Despite the success of Frozen (2013) the not-quite-short film Olaf's Frozen Adventure (2017) received serious complaints from moviegoers in Mexico for its longer than usual length, subpar quality compared to the source material and it being a nonstop 20 minute long, Christmas-themed musical number. Complaints were so numerous that the two largest movie theatre chains in the country opted to stop showing the Frozen short film before the movie just a week after opening day.
The filmmakers and animators traveled to Mexico five times to research about the culture, people, food, traditions, etc. to help define the story and characters of Coco (2017). Among their journeys, they visited Mexico City and Oaxaca. Director Lee Unkrich said of the experience, "I'd seen it portrayed in folk art. It was something about the juxtaposition of skeletons with bright, festive colors that captured my imagination. It has led me down a winding path of discovery. And the more I learn about Día de Muertos, the more it affects me deeply."
The orange flower seen throughout the film is the Aztec marigold (known also as the Mexican marigold or the Cempasúchil). The flower is used in the tradition of Dia de Muertos in México to guide the deceased to the living.
The character of Ernesto de la Cruz is based on the Mexican icon Pedro Infante (in fact, the second last name of Infante was "Cruz"). In addition, Ernesto's last name, de la Cruz, is also a reference to another Pixar character, Cruz Ramirez from Cars 3 (2017). In addition to that, a cartoon of Pedro Infante appears on the film and even interacts with De la Cruz.
The film was originally titled as "Día de los Muertos", the namesake for the Mexican holiday (NOTE: In Spanish, the holiday is properly called Día de Muertos). During the film's production, in 2015, the Walt Disney Company made a request to trademark the phrase "Día de los Muertos" for various merchandising applications. This was met with significant criticism from many people in the United States, particularly the Mexican American community, who derided the company for its cultural appropriation and exploitation. A week later, Disney cancelled its attempt and changed the film's title to "Coco". Some time later, Pixar Animation Studios hired Mexican American cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, playwright Octavio Solis, and former CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corp. Marcela Davison Aviles as technical consultants for the film, leading them to take voice-over roles in the film.
Songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez contributed one song for Coco (2017), which is the film's signature song "Remember Me". This marked the time that the husband-and-wife songwriting team worked with Pixar Animation Studios to compose music for a Pixar animated film. Ironically, they could not get involved with the Frozen short film Olaf's Frozen Adventure (2017) due to scheduling conflicts paired with working on Coco.
In China, the film featured an content of "the dead" theme which is banned and not able to be imported and released. When during cencorship of the film however, the censor board members were touched so much by the film and cried. So they took an exception for the film.
In the movie the spirit of Frida Kahlo points out Dante as being a Xolo dog (Xoloitzcuintli dog), which is a nice tribute to Frida. During the mid 20th century the xolo dog as a breed was beginning to decline in popularity. Frida and her husband, Diego Rivera, helped to save the breed by including the Xolo dog as part of their art. Thanks to Frida and Diego, the breed became known again to the world.
Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina had said that the most difficult element to animate was Abuelita's neck. In order to have a reference for the neck Molina asked his mother-in-law, who lives in Mexico City, to travel to PIXAR, where he and Unkrich tried to make her angry to see how her neck moved, this was difficult because Molina's mother-in-law is, according to him, "a woman hard to get angry". After some hours they successfully made her mad.
According to the film's co-director and screenwriter Adrian Molina, the idea of Miguel watching the films of Ernesto de la Cruz on videotapes to, among many things, learn how to play the guitar as well as de la Cruz and idolize his role model is based on Molina's own childhood in the 1990s, where he recorded the new episodes and reruns of The Wonderful World of Disney television program on ABC, CBS, and The Disney Channel on videotape and from watching them, yearned for a better life.
The door to the office in The Land of the Dead has labelled the famous Pixar Easter Egg A113, named after the California Institute of Arts classroom where many members from Disney and Pixar studied at.
Since Ernesto De La Cruz had such a large impact on Miguel, he named the stray dog "Dante" after a horse in one of De La Cruz's movies which can be seen and heard at De La Cruz's house party on the projectors.
Pixar's 2nd film to focus mostly on cast members with a specific ethnicity, in the case of this film being Mexican. The first one was Brave (2012), which focused mostly on actors with a Scottish background.
The film released on the same day as Pixar's first film Toy Story (1995), 22 years prior. It's also Pixar's second film to release the same day as one of their previous films, the first being The Good Dinosaur (2015), which was released the same day A Bug's Life (1998) did 17 years prior to that.
For the film's theatrical release, Coco (2017) was originally accompanied by a 22-minute animated short film entitled Olaf's Frozen Adventure (2017) in which Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) finds a family tradition for his friends for the Christmas holiday season. Coco (2017) is the first full-length Pixar animated film to not be accompanied by a short film created and produced by Pixar Animation Studios themselves since Toy Story (1995), which had no accompanying short film in the USA and was accompanied in the UK by a re-release of the Roger Rabbit short film Roller Coaster Rabbit (1990).
The film features Cheech Marin's first voice-over role in a Pixar animated film outside of the Cars franchise. Additionally, Cars 3 (2017) was released in the same year that Coco (2017) was released, He has also done voice-over roles for two animated feature films for Walt Disney Feature Animation, being Tito the Chihuahua in Oliver & Company (1988) and Banzai the Hyena in The Lion King (1994).
