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Wednesday, February 28 2018 09:31

Blu-ray Review: Disney•Pixar's Coco is a Modern Family Classic...

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Last spring, I was visiting Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California as part of the ramp-up to the launch of Cars 3. But that wasn't the only film that the studio was gearing up for at the time... down a festive-looking hallway, animators were hard at work on another Disney•Pixar film for later in the year... Coco. I wasn't able to explore further than the entrance to that hallway, but in many ways it served as a metaphor for what was yet to come - a story of a boy that was about to enter a colorful, vibrant world filled with music, and at its core - family. Now available in-home (sent to us by Disney for review), Coco is a film that families will want to experience again and again. Beware that the following contains major "spoilers" for those who have yet to see the film.

After first seeing the film on the big screen during winter break, I was surprised at how much I loved it. With a story rooted in the annual holiday of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), I was a little surprised that the film was released just after the actual holiday, a celebration that our family hadn't been vastly familiar with until just the past few years. It was actually our oldest daughter, Addie (8 as of this writing) that had become enamored by it thanks to close friendship with a Mexican boy, and a Monster High character called Skelita Calaveras. The calavera is a stylized representation of a human skull, most commonly associated with the "sugar skulls" that are prevalent during the Day of the Dead celebration - a time when families gather to remember their loved ones by creating colorful altars upon which they place pictures of departed family members in hopes of welcoming their spirit back into our world for one day only. Addie was Skelita for Halloween last year.

In the film, young Miguel finds himself drawn to music - something banned in his household thanks to his great-great grandfather, who is thought to have abandoned his family for the allure of the road, traveling the world as a Mariachi guitarist and never returning home. Miguel finds a connection to Ernesto de la Cruz, the most famous musician of his time, but one whose career was cut short thanks to being crushed by a falling bell during a live performance. Miguel goes as far as believing that Ernesto is his long-lost great-great grandfather, a belief solidified when de la Cruz' guitar happens to be the key to opening the door to the Land of the Dead , allowing Miguel to cross over in a search to the secrets of his family. But it's all wrong, and the revelations found on the other side manage to bring the family together once more - both in the real world and the spirit world. The final source of information and inspiration is Miguel's great grandmother, Coco, the once-little girl whose father disappeared all those years ago.

Music brings it all together, and the score by Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino and his 83-piece orchestra is fantastic, but it's the original songs like “Remember Me” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (the songwriters behind Frozen) that push Coco into a realm of its own. I've long held the belief that the best songs are those that can seamlessly be adapted into other styles, and "Remember Me" (like "Let it Go" back in 2013) is no exception. The bonus-packed Blu-ray and Digital releases delve deep into the music, such as how the Oscar-nominated song appears three ways in the film, with a fourth available on the soundtrack.

The film has fast become a family favorite here at Rock Father HQ, and Addie is continuing to rock out on her Cordoba x Coco guitar which we featured on the site as one of my Holiday Wish Guide™ picks last season. While it might sound a little sad, like Disney's Big Hero 6 a few years back, Coco may have an unexpected bonus in helping children with their feelings about death. Just a week or so ago, we found our daughters with a toy crib that had been loaded with items associated with our late dog, Rocky, who died last year after a fight with kidney disease (he was nearly 15 years old). When I asked them what they were doing, the told me: "We made an altar so that Rocky's spirit can come visit us, just like Coco." Little kids, big hearts!

Watching Coco

Whether you prefer your movies in Digital HD,4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD or On-Demand, Disney•Pixar's Coco is a must-own, packed with bonus features to extend the experience. 

BONUS FEATURES for Blu-ray & Digital:

  • Deleted Scenes with Introductions - Director Lee Unkrich and co-director Adrian Molina talk about the deleted scenes and the part they played in the development of “Coco.”
  • Día de los Muertos - In this musical extravaganza, the colors and excitement of Día de los Muertos come to life as we meet superstar Ernesto de la Cruz.
  • The Way of the Riveras - A musical number in which Abuelita and Miguel prepare their Día de los Muertos celebration while she teaches him Rivera family history and traditions.
  • Celebrity Tour - Héctor, a Land of the Dead tour bus guide, agrees to help Miguel, revealed to be a living boy, on his quest to find de la Cruz.
  • The Bus Escape - The Rivera family catches up to Miguel and Héctor and attempts to halt their mission to find de la Cruz.
  • Alebrije Attack - Miguel and Héctor are interrupted on their journey to find de la Cruz by a fierce alebrije.
  • The Family Fix - After de la Cruz reveals his true colors, the Rivera family puts their dismay aside and comes together to repair the smashed guitar needed to send Miguel home.
  • To the Bridge - As the Land of the Dead counts down to the end of Día de los Muertos, Miguel and de la Cruz come head-to-head on the marigold bridge.
  • Filmmaker Commentary – Presented by Lee Unkrich (director), Adrian Molina (co-director) and Darla K. Anderson (producer).
  • The Music of “Coco” - Collaborating with musicians of Mexico and some unique instrumentation, this documentary explores the beautiful fusion of music essential to the story of “Coco.”
  • Paths to Pixar: “Coco” - Explore how the film crew’s personal stories resonate with the themes of the movie itself.
  • Welcome to the Fiesta - A musical exploration of the skeletons that make the Land of the Dead in “Coco” so wondrous and intriguing.
  • How to Draw a Skeleton - Pixar artist Daniel Arriaga gives a lesson on the quick and easy way to draw skeletons using simple shapes.
  • A Thousand Pictures a Day - Join the “Coco” crew on an immersive travelogue through Mexico, visiting families, artisans, cemeteries, and small villages during the Día de los Muertos holiday.
  • Mi Familia - Developing the Riveras was a labor of love that took the cast and crew on a deep dive into the meaning of family.
  • Land of Our Ancestors – Watch Pixar artists lovingly construct layer upon layer of architecture from many eras of Mexican history, bringing the Land of the Dead to life.
  • Fashion Through the Ages – The cast of characters in “Coco” are from many different eras, making for some magnificent costuming opportunities.
  • The Real Guitar – The majestic guitar that spurs Miguel on his journey through the Land of the Dead is a unique creation. Watch as it is initially designed by a Pixar artist and ultimately realized as a real instrument by a master luthier in this poetic ode to craftsmanship.
  • Dante - How the crew fell in love with the uniquely Mexican breed of Xoloitzcuintli (or “Xolo”) dogs that inspired Dante.
  • How to Make Papel Picado - Join Pixar artist Ana Ramírez González as we learn how papel picado is made traditionally, and then try your own approach to this beautiful art form.
  • Un Poco “Coco” - A montage of original animated pieces used to promote “Coco.”
  • “Coco Trailers” - Trailers include “Feeling,” “Dante’s Lunch,” “Destiny,” “Journey” and “Belong.”
James Zahn

James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance.  Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.

As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, has contributed to The Toy Book and regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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