Disclosure: This post is part of my all expense paid trip to Los Angeles, CA provided by Disney, in exchange for coverage. However, typos, misspelled words and opinions are 100% mine.
Disney Pixar COCO Filmmakers Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina, Darla K. Anderson Interview #PixarCOCOEvent
Lee Unkrich, the director of Coco, as well as writer and co-director, Adrian Molina, and producer, Darla K. Anderson were kind enough to sit down and talk with as about the blockbuster film as part of my recent press junket in Los Angeles for the #PixarCOCOEvent. With so much going into this film, it was a treat to get an insight into the movie from Lee Unkrich and the rest of the minds behind the film from its earliest stages.
Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina, and Darla K. Anderson Go In-Depth with Us
Coco touched me in a way that no other film has done before. Of course, Disney and Pixar films always give me all the feels, but this one, in particular, touched a chord with me. I lost my grandmother years ago, and I miss her so much. She was a powerful force in my life (actually in everyone’s lives), so the idea of anyone being able to take a trip to the Land of the Dead to see their long-lost loved ones really tugged at my heart. That’s why I was so excited to be able to take part in a group interview with the driving minds behind this glorious, touching film.
On Why They Just LOVE to Make us Cry
“I don’t know that I like making you cry, but I like making you feel something. I mean, I know that when I go and see movies, they’re very few and far between where I – where I actually feel genuine emotion or, or a movie really sticks with me after I’ve seen it. So, you know, when we make our movies, we try to do that. There’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to, but I think, you know, that’s the most satisfying for us if we can have the audience feel something personal to themselves and, we know we’re on the right track when we have those feelings ourselves.
“It’s hard when we’re making the film over the course of six years, you know, you’ll have an idea – like we had the idea for Miguel to sing to mama Coco. You’ve all seen the movie now, right? We had the idea to have Miguel to sing to mama Coco and kind of bring her out of her dementia very early on. It was in our first screening I think, and I think we were all very affected that first time that we put it together. But, it was then years afterward that we continued to refine the movie and change the story leading up to that point, and we had to just trust in that initial feeling that we had when we first put that scene up. And try to hold on to that and make sure that many years later when he was actually animating the scene that, that it, you know, hopefully, would still have the effect on other people that it had on us initially.”
Darla K. Anderson
“But in order to – to feel all those feelings – you’ve had to go on a journey with all of our characters, and you’ve had to, you know, laugh with them and be on a big adventure with them, and become completely invested with them. We have to earn, we have to earn all of that emotion. So, it comes out of a multitude of the emotions from the movie.”
On Their Secret Cameos and Using Mexican Celebrities in the Film
Both Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina both have secret cameos in the movie. Lee is the guy that says, “What did I miss?” at the end, and Adrian Molina is the “The guitar! It’s gone!” guy. But they did want as many Mexican stars as possible to be in the film.
“Yeah, we tried to fill the film with as many kinds of famous Mexican celebrities as we could. Some of which we knew would be recognizable for general audiences, but some we knew would only be, you know, only people who grew up in Mexico would know.
“People like Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete and Cantinflas, Maria Felix, El Santo of course, Esquivel… I made, Juan Carlos Esquivel is the guy who’s playing the glass harmonica before the talent show. You know, he’s the glasses. He’s a quirky, kind of semi-well-known Mexican musician, so was there anybody else? Of course Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo.”
“So much of that was inspired by the fact that we’ve got this once in a lifetime opportunity to have characters literally go into history. Miguel is this kid who wants so much to use his music to connect, but he doesn’t have the role models to be able to help him on that path. What a wonderful opportunity to lean on these Mexican icons who used their art to change the world and let them be the kind of characters that kind of inspire him and push him.”
On the Decision to Have an All Latino Cast
“It was non-negotiable. I mean, we knew we had to put John Ratzenberger in the movie. It was very important to us because it was the right thing to do. I would have been very strange to not. It didn’t make casting a challenge; it definitely narrowed the options. I’ve worked with a lot of great actors in the past, and many of them have become my friends. Part of me felt like, I wish I could work with them again, but I knew it wasn’t going to be on this movie. So we have new friends.”
On the Importance of Coco Premiering in Mexico
“We try to talk as much as we can about how much research that we did on this film and part of the effect that that research had on us wasn’t just on the story. It was the fact that we were meeting these families and we were making these friends. We were collaborating with artists all over Mexico. It was the least we could do to, to pay homage to the beauty of the tradition and the place where they came from. We were just over the moon to have the opportunity to premiere in Mexico, especially in Mexico City at the Palace of Fine Arts. It’s been very overwhelming in the most beautiful way.”
On Learning More About The Day of the Dead Through Research
“I knew a fair amount about the tradition before I started this, but I then learned way more, of course, in the course of making it, and one thing that I didn’t know, that we learned early on is this belief that we’re all capable of kind of dying multiple deaths.
“The actual belief is that we all die the first time when our heart stops. Then we die kind of a second time when we’re buried and no one can ever see us again. But then there was this idea of this third and final death when there’s nobody left among the living who remembers us and who can tell our stories. That was then kind of the final death.
“That was whole notion that I had never heard of before diving into this. And, once we all heard it, it just was clear to us that it was incredibly poignant and needed to be an important part of the story that we were telling. And so, it took some time over time, but ultimately it ended up becoming the bedrock of the story that we told.”
On the Pictures at the End of the Film
At the end of Coco, there is a large ofrenda commemorating loved ones and people who supported them throughout their lives as a sort of tribute. It seemed fitting to close out a touching film about the importance of a family’s love.
“I had an idea at some point that I thought it would be lovely to do some sort of digital ofrenda at the end of the film because we had learned so much about the traditions and we had incorporated them into our lives at Pixar. For the second year now we’ve created a big ofrenda in the atrium of Pixar and we’ve invited everyone in the company to bring in photos of their loved ones to put on the ofrenda. (I love this!)
“I just had this thought, wouldn’t it be lovely to, to kind of thank all the people that supported us, and continue to support us across time. We ended up extending the opportunity to everyone in the company to submit a photo of somebody who they had lost who was important to them.
“I regret that it’s at the end of the credits because I think that a lot of people won’t see it because a lot of people don’t stay for credits. But for the people who do, I think it will be very meaningful for them, and it’s very meaningful for us. It’s a very personal reflection of thanks to everyone who’s been there for us.”
On What They’d Like to be Remembered For
“I would probably like to be remembered as someone who tried to use their art to make the world a better place.”
“I will say that and I will add on to that the same thing I always tell my kids; the only thing I want for them is to be kind people. That’s always the most important thing to me, so I would like to be remembered as somebody who was kind and fair.”
Darla K. Anderson
“I will say that it’s like dominos. Somebody who, I think especially as a woman, who had the courage to learn how to find my voice, and to set an example for others. I’m always conscious of that in the world. If you’re in any kind of a public figure to set an example to find your voice and speak out loud about things that matter.”
See the Beauty of Coco in Theaters Now
COCO is one of the most heartfelt, touching films that I have ever seen, bar none, and I had such a wonderful time getting to know the minds behind it. Director, Lee Unkrich; writer and co-director, Adrian Molina; and producer, Darla K. Anderson, were so wonderful to talk with, and getting their takes on this film was priceless. I mean, you can’t beat going straight to the source! if you haven’t seen COCO yet, I highly encourage you to go as soon as possible. It’s a magical experience the entire family will love.
Disney Pixar Coco in Theatres NOW! Take the family to watch it!
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