Animation creation

Disney and Pixar’s Coco won Best Animated Feature at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards. The movie’s director, Lee Unkrich, explains to Helen O’Hara how a Pixar movie comes to life…

We don’t want it to seem like we’re wizards who somehow birthed these films perfectly polished,” says Coco co-writer-director Lee Unkrich of Pixar’s latest. “It’s a long process!”

He explains how it all comes together in five (not particularly) easy steps.

1. Nail the pitch
“Coco began life in 2010. My idea to do a story set against Dia de Muertos [Mexico’s Day of the Dead] sparked interest,” says Unkrich. He was given the green light to begin researching.

2. Put in the miles
“We hopped on a plane so we could see Dia de Muertos first-hand,” he says. That trip presaged further travels in Mexico. The team took thousands of photos, stayed with families and recruited staff with Mexican heritage.

3. Find the story
The core of the story came quickly, even if its hero was called Marco back then. “Our films often go on circuitous paths,” Unkrich says. “At its core, Coco is a celebration of family and heritage.” The main challenge was finding the best way to its emotional finale, an early fixture.

4. Break new ground
Dia de Muertos is not, Unkrich is clear, a “Mexican Halloween”. The film’s skeletons had to be friendly rather than scary. “I made the decision early on to give them eyeballs, because the eyes are the windows to the soul.”

5. Be surprising
No other Pixar film has depended so heavily on its songs. “I had O Brother, Where Art Thou? as a model,” says Unkrich. “It’s not a musical, but you can’t really separate the music from the movie. We’ve talked about doing a musical for years – it may still happen.” Here’s hoping.
Coco is showing in cinemas across the UAE.

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