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‘Coco’ producer involved in paradigm shift for animation

Profile image for Preston Barta
Preston Barta

Disney-Pixar released Coco on Blu-ray last week, and it arrived with hours of bonus content to make any Disney buff (like myself) squirm with delight.

What remains so special about Disney movies is that they manage to find the right balance between entertaining children and providing a lesson-filled adventure that adults can get behind. Kids may wear out their home entertainment systems by watching the movie over and over again, but maybe as parents, we can sneak in the supplemental material to learn more about the culture and stories that inspired it.

The Blu-ray for Coco includes many featurettes that break down the carefully calculated process. As we've seen in years past, Disney’s relationship with historical and cultural accuracy has been a tad askew. But it's been wonderful to see how much they’ve grown as a company and have handled criticism. Now it's apparent they seek different stories with the power to teach our youth about history and to empathize with others — a positive and necessary turn of events.

In Coco, the Day of the Dead-inspired story takes us beyond the prior works of Disney-Pixar and sends us on a journey to unlock the familial mysteries surrounding a young inspiring musician in Mexico.

To producer Darla K. Anderson, who's been with Pixar since its formative years with Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, it’s important to embody world views as faithfully as possible.

“The first consultant I brought on externally was Marcela Davison Aviles. She told me, ‘You’re never going to make everybody happy. It’s time to grow some thick skin and recognize that.’ She said that about five years ago, and it has stuck with me ever since,” Anderson said during a recent interview. “You want to try to get all the details right, but you need to know that you won’t please everybody. The key is to have a good attitude and have respect for the material and workplace.”

Darla K. Anderson
Darla K Anderson is photographed on February 5, 2014 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. Disney - Pixar
Darla K. Anderson Darla K Anderson is photographed on February 5, 2014 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. 
Disney - Pixar

That respect clearly shows on the screen, as Pixar has been recognized for capturing traditions and beliefs that don't often find their way in mainstream cinema. Hearing stories about the lengths Pixar went to keep the film culturally accurate — including employing Mexican sketch artist Ana Ramirez (who we spoke to last year) further illustrates their devotion.

“One person can make a huge difference. As an intern, [Ramirez] really impressed us, because we brought her back in after she finished school. It’s been so great to have her on the team,” Anderson said. “During the making of Coco, she spoke her mind and did a lot of research, as well as brought her own unique artistic expression. But perhaps what’s most special is she connected us with her family and values.”

As vital as it was for Anderson to produce a film infused in Hispanic culture, it was equally as key to incorporate universal themes for all audiences to pull familiarity from.

“To make something that’s individually unique and has the ability to connect with everyone is difficult,” Anderson said. “As a producer, I’m involved from the early stages of sitting in the story room to the last shot being finalized. Telling a good story is just as difficult as it’s ever been.”

It’s long been a dream of Anderson to create works that inspire and have the capacity to shift societal boundaries. Considering the film was praised by critics and audiences far and wide, and was honored with two Academy Award nominations, I believe it’s safe to call Coco a dream come true.

Coco is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD and Digital HD.