Disney Pixar have unveiled the first trailer for their next animated film, ‘Coco’, a music infused film centering a young boy, a guitar, and the Land of the Dead. Co-directed by Lee Unkrich (‘Toy Story 2 and 3’, ‘Finding Nemo’), and Adrian Molina, the films is set to hit US cinemas on 22 November 2017 before arriving onAustralian shores in December.
Written by Molina, ‘Coco’ follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel( Anthony Gonzalez) who is infatuated by the music of deceased guitar player Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). After breakinginto de la Cruz's tomb and striking the legendary guitar, Miguel finds himself inadvertently transported to the Land of the Dead and must now find a way to return to his family and the land of the living.
Though beautiful in appearance, the trailer has become a point of controversy due to its notable similarity to Jorge Gutierrez’s 2014 film, ‘The Book of Life’. Not only does Gutierrez’s film also celebrate Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), but it also centers of a guitar-playing protagonist who finds himself in the Land of the Dead. Many have also highlighted the similarities between images shown in the trailer for ‘Coco’ and those from ‘The Book of Life’.
‘The Book of Life’s sensitive portrayal of a culture often commercialized by other Western nations won acclaim from critics and viewers, but failed to amass the audience numbers it deserved. The relative under-appreciation of the film has thus furthered angers fans who believe the Disney Pixar powerhouse will garner larger numbers despite its lack of apparent originality.
A year before ‘The Book of Life’s release, Disney attempted to trademark “Dia de los Muertos” as the name of a Pixar film currently development, but was met with claims of exploitation, and eventually backed down. Furthermore, the crew behind ‘The Book of Life’ consisted of several Mexican animators and producers, while the main figures attached to ‘Coco’ at its first announcement were all white. Controversy surrounding Hollywood’s propensity to “white wash” is also not doing the film any favors.
Despite the outrage from fans, Gutierrez has expressed support of the film when it was first announced at Disney’s D23 event in 2015.“Seriously, I have lots of friends working on Coco and I wish them all success,” he said on Twitter.
Many accusations of a blatant rip-off may also be unfounded with many falsely believing Disney to have turned down ‘The Book of Life’ pitch, when that move came from their competitors, DreamWorks. Reports also claim that Unkrich pitched ‘Coco’ after the opening of Toy Story 3 in 2010, with the project was first announced in 2012. First reports of The Book of Life entering production hit later in 2012.
There is no doubt that similarities between the two exist, but the association between Mexican culture, music, and Dia de los Muertos is one deeply entwined and thus cross overs in stories are to be expected. Comparisons will no doubt be drawn between the two, but perhaps audiences should more focus on the greater attention and celebration of Mexican culture. Either way, no conclusions can be drawn until the film’s release, and at the very least, it is hoped the controversy will inspire more people to see the wondrous film that is ‘The Book of Life’.
‘Coco’ hits theaters in the US on 22 November 2017, and in Australian in December.