By Ankit Verma

Mailed on November 23, 2017

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Dear Brian Rankin
Safety and Security

Dear Brian,

Full disclosure: I'm only writing to you because your vague yet interesting job title will help shape my narrative when talking about Coco, Pixar's newest animated feature. You can go ahead and tune out now and do whatever security does at an animation studio.

Coco is Pixar's riskiest and safestrelease to date. How does that work, you ask? First, let's assess the risk.

Adapting a culture is always risky. By crafting a specific backdrop for the plot, filmmakers are really crafting perceptions. They use the music, food, decorations, traditions, and comforting minutiae that belongs to a distinct group and try to merge it with the values that audiences are generally accustomed to.

In the case of Coco, a story about a boy who is miraculously transported into the land of the dead during Día de los Muertos celebrations, you're not only taking a culture, but one of Mexico's most iconic holidays and trying to tell a story that will appeal to North American – and international - audiences. How would that come off to someone who isn't familiar with The Day of the Dead? Will someone who grew up in, say, Ohio understand Mexico's glorification of death? Many of us see death as a final, sad event. Not as a cause for celebration.

It's not only risky, it's borderline stupid, especially when you have a white director leading the charge in today's politically-charged climate where those of Latin heritage are under scrutiny. There's a high level of security that needs to be applied to ensure the safety of a culture.

See that, Brian? I'm bringing it all back to you!

So how does a movie like Coco jump from uncertain to safe?

Well that's where we get technical. As much of a gamble Coco is, it follows the formula that Pixar has established to ensure countless successes to a T. Coco employs this safe, tried and true method and doesn't attempt anything fancy; 'X' goes on a journey of self-discovery, only to find out that 'Y' is what's really important.

Coco; boy goes on a journey of self-discovery only to find out that family is what's really important.

Finding Nemo; father goes on a journey of self-discovery only to find out that trust is what's really important.

Wall-E; sentient trash robot goes on a journey of self-discovery only to find out that love is what's really important.

Plop any film into that formula, slap some overly-exaggerated facial features onto a lovable group of characters, and write your acceptance speech for your 'Best Animated Picture' Oscar.

And that's the thing about formulas. They work. They provide us with a sense of familiarity that eases us into the experience. Everyone knows how Pixar movies end and that reassurance allows us to relax and be swept away by the colours, the sounds, and the magic.

In other words, formulas make us feel safe.

Coco is a beautiful and heartwarming tale of love, life, and loss. As someone who is not of Mexican heritage, I cannot speak to the cultural accuracy of the film, but from what I experienced, I know the folks at Pixar tried their absolute best to keep the culture of Mexico and the Day of the Dead, safe and secure.

And something tells me that Coco already smashing Mexico 's box office record for highest grossing movie ever, means they did a pretty good job.



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