A new animated feature film created around the Day of the Dead celebrations could well become the highest-grossing film in that category in Mexican history.
Coco, a touching family tale described by director Lee Unkrich as “a love letter to Mexico,” was released here on October 27, almost a month before its worldwide release and just in time for Day of the Dead week.
In its opening weekend the film grossed US $9.3 million, a figure that leapt 12% on weekend two to reach $10.4 million. In total, the film earned $27.6 million at its 10-day mark, more than any other animated film in Mexico.
Coco is a feast for the eyes that is finely in tune with the Mexican pop culture of the last 70-odd years, with a trove of details that reflect an exhaustive investigation by Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures.
One of the main characters is singer and movie idol Ernesto de la Cruz, in whom fans of the golden age of Mexican cinema can find more than slight similarities with real-life icons Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete, singers and actors themselves.
The story of Coco takes place in the fictitious town of Santa Cecilia, depicting a pueblo that could be located almost anywhere in Oaxaca state.
One of the story’s characters visits the Land of the Dead and meets humorous takes on prominent figures in recent Mexican history, such as painter Frida Kahlo and her muralist painter husband, Diego Rivera.
In blink-or-you’ll-miss-it appearances are Lucha Libre wrestler El Santo, movie stars María Félix, Dolores del Río and Cantinflas, and composer Agustín Lara.
La Catrina, a female skeleton created by printmaker, cartoon illustrator and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada over 100 years ago, also makes an appearance in the Land of the Dead.
While the Land of the Dead draws strong inspiration from the streets of Guanajuato, its foundations and entry points are reminiscent of the pre-Hispanic architecture found in cities such as Teotihuacán.
Coco is currently only being shown in Mexico, where it might have an energizing effect on the animation industry, according to an animation news site.
Cartoon Brew said the global success of DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda became a rallying call in 2008 for the Chinese animation industry, which was motivated to raise the bar and produce better content. It has been growing at a frenetic pace ever since.
“Mexico’s animation industry has been on a similar – if more modest – development track, and the country is poised to have an animation renaissance of its own,” wrote Cartoon Brew publisher Amid Amidi.
He forecast the film could do a lot to inspire young Mexicans to join the industry.