Coco is, quite possibly, Pixar’s most colorful and beautifully animated feature to date. Disney’s Multi-Screen Edition contains the film on Blu-ray and DVD, plus an extra Blu-ray disc full of extras, and a digital copy to boot.
The Production: 4/5
Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) desperately wants to be a musician, but his family of shoemakers has forbidden music of any kind ever since his great-great grandfather abandoned the family to pursue a career of music, leaving Miguel’s great-great grandmother Imelda (Alanna Ubach) to raise their daughter Coco by herself. To make matters worse, the family has all but erased all memory of this supposedly deadbeat father, refusing to mention his name and removing him from all family photos, leaving only Imelda posing with Coco and a torso of her husband in the photo the family displays every year during Dia de los Muertos. Miguel, though, is a determined and rather stubborn young boy, teaching himself guitar by watching old movies starring the town’s music legend Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) and shining the shoes of the town’s mariachis. The town holds an annual music festival in the town square on the evening of Dia de los Muertos in honor of de la Cruz, but when Miguel’s grandmother Abuelita (Renee Victor) finds out that Miguel wants to enter, she destroys his guitar as Miguel mistakenly takes the photo of Coco and her parents and runs away. Needing a guitar for the festival, Miguel breaks into de la Cruz’s shrine and steals his guitar, sending him to the land of the dead. Miguel finds his deceased family, who offer him their blessing as a way to return home, provided he drops all aspirations of music forever. Refusing to do so, and believing that de la Cruz is his great-great grandfather, Miguel begins a journey to find him and ask for his blessing, joined by Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), who will disappear from the land of the dead forever as memories of him in the land of the living have been fading and are just about non-existent. Miguel must find de la Cruz and get his blessing before dawn, or be stuck in the land o the dead forever.
I had rather low expectations of Coco based on early trailers and the subject matter. This was a movie centered around a Mexican holiday that some find a bit creepy, plus it was a musical, something Pixar had always shied away from. It is also subject matter that I do not think may be appropriate for younger children (especially when Miguel discovers the true nature of de la Cruz). The story is also very predictable – it was rather obvious to me who Hector was shortly after he was introduced, and had a solid hunch about de la Cruz. It is the very colorful production design during Miguel’s journey in the land of the dead and the overall fluid and often lifelike animation of its characters. Coco, although not photo-realistic, is a marvelously and realistically animated human character in her subtle movements and facial expressions, as is Miguel. The movie also quite often reminded me of the old LucasArts computer game, Grim Fandango, which was an often darkly comic mystery game set in the land of the dead. Coco is a technical achievement for Pixar, but lacks a strong storyline that is the studio’s trademark.
3D Rating: NA
Although Disney is releasing Coco day and date in 4K UHD Blu-ray, a review copy did not arrive on time. And that is a shame, because I kept saying to myself as I viewed the film on Blu-ray, that this looks great for a Blu-ray, I can only imagine how much more colorful the UHD version would be. That is pretty high praise for this disc, if you think about it. Presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and AVC-encoded at 1080p, this is most definitely a reference quality transfer for the format. Colors are rich and vibrant without blooming or banding. Detail is exquisite, from the fine hairs on Miguel’s head to fabric textures in the costumes, grain in the wooden desks, the minute decorations in the make-up on the characters populating the land of the dead, to the fur on Dante and the various animal spiritual guides. Contrast is excellent from the bright whites of the bones of the dead to the deep blacks in the darkened passageways.
Coco on Blu-ray defaults to an English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 track encoded at 2.0 Mbps. There are also DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English tracks to choose from in addition to Dolby Digital 5.1 options in Spanish and French and Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio. I viewed the film in my 5.1.2 Atmos room and selected the 7.1 DTS-HD MA track with Dolby Surround activated on my Denon receiver. The result was a nicely immersive experience. The front soundstage was wide and expansive, with dialogue panning along with the character’s movements on screen. Surrounds were very active, adding atmosphere such as crowd noise during quieter passages and more discrete effects like the spiritual guides flying overhead during more active sequences. Dynamic range is excellent, adding greater fidelity to much of the music and songs featured in the film. Dialogue is always clear and takes priority over other elements in the mix. I just wish Disney would start including Dolby Atmos or DTS:X soundtracks rather than the numerous, and often redundant additional mixes (7.1, 5.1, 2.0, etc.) on these more recent theatrical releases.
Special Features: 4/5
This is a three disc set, with the feature on both DVD and Blu-ray, and the bonus features spread over the two Blu-ray discs (one is dedicated solely to special features).
Feature Disc (Blu-ray)
Feature Commentary: Director Lee Unkrich, Co-Director Adrian Molina, and Producer Anderson discuss the making of the film, their research trips to Mexico, and various other aspects of the production.
Welcome to the Fiesta (1080p; 2:16): A “proof of concept” short showing the look of the film, with optional commentary.
Mi Familia (1080p; 10:00): Crew members discuss many of the odd and strange rules their families had while growing up.
Dante (1080p; 6:14): A look at the design of Miguel’s street dog and the hairless Xolo street dogs that inspired him.
How to Draw a Skeleton (1080p; 3:18): As the name implies, a quick demonstration on how to sketch a simple skeleton.
Bonus Disc (Blu-ray)
A Thousand Pictures a Day (1080p; 20:03): A look at the crew’s research trips to Mexico.
The Music of Coco (1080p; 13:12): The crew discusses the music in the film.
Land of Our Ancestors (1080p; 6:19): A look at the production design of the land of the dead.
Fashion Through the Ages (1080p; 8:39): A look at the costume designs for the film.
The Real Guitar (1080p; 3:08): Designing the guitar used in the film.
Paths to Pixar: Coco (1080p; 11:44): Several crew members discuss their dreams and ambitions and how they found a job at Pixar.
How to Make Papel Picado (1080p; 2:19): A very quick demonstration on how to create the cut-out paper designs featured prominently in the opening and closing credits as well as throughout the film.
You Got the Part! (1080p; 2:12): Anthony Gonzalez was originally brought in to scratch voice the character of Miguel, and this short documents how he was notified that he officially got the part of Miguel.
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 33:07): Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina introduce seven scenes, shown in storyboard form, that didn’t make it to animation – Dia de los Muertos, The Way of the Riveras, Celebrity Tour, The Bus Escape, Alebrije Attack, The Family Fix, and To the Bridge.
Feeling – US Trailer #1 (1080p; 2:12)
Dante’s Lunch – Web Exclusive Trailer (1080p; 1:56)
Destiny – Mexico Trailer (1080p; 2:34)
Journey – Brazil Trailer (1080p; 2:01)
Belong – Australia Trailer (1080p; 2:13
Un Poco Coco Promo (1080p; 3:05)
Feature: The film in 480p with English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio, and Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish tracks.
Bonus Features: Only the audio commentary and Dante are included on this DVD version.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere.
Coco earns high marks mostly for its technical achievements rather than its story content. Video and audio are reference quality, as expected on a Disney/Pixar release.