One of Miguel's relatives (the one who drops a shoe when Miguel announces he wants to play music0 is wearing a green t-shirt. This is the shirt of the Mexican national football team (Mexicans are big soccer fans).
When originally released, the film featured the short film Olaf's Frozen Adventure (2017) before the film, which runs 22 minutes long. Many moviegoers did not know this and told management about it thinking they had wandered into the wrong film. Beginning December 7, 2017, Olaf's Frozen Adventure (2017) was withdrawn from theatrical release, and no short film was substituted in its place.
STUDIO TRADEMARK: The Pizza Planet truck, which has appeared in every Pixar movie except The Incredibles (2004), can be seen driving past the Rivera Shoe Shop while Mama Julia (Miguel's grandmother) explains the "No Music" rule to Miguel.
When Miguel and Héctor arrive to Ernesto de la Cruz Plaza there is a scene of people celebrating and lighting fireworks; at that moment, on the right side of the screen there is a poster of Incredibles 2 (2018) hanged in a wall.
This is Pixar's second film released on Thanksgiving to not be directed by John Lasseter, and the first one released on Thanksgiving to have Lee Unkrich as the main director, after having been the simply the co-director of Toy Story 2 (1999).
For Latin-speaking countries, there is a Mexican and Spanish dub done separately for Disney films (think of it as a dub for American and British English speakers). For this film, there was no Spanish dub, just a Mexican dub.
This film would be Disney's second depiction or reference to the Mexican tradition of Dia de Muertos, sometimes referred to as "Dia de los Muertos". The Lizzie McGuire (2001) episode Lizzie McGuire: Night of the Day of the Dead (2001) featured Miranda Sanchez's parents giving Lizzie a brief explanation of the traditions.
This is Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez's 3rd Disney movie for writing songs after Frozen (2013) and Winnie the Pooh (2011). It's also their first time writing songs for a Disney movie that's made by Pixar Animation Studios and not made by Walt Disney Animation Studios.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The film features a variety of animated caricatures or cameo appearances of legendary Mexican celebrities, paying homage to them. Among the many deceased Mexican celebrities who are featured in the film include: Santo, a wrestler; movie actor Cantinflas; actor and comedian Pedro Infante; singer and actor Jorge Negrete; painter Frida Kahlo; Emiliano Zapata, one of the revolutionary leaders during the Mexican Revolution; and actress María Félix. Director Lee Unkrich has stated that besides these celebrities, there are more hidden in the film.
In Mexican folklore, family curses occur when you steal from the dead. Ernesto stole Hector's songs and guitar after the latter died, thus cursing the guitar to bring Miguel to the Land of the Dead and eventually destroy him.
The song that Mama Imelda and Ernesto de la Cruz sang towards the end of the film is called "La Llorona", a classic and anonymous Mexican song. One popular interpretation of the song is about a singer feeling trapped by this woman (La Llorona) who has fallen in love with him.
The dog's name, Dante, is a reference to Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet and author of the 'Divine Comedy', originally called 'Comedia'. The Divine Comedy describes Dante's journey through the realm of the dead. In México, the Xoloitzcuintli (the Mexican hairless dog depicted in the film) is the guide of the deceased through his/her way to the Mictlán (the underworld, the place where all the souls go after death).
In Mexican tradition, the ofrenda is an altar that pays tribute to the dead. Within the film, it aids the deceased who can be remembered. However, there is an existing ofrenda tradition that remembers and pays tribute to the dead who have been forgotten. This tradition was left out of the film as it would have derailed the plot.
First Pixar film to show an on screen death of a major character, in this case when Ernesto gets crushed to death by the falling bell. All other deaths in Pixar films have been slightly off-screen, out of view or not in the scene at all.
Ernesto de la Cruz is similar to Charles Muntz from Up (2009). Both of these characters had been idolised by the film's protagonist, both had been accused of being a Fraud (Fabricating a Skeleton of a Paradise Falls Bird in Muntz' case, and stealing Hector's songs in Ernesto's case), and both had revealed to be the film's Main Antagonist through a Plot Twist during the climax.
Shares plot elements from previous Pixar films Up (2009) and Inside Out (2015). The former also has a lead who idolizes a character who would later be revealed as the main antagonist. With the latter, a female character starts to forget one of the characters who is starting to become non-existent.
In Mexican folklore, "Coco" refers to a ghost who comes from the land of the dead. The monster does not appear in this film, but its name is given to a character who is important to the deceased (Hector's daughter).
Ernesto de la Cruz is the fifth character in a Pixar animated film to be revealed as the main antagonist in a surprising plot twist, where he may not seem bad at first for a majority of the film, but would later reveal his true colors later on in the film towards the climax. The other four Pixar films to feature such a character are Toy Story 2 (1999) with Stinky Pete the Prospector, Monsters, Inc. (2001) with Henry J. Waternoose III, Up (2009) with Charles Muntz, and Cars 2 (2011) with Sir Miles Axelrod. This does not include those who may not seem bad for only their introduction during a small portion in the film outside the Climax like AUTO in WALL·E (2008), Lotso from Toy Story 3 (2010), and Thunderclap from The Good Dinosaur (2015).
Ernesto de la Cruz is similar to Gustaeu from Ratatouille (2007). Both are deceased characters that the Main Character idolises (Remy to be a Cook in Gustaeu case, and Miguel to be a Musician in Ernesto's case), only Ernesto had really been a fake from having stolen his goal from Hector, unlike Gustaeu who happened to be a real Cook in his time.