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Latino Actors bring Coco to Life

November 20, 2017

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By: Lynn Barker

In Coco, young Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) wants to be a famous musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) but his family has banned music for generations. Trying to prove his musical talent, Miguel ends up in the colorful Land of the Dead where trickster Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) takes him on a quest to learn his family’s true history. While there he gains knowledge from impressive Chicharron (Edward James Olmos) and Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach).

Miguel and his living familyMiguel and his living familyCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

All of these Latino actors got together to let us know how proud they are of the film and the fact that it conveys the truth about the Day of the Dead yearly celebration.  It’s NOT Halloween candy-oriented but a loving tribute to those we cared for who have passed away, many of whom have sacrificed a lot for family happiness. It is a worthy film to come out for American Thanksgiving. Check out the chatter!

Some of Miguel's Land of the Dead familySome of Miguel's Land of the Dead familyCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Q: Anthony, you were ten when recording this. You also sing in the movie. Now you are thirteen. This is your first film. What was the most memorable experience for you?

  • Anthony Gonzales: Oh, well, I just really loved the making of it.  I loved being with (the filmmakers) in the recording booth, and other people.  It was very easy for me because I had the guidance of those three. It was like a breeze for me, and it was just so much fun doing the voice of Miguel.

Little Miguel is dying to be a singerLittle Miguel is dying to be a singerCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Q: Anthony, talk about recording your singing for the film.

  • Anthony: Okay. When I knew that I was gonna sing that day in the booth, I would get so excited, because I love to sing, and especially these wonderful songs. They have incredible messages and they’re just incredible lyrics. I just love the rhythm, and the melody, and the lyrics. The song “Remember me” - it’s very sentimental.  And for me, my grandfather passed away when I was six years old, and he was very special to me because he would always support me in my music career.  And so yeah, every time I would come to sing for the movie, it would remind me of him, and it would make me feel like he was there, and he was present with me.

Miguel performs with Hector in the Land of the DeadMiguel performs with Hector in the Land of the DeadCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Q: Miguel meets up with a very interesting character in the Land of the Dead, Hector, voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal. What was that like for you, to be a part of this movie that is so close to Mexican culture?

  • Gael Garcia Bernal:  I got the invitation to meet with (the filmmakers) and after the meeting, I was just amazed by the amount of research, the holistic kind of approach that they were trying to do on the Day of the Dead celebration. They were also putting forth a very personal point of view, as well. I was willing to jump into that, to interpret that point of view. The result is impressive. I’m really happy to help put forth into the world a little fable about a mythology, and a tradition that I hold very dearly. It’s something that Mexico can give to the world. Everyone in the world can adopt this tradition, this reflection on death which is a very, very important thing to do, I think, in life.

Gael Garcia Bernal records the voice of HectorGael Garcia Bernal records the voice of HectorCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Q: Benjamin, the voice of  Ernesto de la Cruz and that character is very specific. I hear you drew some inspiration from a family member.  Is that correct?

  • Benjamin Bratt:  Yeah.  My own father, who’s now deceased, I lived with in some very formative years, from age 12 to about 17.  And although he was quite a bit different than who Ernesto de la Cruz is, he was larger than life; 6’3”, massive frame, broad shoulders, and a booming voice, and the kind of person that no matter which room he walked into, he commanded attention and sometimes by saying the wrong things. Nonetheless, it was the kind of thing that I could draw on because it was familiar to me.  So in that way, that was kind of like the lynch pin for me, with all this other stuff to create someone that enjoyed that adulation and actually used it as his life’s blood.
  • Clearly, this guy Ernesto, even in a skeleton form, he’s got swagger, you know.  So it’s easy to adopt that idea, principally. I studied movie clips of Pedro Infante, and Jorge Negrete.  These were film stars, and music stars, in the equivalent strata of someone like Frank Sinatra - guys who were as beloved, and as admired for their singing prowess as they were for their acting chops.

Benjamin Bratt and Anthony at Disney ExpoBenjamin Bratt and Anthony at Disney ExpoCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Q: Edward James Olmos, you have a brief role, but a significant one, because it sort of sets up some of the rules of the Land of the Dead. What was it like for you to play that character?

  • Edward James Olmos:  Chicharron believes that if you don’t remember your loved ones, they’re gone.  If you don’t tell the stories of that loved one, they cease to exist. I felt emotional for this guy.  And Chicharron became someone that I could identify with; a relative, a friend. Because I am Mexican, full blooded on everybody’s side, I want to say thank you to the Mexican culture for introducing audiences to a value that they did not know anything about.  We celebrate the Day of the Dead. It is a time to celebrate memories (of loved ones).

Edward James Olmos at a screening of the filmEdward James Olmos at a screening of the filmCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Chicharron is barely there.Chicharron is barely there.Courtesy of Disney•Pixar

Q: Alanna, and whoever else wants to answer, what do you hope young people will take away from seeing the film?

  • Alanna Ubach:  Well, I think it was very important for Pixar to make a movie like this. They painted such an exquisite portrait of the afterlife.  And so you can only hope that  my baby son, when he’s old enough to understand this movie, he can walk away saying, “Mama, I am not afraid of death.  I’m not afraid of the afterlife.”  What a beautiful world this would be if the afterlife was like this.  Could you imagine?  And also, that they really did pay such a respect to the importance of familia, and that is something that no presidents, or borders, or politics can ever break.
  • Gael:  Yeah, this film is for the kids, especially, the Latino kids growing in the United States, because it’s been said that their parents, or grandparents, or great-grandparents are rapists, murderers, drug traffickers.  And these kids are being born in a moment of complete fear, and they have to fight against the lie. This film is gonna give kids a way to feel confident of where they come from, of where their parents, great-grandparents, grandparents come from, to know that they come from a very sophisticated culture. Coco opens up that discussion, and it is a beautiful reflection on death, and the celebration life. 

The formidable Mama ImeldaThe formidable Mama ImeldaCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

You can see Coco in theaters this November 22nd.

 

Have Your Say

Do you really understand the Day of the Dead celebration in Latin culture? If so talk about it. Are you looking forward to some great Disney/Pixar music, animation and storytelling. Comment below. 

 

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