Follow addedpixiedust by email

Monday, 15 January 2018

Coco at the British Film Institute

Finally Coco arrived in the UK with previews over the weekend of 13th and 14th January. It felt like it was a long wait since it was released around Thanksgiving in the US especially I was also really looking forward to returning to the British Film Institute (BFI) at the Southbank in London for a  screening of the film and Question and Answer (Q and A)session with the director, Lee Unkrich and producer, Darla K Anderson. These two animators have been involved in many of Disney's most significant films over the last twenty years. Lee Unkrich co-directed Toy Story 3, Monsters Inc and Finding Nemo and made his solo directorial debut with Toy Story 3. Darla K Anderson has also been involved in many Disney films including producing A Bugs Life, Monsters Inc and Toy story 3.

I have been to and blogged about various preview events in London including Q and A sessions at the BFI with Disney Director Byron Howard and Producer Rich Moore. The BFI events are particularly family friendly and they actively encourage children to come along and participate. The Coco event cost only £4 for children (£15 for adults) and they encouraged questions from children first in the Q and A. My daughter started the Q and A by asking "Which was your favourite character in Coco?"  Lee Unkrich answered that he felt that he couldn't choose as it would be like him having to choose between his three children- you end up with such a strong relationship with the characters/actors. Anderson said she had a fondness for Pepita, the colourful flying cat- like creature (based on alebrije sculptures from Mexican folk art) Unkrich followed with his fondness for Frida Kahlo's monkey! They then asked my daughter which was her favourite? Her answer, which got a loud laugh from the audience, was "the bad one!"

The Q and A consisted of further questions from the audience as well as discussion with the host. During the Q and A other Disney films referenced in Coco were talked about. Apparently there are glimpses to be caught of a version of the Pizza Planet Truck, and a 'blink and you miss it' reference to the up-coming 'Incredibles 2' film. I would never have got the three references to 'The Shining' which are apparently in there but I definitely saw the Buzz and Woody pinatas in the market place!

Other questions involved the skeletons which are such a big part of the film. Anderson and Unkrich  spoke about how the skeleton form brought new challenges and lots of choices. For example, they  chose to give them eye balls as the film was going to get into a very emotional place. Spoiler alert- I definitely did not have dry eyes by the end! Anderson and Unkrich also spoke about the influences on the film from the skeletons in early Ubb Iwerks Disney shorts, to Ray Harryhausen and Tim Burton until they settled on their own style. An influence on the character of Hector was Dustin Hoffman's character in Midnight Cowboy.

Music is an integral part of the film with lots of points where characters are actually performing so the music had to be recorded before the animation. Unkrich and Anderson sited the influence on Coco of one of my favourite films, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, as it also has music highly integrated into the story.

It was interesting to hear about the development of the 'Land of the Dead' in Coco which was a huge challenge as it all had to be 'made up'. The towers, described as rising up like coral, reflected the always changing scene as people died and moved on. The animators found that by making 3 distinct towers and changing them by raising/lowering them they were able to create the sweeping scenes of towers which make up the Land of the Dead.

The land of the living was based on reality, however, and Anderson and Unkrich spoke about how the town on Santa Cecilia in the film was based on the real Mexican town of Santa Fe de la Laguna. They were asked about how the border situation between America and Mexico might have influenced the film. The animators spoke about how the film had begun to be made many years before this had been an issue but that they were very pleased to be able to put such a positive light on Mexico and to be able to expose a lot of people to Mexican culture through the empathy of story telling. One member of the audience spoke very movingly during the Q and A about her heritage and how well she felt that the film captured Mexican traditions.

Somehow I often feel that despite the years of planning which go into their films, Disney seems to capture something of the zeitgeist of the times and I certainly think this is a much welcomed, entertaining and very beautiful portrayal of Mexican culture.

P.S. We definitely felt we had some pixie dust at the end of the Q and A when we were able to get our poster signed by Lee Unkrich and Darla K Anderson. I now need another frame for this fab memento from a great morning. Many thanks to them both for making the morning so special.


  1. I can't believe I didn't see this yet! I have to hop to it! How great that you got your poster signed!

    1. Definitely a great film to see Michele and it was a really special morning, lots of pixie dust!

  2. What an amazing opportunity for both you and your children. I can’t wait to see the movie.