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If there is one thing I love to do, it's learning about different cultures and their traditions. Since growing up in Texas & we are so close to Mexico, I have a great appreciation for their customs and traditions. One thing I love about movies like Pixar's COCO is that I get to learn even more about a culture in a fun way! I was able to learn so much more about the Dia De Los Muertos celebrations and just how much work & research goes into making a Pixar film on my trip to San Francisco in early August. Today I get to share with you just how they brought the land of the dead & skeletons to life.
As we know, family is what Dia De Los Muertos is all about. Families gather to celebrate those who have passed, many honoring the dead with gifts of sugar skulls, chocolate, marigolds, sweetbreads, and trinkets. Bringing these beloved deceased family members to life was a big challenge for the animators of COCO, but not one that would get the best of them.
Fun Fact: The animators spent quite some time studying anatomy. From muscles to the actual bones themselves the animators researched how each individual would move. Even moving the mouth was thought out and planned.
Fun Fact: The animators decided early on they did not want their skeletons to be scary. This is why you can see teeth, eyes, tongues, eyelashes, hair or wigs, and even face paint.
In Disney•Pixar's new animated film COCO Dia De Los Muertos is brought to life with many animators, we were able to sit down with a few of them and learn all about the process of bringing the skeletons to life! We sat down with Daniel Arriaga (Character Art Director), Gini Santos (Supervising Animator), Byron Bashforth (Character Shading Lead) & Emron Grover (Simulation Technical Director) and listened to them explain that they also wanted each skeleton to have different features from their previous life, for instance, the way certain articles of clothing flowed.
Fun Fact: It took PIXAR 3 years to design all 80 skeletal characters in Coco! This was there first time animating skeletons so small things like the way the skeletons bodies react to clothing was a challenge they had never dealt with before. Some of the clothing kept getting caught between the bones during the simulations, so they had to create a new program or “collision system” to fix this.
Fun Fact: Hector has a bit of a hip dip as he walks in homage to Ratso, an Indian cowboy played by Duston Hoffman from the movie Midnight Cowboy.
Skulls were powerful symbols in both Spanish and Mexican Aztec culture in the Middle Ages. Today, as part of the Dia de los Muertos traditions, people wear skull masks or paint their faces to look like skulls with flowers and other colorful designs.
Fun Fact: Clear expressions are important so that the audience can understand how the characters are feeling. Showing emotions on a skull was very important to connect to the audience.
Fun Fact: Sugar skulls represented a departed soul, had the name written on the forehead and was placed on the home ofrenda or gravestone to honor the return of a particular spirit.
About Disney•Pixar’s COCO:
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.