Disney/Pixar’s “Coco” is an authentically appealing winner.
The animated smash soared to a $71.2 million domestic debut to win the five-day holiday frame, topping such superhero behemoths as “Justice League” and “Thor: Ragnarok,” according to studio estimates Sunday. “Coco” grossed $49 million for the three-day domestic weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, and has now pulled in a total of $153.4 million worldwide.
Pixar films have never been shy about death. The “Toy Story” films are, in part, about mortality. The poetic highlight of “Up” is a wordless sequence of a spouse’s passing. The Earth, itself, was left for dead in “Wall-E.”
But Pixar plunges fully into the afterlife in “Coco,” a brightly colored fable surrounding the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
8 fascinating facts you need to know about Pixar’s ‘Coco’:
1. The imagery of skeletons and graves in a kids’ movie might have put off other animation studios. But director Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3,” “Monsters, Inc.”) envisioned a film about family heritage and keeping alive the memories of deceased loved ones so they aren’t, as he says, “just fading photos in an album.”
2. It’s also a celebration of Mexico, as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a musician. But after a feud with his family, he slips into a wondrous netherworld where he depends on his long-dead ancestors to restore him to the land of the living.
3. “Coco” is Pixar’s first feature film with a minority lead character, and one of the largest American productions ever to feature an almost entirely Latino cast (among them Benjamin Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal). That makes it something of a landmark event, one that has already set box-office records in Mexico where it opened several weeks early.
4. It took a lot of homework and a lot of outreach for Pixar to convince Latinos that the production wasn’t just big-budget cultural appropriation. Such fears spiked when Disney tried to trademark “Dia de los Muertos” in 2013. After a backlash, the studio abandoned the effort.
5. Charting a different path, Pixar brought in cultural consultants, including playwright Octavio Solis and cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, who had been critical of the trademark bid. Unkrich retailored the film’s approach, doubling down on efforts to create an authentic celebration of Mexican folklore, traditions and music.
6. Hispanics are one of the largest demographics of regular moviegoers, yet they are seldom catered to. They last year accounted for 23 percent of frequent moviegoers in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
7. Mexican music, too, plays a central role in the film. For that, composer Michael Giacchino (“Up,” ”Ratatouille”) collaborated with Mexican-American composer Germaine Franco. A research team was dispatched to Mexico City to bring back musical styles from throughout the country. And DJ and producer Camilo Lara served as musical consultant.
8. The whole production, from the initial pitch to completion, took six years.