Moving and colorful: a treat for all

"Coco" is a thrilling and joyous vision – a celebration of life and the loving tradition of the Day of the Dead.

Characters Miguel (left), voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, and Dante appear in a scene from the animated film, “Coco.” 

At first, Disney-Pixar’s latest movie, “Coco,” sounds a lot like the 2014 Fox film “The Book of Life.”

Both are animated features steeped in the aesthetics and customs of the Day of the Dead: the Mexican tradition of creating elaborate altars, painted skulls and paths of marigolds to welcome the spirits of dead loved ones for a temporary visit to the world of the living.

And both films focus on a young boy who follows his musical dreams at the risk of disappointing his family.

Pixar has always had a knack for tugging at the heartstrings of grown-ups while delighting younger viewers with good-natured characters and eye-popping visuals. 

Those elements are also at work here, but not since “Up” has an animated film delved so deeply into the web of relationships woven on the way to old age, nor has Pixar ever looked so closely at a specific cultural tradition.

The result is a rich experience for any audience, a story of family and culture, death and transcendence, all set to vibrant Latin music — including a new song by Oscar winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (“Frozen”) — and awash in the brilliant colors and dazzling designs the imaginative talents at Disney and Pixar are known for. “Coco” centers on Miguel (newcomer Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old with the heart of a musician born into a family of shoemakers who’ve banned music for generations.

His great-great-grandfather was a guitarist who left his great-great-grandmother alone to raise their young daughter, Coco, and the Riveras forbade all music after that.

Character Hector, voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal (left), and Miguel, voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, appear in a scene from "Coco."

By the time Miguel comes along, Coco is the elderly matriarch of the family: A kind-faced collection of wrinkles who sits quietly in her room all day. Miguel feels disconnected from his family history and resentful that it would prevent him from being like his idol: Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), Mexico’s most beloved musician.

As Miguel’s family prepares for Dia de Muertos, stacking a colorful altar with food, flowers and family photos, he defiantly takes off, hoping to compete in a neighborhood showcase. But his attempts to procure a guitar accidentally lead him across the golden bridge into the realm of the dead.

Director Lee Unkrich and screenwriter/co-director Adrian Molina have crafted a timeless and beautiful tale that’s classically Pixar

And like the multicolored, flying tiger-dragon that swoops through Miguel’s adventure into the land of spirits.

“Coco” is a thrilling and joyous vision — a celebration of life and the loving tradition of the Day of the Dead.

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