck that, in his family, music is completely shunned. According to the family lore, this is because the founder matriarch of the family, Imelda (Alanna Ubach) and her daughter, Coco, were left behind by her husband when the man left the town looking for a career in music. When the man failed to return, the woman banished music from the family and turned the clan into a shoe-making business.
Miguel idolizes the late singer Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt, singing voice by Antonio Sol), who was also a native of the town; it was from watching his old movies that Miguel taught himself to play guitar. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel accidentally damages the ofrenda altar and discovers that in the photo showing Imelda and a toddler-aged Coco appears a man: his face is torn, but he carries Ernesto de la Cruz's iconic guitar. The boy, convinced that he is actually descended from his idol, attempts to join a local talent competition, but then he's stopped by his relatives destroying his instruments. Completely frustrated, Miguel decides to go to the de la Cruz's mausoleum and take Ernesto's guitar, on the reasoning that as a relative he can use the precious heirloom.
But once he takes the guitar, Miguel suddenly becomes invisible to his family, and now he also sees livingskeletons! The skeletons are actually the ghosts of the deceased, coming from the Land of the Dead to visit their living relatives. Soon, Miguel finds some deceased relatives (including Imelda) who clue him of the situation: Miguel has been cursed for having stolen from the dead (and in the day you're supposed to be giving to them, no less), so he cannot return to the Land of the Living unless he is blessed for one relative. But that blessing must be given before the sunrise, or he'll remain in the Land of the Dead forever. Imelda offers Miguel her blessing, on the condition that he abandons his musical pursuits; Miguel refuses and flee, deciding that he will search Ernesto's blessing instead.
Miguel then encounters Héctor (Gael García Bernal), an skeleton that fruitlessly tries to get to the Land of the Living. Héctor claims to know Ernesto and offers to lead the boy to him. His only condition is that when Miguel goes back to the land he brings back his photo and bring it to his daughter, to prevent to become completely forgotten, which to ghosts is akin to a Final Death. And So, Miguel and Héctor get within the Land of the Dead, looking for Ernesto, in a quest thet will reveal to Miguel more insight about his family than he expected...
- The Ageless: The deceased look more or less the way they looked at the time of their death, only livelier.
- Ambition Is Evil: Played with: the motivation of the main villain is to become famous to all price, to the point he murders his best friend for his songs, and Imelda's motivation for the music ban was because she believed that going into a music career makes you forget your family. However, in the end, it's shown that Miguel still have strong ambitions to get into the music business, but has his family support, implying that ambition by itself isn't bad but going to the extreme of alienating your family to ensure it becomes true is the actual evil thing.
- Arc Words: "Seize your moment," Ernesto de la Cruz's Catch Phrase, and the lyrics of the song "Remember Me", Ernesto de la Cruz's In-Universe Signature Song actually composed by Héctor.
- As You Know: Abuelita Elena explanation about Día de Muertos/Day of the Dead seems to be less for Miguel and more for the non-Mexican audiences.
- Award Bait Song: "Remember Me"/"Recuerdame", which is heard in the film in at least four versions: a ranchero one, a lullaby one, a "reminiscing" one that plays when Miguel sings it to Coco, and a power balled version for the credits. For the Spanish dub they recorded six versions (including two pop variants), and the Japanese dub has another, different arrangement version for promotion purposes.
- Black Comedy: Inevitable in a film about the deceased. One example from early in the film is Ernesto de la Cruz death by crushing church bell.
- Celestial Bureaucracy: The Department of Family Reunions.
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: "Remember Me". Ernesto de la Cruz version is an standard ranchera with a particularly flashy arrangement, dedicated to all the women he left behind- Héctor's lullaby version is the wistful plea of a father asking his daugther to not forget him while he is away working.
- Crapsaccharine World: The Land of the Dead.
- Daddy Had a Good Reason For Abandoning You: Miguel's family ban on music was originated by the father of Mamá Coco abandoned her and her mother in pursuit of a musical career. Turns out the man was murdered just as he was planning to come back to them and the news of his death never reached his family.
- Decon Recon Switch: of the standard Follow Your Heart Aesop. It's deconstructed on how Miguel's dream of become of a musician, while loable, only serves to deepen the rift between he and his family, as he assumes they doesn't support him, and his actions he engages to ensure following it only serve to alienate them more and more. Then we seen the extremes of the "follow your dreams" mentality on Ernesto de la Cruz and his villainous, attention-whore personality and the murderous extremes he took to ensure his dreams of becoming a professional musician came true. The reconstruction comes when Miguel, after his confrontation with Ernesto learns that, while having dreams is important, they shouldn't come at the price of your family and loved ones; after he lears this lesson, his family becomes more receptive to his dreams
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The initial scene with Miguel and the Mariachi is played as if his family thought the Mariachi was a drug peddler or a pedophile preying on kids.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Héctor's death. He is poisoned and his agonizing collapse is shown on screen.
- Final Death: Being forgotten in real life, usually because you have no living relative that remembers you. We see it happening to Héctor's friend Chicharrón.
