Disney/Pixar COCO opens in theaters everywhere on November 22nd!
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.
I recently attended the Los Angeles Disney/Pixar Press event and Press junket. The event included the movie premiere and stunning pre party. The press junket included several interviews and a peek at some exciting Coco themed products. Just like the movie, both days felt like an incredible celebration of family. One of our interviews was with Gael Garcia Bernal (voice of “Hector”). Gael Garcia Bernal was a pleasure to talk with, kind, and very generous with his answers, as you will read in the highlights below.
Q: What made you want to be a part of this film?
GB: I received an email that said, ‘Pixar wants you in a movie about day of the dead.’ Of course I want to be..I want to be in it and I went into a meeting with Lee and Adrian and Darla and they told me what the movie was gonna be about and it was a really wonderful meeting. I was there with my daughter as well and they were very kind because they brought my daughter some Finding Dory…
They just told me what the movie was about, they told me because there was no script at that point. They showed me some little images of who the character was gonna be, how he was gonna look, who was gonna be Miguel, who were the actors that were involved a little bit. And also they showed me a little clip. They animate certain interviews or shows or films you’ve done and they put those dialogues into Hector, you know, and so there’s, this interview I did with Chelsea Handler. And they put it as if Hector was going on the show with Chelsea. So, they showed me that and it was really funny.
Q: So, it was an easy decision?
GB: It was so easy, I mean of course it was like, it was daunting the fact that I had to sing but I like the challenge of it. I was a little like, ‘oh, okay. Let’s see ,’ I mean I was counting on my postal code you know, coming from Guadalajara you know, I think that’s why we are able to do those shouts, those mariachi gritos because if you’re not from there it’s very difficult to do it. You have to be born with it or something, I don’t know, it’s one of the things ‘okay, that I can do.’ Sing properly? Maybe not.
Q: Mexico is very culturally rich, with this movie is there something other than learning about the day of the dead that you would hope people will take away?
GB: Some of you must be very familiar with day of the dead celebration. But if you’re not, then you saw the day of the dead celebration or tradition is a very open and very generous. Anything you want to put into the alter is welcome. Anything personal, it invites a very personal point of view, the day of the dead, it’s a reflection on death and nobody has the definite answer on what happens after you die, no?
As a little skull with your name on it, and you put yourself on the same level and stuff to reflect on death and life and a very kind of, just really like an open question, no? And, it is something that I feel so lucky to have been born with a family that always put them out, so the memory, the stories, the storytelling, the tradition behind it. You know, the reflections on life and death, it is a great way to find a personal question and a personal answer to that. It just shows the complexity of a tradition that is incredibly deep and incredibly profound and necessary. Because ultimately this reflection leads you to be a better human being, you know, leads you to be a better, to build a better society, leads you to build a better future as well to live life in a much more you know, essential way. And that’s what I think this film shows about Mexico. But, this film also gives us a sense of like, we have to trust that, we have to trust that complexity and that you have to invite the world in this reflection, as well. Because it is an important one, I think to wonder what happens, you know, and how do we keep the memory alive, how do we keep people alive with their memories, with stories and I don’t know.
Q: How are you teaching your own daughter now about day of the dead traditions?
GB: Well that’s the thing because it is a very open ceremony. I mean you start building the alter for example, and you put your dead people there, and I put this time in with the alter we put photographs. We put some books that we like, we put some toys, we put up a lot of food.
A lot of little pieces that we found, Lego pieces, stuff like that you know. And they start to reflect on them when they invite their kids, and their friends to see the alter and stuff and they start to explain it to them. It is really interesting what they tell them. So it is a great way to engage into that conversation with kids, as well.
Q: You’re playing a skeleton in the movie…are their any of your own characteristics, mannerisms in the animation?
GB: Yeah because they have a camera when you’re recording and sometimes they use certain things that you do and certain ways that you do it, so yes. There were certain things that are my own or because at the time Lee asked us to be very expressive about it because everything that we do helps when constructing the character.
Q: The movie also talks about seizing your moments. So, what is the biggest seize your moment in your life until now?
GB: Well, I mean and this is a very personal opinion about seizing the moment. I think that what’s nice about the movie is that it shows De La Cruz having that you know, let’s say that flag, now? Carrying the flag of seizing your moment and I think it has been one of the most damaging aspects of western society, the notion of seizing the moment. It has made us burn the forests that we have in front of us, you know, it has made us live the now as if there was no tomorrow. As if we’re not engaging with a responsibility that freedom gives us to know that there’s a future and there’s people that will come after. And it is not a rush, life is more, it’s more a craft.
Little by little, it’s built little by little and seizing the moment sometimes makes you fall into a trap that it is now or never, you know. And there’s moments that it is now or never but you know when that is, it’s not that there’s a rule that you have to follow that path. I think it has been very damaging that notion. And it is interesting that in the film it kind of comes in play, at play. (edited to not share spoilers) And because it can happen like that, it is not about you only, it’s about future. (edited to not share spoilers) To have that responsibility of engaging in the future and it is something that we need to do. Because I mean come on, I mean from every single aspect in your life to even more broad aspects like climate change and stuff, I mean that it is not about seizing the moment, living in the now, but we need to know that there is a future. And that we have to engage, we’re existentialist beings you know, it’s much more engaging to answer the question of ‘who do you want to be?’ then what, ‘who you are.’ You know?
Q: How was it like recording with your own daughter?
GB: Ah, it was beautiful, it was beautiful, it’s gonna be one of those moments that… acting definitely gives you so many moments of, ‘we’re so lucky, you know, I’m so lucky to be doing this job,’. I never thought that was gonna happen. I love this experience. And then you get a chance to have a beautiful postcard for life. You know, this is gonna be something that my daughter one day will see when she’s, I don’t know, sixty. And it will be really fun for her to remember and to hear ourselves there, and it was such a great opportunity. And also she was really happy to do it but also like to say, ‘I just put it out there and that’s it.’ ‘I don’t want to do anything more.’ You know, she was very good at also saying, not feeling very comfortable you know. And it was like, ‘great.’
You know, it’s good but, she just recorded and so, it was really fun. Yeah, it is wonderful, what can I say, it’s such a, what a gift, no? I mean and with such a beautiful movie.
Like COCO on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PixarCoco
Follow COCO on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pixarcoco
Follow COCO on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pixarcoco/
Visit the official COCO website here: http://movies.disney.com/coco
COCO opens in theatres everywhere on November 22nd!
Watch for more on Disney/Pixar’s COCO to be shared here soon, including interviews with the other cast and film makers, and a look at fun, new Coco products.
Disclosure: Travel, lodging, events, and meals during this trip were provided courtesy of Disney/Pixar, Disney Studios, & ABC. All opinions expressed are still honest and my own.