At first glance, viewers will see “Coco” as a beautiful story full of of passion, adventure and music. However, when they reflect on it later, they’ll wonder, “Wait, haven’t I seen this before?”
“Coco” is Disney’s latest movie, which tells of a boy named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) who dreams to become a world-renowned musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). This dream isn’t easy to accomplish, however, because Miguel’s family has a generations-old ban on music since Miguel’s great-great-musician grandfather walked out on the family.
Miguel is so passionate about music that he’s willing abandon his family and break and enter the “tomb house” of Ernesto de la Cruz to steal his guitar. This sends him to The Land of the Dead on the night of El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), where he becomes a sort of concentrated ghost.
Determined to find out the truth behind his family’s ancient music ban and to prove his love and talent for music, he sets out on a whirlwind adventure which includes falling into swimming pools while playing the guitar, being thrown hundreds of feet into an underground cave and realizing that the bad guy isn’t always the ugly one.
While the story is heartwarming, it’s impossible to ignore the stark similarities between “Coco” and “The Book of Life,” which was produced by Reel FX Creative Studios and 20th Century Fox in 2014.
Although “The Book of Life” is centered around a love story and “Coco” is not, both are very family and music oriented and follow a similar plot of a musician, who goes on adventure through the Land of the Dead on El Dia de los Muertos, wishing to prove himself.
There has been controversy over which studio had the idea first. Even though “Book of Life” was released three years before “Coco,” “Coco” was first pitched in 2012, a few months before “Book of Life” started production. Disney also attempted to trademark the phrase “Dia de los Muertos” across multiple platforms to protect its upcoming film and announced predominantly white producers and animators for “Coco” in 2015. “The Book of Life” included Mexican producers and a Mexican director, and people have turned against Disney. Disney had already gotten backlash for “Beauty and the Beast” last March when a minor character was revealed to have an “exclusively gay moment” at the end of the movie.
Perhaps surprisingly, “Coco” also reflects “Moana,” which Disney released in November 2016. Both Miguel and Moana feel ostracized from their family because of their passions for what they are forbidden from and set off on dangerous adventures to find out the truth about their ancestors.
“Coco” runs for 1 hour and 49 minutes and is rated PG.
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