Man, I love me a good Pixar film. They’ve singlehandedly produced some of the most impactful and gorgeous animated films ever made, and despite a recent trend of making unnecessary sequels (Monsters University and Finding Dory) or derivatively pleasant romps (Brave and The Good Dinosaur), Pixar is following up this year’s Cars 3 with…a rip-off of The Book of Life.
Yes, the trailer for Pixar’s newest film Coco takes place during the Die de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, the setting for the underseen and excellent animated feature The Book of Life from 2014. And I know that animated movies take a long time to make and Coco was probably being made long before The Book of Life came out, but this isn’t the first time Pixar has found themselves in the awkward position of copying another animated film. This is, however, the first time they’ve finished the film.
Back in 2008, Pixar announced a film called Newt that would be a sort of romantic comedy about the last male and female of a species of newts that are forced to mate and save the species. Not the most family-friendly idea, sure, but this was back when Pixar was batting a thousand so nobody batted an eye. But the movie was delayed, and in that delay, two other movies about animals being forces to repopulate their species despite their differences were released: Alpha and Omega, which nobody saw, and Rio, which was played around the country by demanding seven-year-olds to the chagrin of mothers everywhere. Both of these movies are mediocre at best, but they were similar enough, and, in the case of Rio, popular enough to put the nail in Newt’s coffin. So why didn’t this happen with Coco after the release of The Book of Life? Possibly because it didn’t make a lot of money, but I have another idea: even when derivative, animating the Day of the Dead looks amazing.
Featuring voice performances by Gael Garcia Bernal and Benjamin Bratt, Coco is the story of a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who wishes to be a musician despite his family’s generation-old ban on the art form. While he pursues his dream, Miguel finds himself in the Land of the Dead where he is forced to discover the real history behind his family. It’s simple enough stuff, and having Toy Story 3’s Lee Unkrich at the helm does not hurt, but much like a lot of Pixar’s recent work, the big selling point of the movie doesn’t seem to be the story, but instead the visuals.
The character and set design in this film looks like some of the best that Pixar has ever done, and the actual animation of the film looks to be top-notch. So even if Coco turns out to be yet another film that doesn’t live up to Pixar’s high standards of storytelling, it will definitely be one of the most visually stunning film of the year, and that alone does get me excited, even if that excitement is very much tempered.
Disney Pixar’s Coco will be released on November 22nd, 2017.