From the earliest announcement of its premise, Disney/Pixar’s latest project Coco has sounded a little derivative on paper. The angle of “boy uses enchanted stringed instrument to contact family members from beyond the grave during fantastical journey” bore an unfortunate resemblance to last year’s outstanding Kubo and the Two Strings, and moreover, the recent animated film The Book of Life also imagined a vibrant hidden world behind the culture surrounding Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. But today brings the first real taste of Coco prior to its November 22 release with an official trailer, and I am pleased to report that in practice, it sure looks like its own thing.
Young Miguel (voiced by lucky unknown Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of musical stardom in the vein of his idol, silky-smooth six-string virtuoso Ernesto de la Cruz (vocals courtesy of Benjamin Bratt), but his strait-laced family discourages these ambitions as fanciful and silly. Miguel believes he’s found the secret to success when he ends up with a rare, white guitar, but he’s shocked to learn that it possesses magical qualities, and can transport him into the colorful Land of the Dead. On Dia de los Muertos, they’re allowed to invisibly check up on the land of the living; Miguel reverses that process in an unprecedented move, traveling from our world to theirs.
The visuals, of course, are the real star of this trailer. The master shot of the crowded, bustling Land of the Dead call to mind the design of Central American towns built on inclines, and the swirls of glowing nighttime color will be sure to enrapture all the kids in the audience. Looks like this film may have a couple other tricks up its sleeve as well; not to be the guy crying “commentary!” but it cannot possibly be a coincidence that this trailer ends with a clip of a Mexican family legally and politely going through an immigration service.