After “Inside Out” came out, it became very apparent that Pixar films had transcended their intended audience. Obviously, the films’ bright, exciting animation with quirky, relatable characters are approachable for children. However, beneath that foundation of childlike wonder, Pixar conveys profound messages that are for everyone — and by everyone, I truly mean everyone. The animation studio’s latest film, “Coco,” is no exception.
“Coco” takes place in Mexico on Dia de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead — a day intended to be a true celebration of Mexico’s culture. Rather than creating stereotypical characters, the characters are grounded not just in reality, but the reality of Mexican culture. The astonishingly beautiful opening sequence prologues the dreadful curse on the protagonist’s family through colorful images on “papel picados,” a kind of decorative Mexican folk art.
The bluntness with which “Coco” portrays and discusses death is its most shocking aspect. Within the first five minutes, we see the death of a character on screen, when he is brutally crushed by a bell. For some younger children, it is possible this is the first time they have ever witnessed death. What makes “Coco” so genius is that it not only introduces death to a naive, curious audience of children, but it also teaches them how to cope with death during the remaining 90 minutes of the film. By the end of the movie, children may not necessarily be considering becoming coroners, but they at least are able to wrap their heads around a difficult part of life that many adults still struggle to comprehend.
As an 18-year-old who has experienced loss, for me, “Coco” was a way to process my emotions without having to directly address them. While being engrossed in gorgeous animation and a gripping adventure story, I actually was learning how to healthily handle mortality. Surprisingly, in a movie where half of the cast is cartoon skeletons, I learned that death is not the end of someone’s life — their loved ones’ memories continue their legacy, keeping them alive. It was inspirational, cathartic and, most importantly, entertaining.
With Pixar’s next string of movies slated to be anticipated sequels to beloved classics, hopefully, they too will produce some sort of similar emotionally relatable effect. Through powerful, accessible storytelling, Pixar has proved that anything is possible — even defeating death.