Dan Guerrero -- Helping Pixar Get Coco’s Culture Just Right

Coco Disney Pixar

Disney Pixar's "Coco" 

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My favorite moment in the film

My favorite moment in the filmturns out to have been suggested by one of the advisory board and was robustly seconded by the other members – in the film the grandmother goes to fetch Miguel from the clutches of the mariachis who hang out in the town’s Mariachi Plaza (there’s one in Los Angeles too).  A stray dog follows Miguel around and the grandmother is trying to chase it away. 

The original script had the grandmother chase the dog away with a wooden spoon but the advisory board said “No, it has to be a chancla.”  A chancla is a sandal, but it is more than just foot ware -- the aim of mothers and grandmothers with these treacherous devices is legendary. 

We believe they can hurl them around corners and they never miss the misbehaving child. 

Because music is so central to the film, the movie starts with one of the coolest little moments that perfectly sets the stage for the entire effort – when the Disney logo and introductory clip that precedes every film they release comes up, the music is actually a Mariachi band playing “When You Wish Upon a Star.” 

But this movie has much more than just mariachi music. 

This is a much deeper dive into the culture and goes way beyond stereotypes.  Germaine Franco was one of the people responsible for the music on the film.  You can see her here with Dan at their fundraiser “A Very Coco Christmas” at the music school Dan supports. 

Germaine was credited with writing some of the music, some of the songs and orchestrations as well. 

This film embraces a variety of Mexican musical styles including Jarocho, Huapango and Ballada and they took great care to feature indigenous instruments whose sound adds to the authenticity of the film. 

If you are detecting a bit of biased reporting on my side, it’s because I loved this film so very much – and not just because it is very entertaining and spectacularly well made. 

I loved this film because of what it represents.  At a time in history when Latinos in the US are feeling a bit targeted, when prejudice against us seems to be on the rise,

Pixar Group

Pixar Group

Coco comes along and gives us a big morale boost, a strong sense of pride, and a deep satisfaction to know that our culture and our music can be embraced by companies as big and powerful as Pixar and Disney, and that much of America will finally get to see some very thoughtful portrayals of us as a people that go well beyond the stereotypes, that completely dismiss any condescension, and that deals with us as people from a proud and sophisticated culture worthy of respect. 

Thanks to Dan Guerrero, Lalo Alcaraz and the other members of the cultural advisory board, not to mention the co-director and co-writer Adrian Molina and those involved in the music such as Germaine Franco, we now have a wonderful cultural landmark to keep next to our hearts. 

I cannot recommend strongly enough that you go see Coco while it is still in the theaters – in larger cities with large Latino populations it is also available in Spanish. 

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About the author

Carlos E. Garcia

Carlos E. Garcia, a Latin Business Today, Partner: Research, Trends, Insights was born to Mexican immigrant parents, grew up in East Los Angeles and attended Pomona College, UC Berkeley and National University (BA, MA and MBA respectively).  He has over thirty years of experience in the field of US Hispanic consumer research, twenty one years at the helm of his own company, Garcia Research.  Most recently  SVP at GfK: Knowledge Networks, where he headed up their Hispanic research efforts. He's gone full circle and now back at the helm of Garcia Research, a Hispanic market and Multicultural-focused research firm.

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