There is nothing more important to the Hispanic culture and heritage than family. There might be conflicts and differences in opinion. Sometimes, it’s necessary to break away and search for answers. But in the end, that tradition never wavers. It’s all about respect, not only for the living but those who have departed.

Throughout most of Latin America and especially in southern Mexico, the deceased live on and even enjoy their own recognition on the calendar. The official day is usually November 2nd, celebrated as the “Day of the Dead.” Sometimes, the party starts earlier, with parades and other public events. What matters most is that families eat, drink and be merry in honor of their loved ones, just as if they were there to savor the moment.

The reality of this unique celebration captured the imagination of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures in the production of “Coco,” a 3D computer masterpiece that has Hollywood buzzing with excitement. A sneak peek at the official trailer of “Coco” features young Miguel, a child prodigy of sorts and an aspiring musician. He dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol and distant relative Ernesto de la Cruz, although his immediate family has mysteriously banned music for generations. Determined to succeed, Miguel finds himself drifting back into time to meet his ancestors in the “Land of the Dead.” We don’t want to spoil the fun, so you’ll have to watch the film to discover the circumstances behind that journey. What’s important is that once he arrives, Miguel befriends a charming character named Hector, the father of Coco who happens to be Miguel’s great-grandmother. That’s when the plot thickens and takes many twists and turns.

Headlining the all-star cast is talented Mexican actor-director Gael Garcia Bernal, a Golden Globe recipient for his performance in “Mozart In The Jungle.” The Guadalajara native plays the part of Hector in the film and was influential in its production. Others in starring roles include Benjamin Bratt and the esteemed Edward James Olmos. Of course, the dominate figure in “Coco” was Miguel, with the voice-over perfectly handled by 12 year old Anthony Gonzalez. The happy-go-lucky youngster has been acting and singing since he was four years old, and has previously appeared in “Imagination Of Young” and “Icebox.” But “Coco” was definitely his breakout performance.

“I didn’t really need to get into the character (Miguel) because I identified with him,” Anthony explains. “We both love music and come from big families.”

Indeed, Gonzalez has a younger and older brother who also act, plus two sisters that frequently sing and dance in productions on historic Olivera Street in Los Angeles.

It took Pixar over a year to develop the special animated features for “Coco.” You can’t rush a unique theme in progress, and the finished product is amazing. The production made its debut last month at the Morelia International Film Festival, and debuts here in the States on November 22nd. It’s a must see for the entire family before the busy holiday season.


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