was honored to be invited to the #PixarCocoEvent, a Disney press junket for Disney Pixar COCO, Big Hero 6 Baymak Returns, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Designated Survivor, and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. As a guest, my expenses were covered in return for a series of articles about my experiences and reviews of the programming.
While making the Disney Pixar COCO movie, the creators started on the music earlier than they have with many other movies. That was one of the first things I learned when sitting down with Michael Giacchino (Composer), Germaine Franco (Songwriter/Arranger), Camilo Lara (Consultant), Adrian Molina (Writer and Co-Director) & Federico Ramos (Guitarist) this past August to discuss the Mexican music in the Disney Pixar Coco movie and that influenced the Coco songs. In Coco, music isn’t just something that accompanies the movie it’s a main focus of the movie. It helps to tell the story of Miguel in his own quest to become a Mexican musician. In my latest story for my #PixarCocoEvent series, I discuss the COCO music and its Mexican influences.
About Disney Pixar’s COCO
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
“COCO” was released in U.S. theaters on November 22, 2017 and is now playing in theaters.
5 Things to Know about the Mexican Music in the COCO Movie
I learned so much on my trips for the Disney Pixar COCO movie. Here are 5 things I want you to know about the Mexican music in the COCO movie.
There are three ways Mexican music was used in the Disney Pixar COCO music.
Adrian Molina story writer, codirector, and songwriter shared that Mexican music was used as source, score, and original music for the Disney Pixar COCO movie. Franco and musical consultant Camilo Lara of the music project Mexican Institute of Sound collaborated with cultural consultants Benjamín Juárez Echenque and Marcela Davison Avilés to create the music of Miguel’s world.
Source music is the music the characters hear being played by other musicians. In COCO, one example is the music we hear the mariachi musicians play in the Santa Cecilia town square. Miguel finds inspiration from those musicians that gives way to more source music and the original music we hear him play in his secret attic. The score is that background music that brings us from scene to scene and reflects the emotions of the character and the setting. Bonus tidbit: New Jersey native Michael Giacchino composed the score. Original music is all those new songs musicians and songwriters wrote specifically for the COCO movie. There are 5 original songs written for COCO.
Pixar went to Mexico and brought the top musicians into studios to record the music for COCO.
This past November the Pixar team, including Adrian Molina and Germaine Franco, spent four days in Mexico City, recording every style of traditional Mexican music from the top 50 musicians. Germaine, songwriter reflected that she told musicians, “I want you to play your sound and the way you would do it not anything else but that.” The result was this collection of Mexican music that the producers could call on for any scene in COCO regardless of the mood or action of that scene. That music also gave Pixar a way to infuse the Mexican music of different regions of Mexico and genres into the musical landscape of COCO.
There’s more to Mexican music than mariachi. Mexico has a rich genre of music.
With the music of COCO you can hear this range of styles that show us the richness of Mexican culture. Mexican music isn’t just mariachi. It’s banda, marimba, mariachi and son jarocho and so much more. The COCO songs pay homage to Mexican music by weaving the different styles of Mexican music into the movie. The COCO song soundtrack includes 35 COCO songs including these highlights:
- Un Poco Loco, a song in the son jarocho style of Mexican music with a mix of indigenous, African and Spanish musical elements.
- Everyone Knows Juanita is a humorous type of lullaby.
- The World Es Mi Familia is a Huapango-inspired song
- The main theme song, Remember Me, is a bolero ranchero-style song in honor of the Mexican Corrido style folk ballads of earlier times. Iit’s performed in a number of styles in COCO to represent different emotions.
Pixar animators animated the motions of the musicians in COCO to the motions of Mexican musicians as they played live.
It was important to Lee Unkrich that every motion of Miguel and the others playing in COCO would be accurate and feel authentic. All of the Mexican music performances from above were recorded for sound and picture, so that animators could duplicate finger movements on the guitar strings and the positions of the hands on the trumpets. As you watch songs being played it’s easy to get caught up in the COCO songs and feel like you are right there in the plaza or at Ernesto’s party. It also helps us appreciate the level of skill that Mexican musicians bring to their craft.
Unique and authentic Mexican music instruments were used for the COCO songs and music.
Creating COCO songs that were truly authentic to Mexican music required bringing in indigenous instruments that aren’t typically used in movie music. For example in the COCO song, Un Poco Loco, a jawbone rattle is used along with a harp to create the distinctive sounds in the song. You can hear a bit of this COCO song in the video below.
Other noteworthy instruments used in the COCO score include guitarrón, folkloric harp, a quijada, sousaphone, charchetas, jaranas, requintos, marimba, trumpets, and violins. Last August, an 83-piece orchestra was used to record the final score of Mexican music for COCO.
Learn more about the music of COCO in this video that talks more about the influence of Mexican music on the film.
Music, Mexican music can tell a story. It can stir up emotions and make you want to dance along to a beat. Expect to see all of that when you watch Disney Pixar COCO in theaters now!
Watch Disney Pixar COCO now playing at your local theater!
- Learn more about Animating Disney Pixar COCO in these articles
- What Makes Disney Pixar Coco so Special? #PixarCocoEvent
- Bringing the Disney Pixar Coco Skeletons to Life through Technology, Crafts, and Jokes
- Bringing Mexican Folk Art to Disney Pixar COCO with Alebrijes
- Get to know the talent behind Disney Pixar COCO with these Interviews with the cast and producers
- My COCO Benjamin Bratt (voice of “Ernesto de la Cruz”) interview
- My Gael Garcia Bernal (voice of “Hector”) interview
- My interview with Anthony Gonzalez (voice of “Miguel”) and Alanna Ubach (voice of “Mamá Imelda”)
- Thursday, 11/30 my COCO Edward James Olmos (voice of “Chicharron”) interview
Our #PixarCocoEvent series continues tomorrow with my story sharing the significance of “The Music of COCO”. You can get caught up with our #PixarCocoEvent series anytime by clicking on #PixarCocoEvent.
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