- Flower Motifs: Aztec marigolds feature predominatingly, as they are in real life heavily associated with Day of the Death rites.
- Gratuitous Spanish: In the English version.
- Historical Domain Character: Frida Kahlo plays an important supporting role in the plot. There are also cameos of famous deceased Mexican artist like Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, El Santo and Cantinflas.
- I See Dead People: Miguel's dog Dante, can still see him even when he is in spirit form and is able to follow him to the Land of the Dead and interact with its inhabitants.
- Ironic Echo: Ernesto's catchphrase "Seize Your Moment" takes a darker meaning in the third act as it stops merely meaning "follow your dreams" but thakes the undercurrent of "if you have to murder your best friend to make them come true, so it be".
- Logo Joke: In the Disney logo at the beginning of the film, the traditional "When You Wish Upon A Star" riff is played in a mariachi version.
- Meaningful Name Miguel's dog is named Dante, like the author of The Divine Comedy. And the fictional town the story takes place on, Santa Cecilia, is named for the saint patroness of musicians, Saint Cecilia.
- Never Say "Die": massively averted given the film's theme.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ernesto looks a lot like Pedro Infante, and his career somehow parallels him.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: The dead in the Land of the dead are skeletons with decorated and quite expressive skulls. They only look ghostly when walking within the Land of the Living. they also can take the ghostly afterimage of stuff that have been left on their ofrenda
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Hector's Frida Kahlo costume. Predictably, it fails to fool the agents monitoring the ghost visiting the Land of the living, but it surprisingly works when he uses it to infiltrate Ernesto's party.
- Miguel disguises himself as an skeleton by painting himself with shoe shine. It works surprisingly well.
- Parents as People: This films portray parents as people that, despite their best intentions, sometimes are fallible, and prone to mistakes of judgement in the name of protect their family.
- Plot-Based Photograph Obfuscation: The picture showing the Unpersoned great-great-grandfather conveniently lacks his head. Turns out that the reveal of the identity and who posses the missing piece of the photo is an important Plot Twist.
- Poor Communication Kills: Had Héctor revealing earlier the names of his relatives, or having the Riveras told Miguel the name of his actual great-great-grandfather, we would have had no plot. Albeit it's implied that, while his relatives knew that Ernesto de la Cruz wasn't related to them, Imelda was so determined to erase the memories of Héctor from her life that she forbid even the uttering of his name, meaning that Miguel's parents and uncles legitimately may have not know how the man was named in the first place.
- Race Against the Clock: Miguel and Héctor have until the sunrise to avoid being trapped in the Land of the Dead forever and being definitely forgotten, respectively. Their respective countdowns are Miguel's progressive transformation into an skeleton and Héctor bones gradually turning yellow.
- The Reveal: the second and third act is bridged by a rapid succession of these: namely, that Ernesto de la Cruz is a fraud that stole all his songs and his guitar from his best friend Héctor, that he murdered said best friend to prevent him to go back to his family, and that it was Héctor, not Ernesto, Manuel's real great-great-grandpa.
- Rewatch Bonus: the film is so filled of foreshadowing, that it deserves a re-watch just to see if you caught all the hints.
- Secondary Character Title: Coco is Miguel's great-grandmother, but she earns the stills earns the right of being who the film is named for due to returning to her being the entire motivation of Hector, the film's Deuteragonist
- Shoe Shine, Mister?: Miguel is introduced this way.
- Spexico: notoriously averted. Pixar took great care to avert this, and the film is extremely Mexican in looks and character's mannerisms.
- Technician vs. Performer: One way to look Héctor and Ernesto's Revelations and musical styles. You can see Ernesto as the technically skilled but creatively sterile Technician, while Héctor and the emotional and talented Performer able to bring soul to his songs. Or you can see Ernesto as a glitzy, charismatic Performer with no real technique while Hector is the hardworking Technician capable of accomplish feats Ernesto cannot reach.
- Thicker Than Water: Basically the theme of the film is how family is extremely important. However this is also subject to the Decon Recon Switch. The "decon" part is how precisely the thickness of the family can exacerbate the conflict between the dreams and talents of a member of the family clashes with the familial traditions, making all the involved parts miserable. The "recon" part comes when, after the misunderstanding that created the family traditions is solved and Miguel's singing helps Mamá Coco recover her mind and memories, the family can finally reconcile and support Miguel wholeheartedly.
- Unperson: Deconstructed with Miguel's great-great-grandfather. The long-going active refusal of his family to recognize he ever existed not only blinds them of what was his actual fate, retarding a long needed closure about him, but gave Miguel the wrong conclusion on who he was, giving the boy the impulse from run from home and kickstart the plot.
- Chicharrón, the long forgotten musician whose final death is shown in screen
- After the final reveals of the film, it seems that Ernesto de la Cruz legacy is going this way.
- Villain Ball: Ernesto de la Cruz held it when he included the night he murdered Héctor as an scene of one of his films. Only there, he cast himself as the victim of such a plot, and naturally survives to rub more salt to the injury.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The film is one of Pixar's sweetest, but its actual villain Ernesto de la Cruz is one of their most vilest villains to date.