Coco Exclusive: Anthony Gonzalez (Miguel) & Alanna Ubach (Mama Imelda) Interview #PixarCocoEvent

I agree with the critics, “Pixar’s Coco is the must see movie of the season”. I have seen it twice already, and am looking forward to seeing it again in a few weeks with friends. Such a beautiful and engaging film. Entertaining for the whole family. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Coco is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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 for COCO. A highlight of the press junket was meeting with and interviewing Anthony Gonzalez (voice of Miguel) & Alanna Ubach (voice of Mama Imelda). They were both so engaging, and genuinely excited to talk about the film. They both even sang for us, right on the spot, it was amazing. I have a feeling we are going to be seeing and hearing a lot more from Anthony in the future, he is one talented young man. One thing I really enjoyed during this junket was that EVERYONE involved with bringing Coco to the screen has a personal attachment to the film, and has been very passionate and excited about it. With good reason. If you’ve seen the film – you already know. Wow.

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Q: You’ve been working on this movie for years. What was it like to see it in a theater with family and an audience?
AG: It was just amazing. It shows all of the work that all these people have been putting in to it. I just love it, and I can’t wait for everyone else to see it.

Q: Besides Miguel, is there any other character you would have liked to played?
AG: Oh, ah. Dante. He’s very funny. I love it. I love his tongue.

Q: What was it like to see your character once it was drawn? Were you like: “They definitely got that from me”?
AG: Yeah. The first time I saw Miguel, I was actually very surprised, “Oh, we look alike,”. And just to be a part of a Disney-Pixar movie is just a dream of mine. I have been watching these movies since very little. And to be in one right now is just amazing.

Q: Would you say that you would like to seize the moment?
AG: Oh. I love to seize my moments!

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Q: What is your biggest moment so far?
AG: My biggest moment so far. I loved singing a lot for a lot of commercials and movies and press. I got to sing for Coco and it’s just so much singing as Miguel. I had so much fun singing the wonderful lyrics, and it was just so much being Miguel. I had so much fun with the Grito. Especially that scene where Hector is teaching me about the Grito, I’m like, “oh, no, I don’t know about this.” I just really loved doing Gritos.

Q: Speaking of singing, both of your voices pierced my soul. Would you feel comfortable singing for us?
AU: Sure. Oh, my goodness. This is really fun. I like to sing it to my son before he goes to sleep, and I have a 12-week old at home.

Alanna Ubach sang us a cute little song in Spanish. Her singing voice, is spectacular. Right on cue with no warming up.

AU: My mother used to sing it to me. Mi mama es de Sinaloa Mi papa de Puerto Rico (my mom is from Sinaloa {Mexico} my dad is from Puerto Rico). And, both of them knew that song. And it’s about trying to coax a burrito, a little donkey, to get up the hill. It’s like, “Come on little donkey, get up the hill, so you can have your corn.” That’s what it’s about. It’s ridiculous.

AG: I’ll just sing Remember Me. Okay.

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Q: What would you tell other children that might be inspired to become an actor?
AG : Thankfully, I had the support of all of my parents and my siblings, so it was very easy to me, to do what I love. So what I tell all the people who really just have a hobby, or just love what they do. I love singing, and I love to act. So what I really did is just never give up, and really do my best, and do what I love, and no one can stop me.

Q: How were you discovered?
AG : Actually, I never thought I would be an actor. I would start going to this television show where I would read books in Spanish with all my siblings and other kids. And one day a director was present, and she thought that me and my brothers would be great actors, so she gave us an agent, and I’ve been with him since I was four years old, and here I am.

Q: And Alanna, as a mom, why do you feel this movie is important for parents?
AU: I think it just paints such an exquisite picture of the afterlife, and when my son is old enough to see this film, he’ll be able to say, “Mama, if this is what the afterlife is like, I’m not afraid of death.” It’s just as beautiful as birth.

Q: How would you like him to remember you?
AU: How would I like him to remember me? That I sang him funny, silly little songs, and that I loved him with my very soul. He breaks my heart every single day. He gets a hammer to my heart and pounds on it, and then hands it back to me, and then it takes me 23 hours to put it back together all over again, and then the following day he does the same thing. He’s my life. He really is my life. And I hope he remembers — that he was my life.

AU: He’s just everything to me. I never thought in a million years, that I would have such a love for this little potted plant, who is my life right now. But he’s just starting to engage and laugh. And in the middle of the night — he has a bit of a cold — so, I keep sleeping next to a broken Volkswagen right now. So I turned over and he’s like this: loud sniffing noise. Who else do you get up at five o’clock in the morning and say, I’m going to take a hot, steaming shower with this little, potted plant? And my husband rolls over, and he’s like, “What are you doing, you’re taking a shower right now? Isn’t your call time 10:30?” And I say, “No, I have to get him better.” So, sure enough, we took a hot, steamy shower together, my little boy and I. And in the morning, everything was cleared out, so I highly recommend a hot, steamy shower for a little three-month old with a cold. Yeah.

Q: What was it like to sit next to your husband, who was weeping in disbelief, and to see yourself on film?
AU: It was so surreal. I was sitting in between my mother, who is 78 years old. And my husband. So, between the two of them I — you know. It’s too bad that I didn’t bring Kleenex, because I would have been like this (moves her hands over her eyes). Would have been great arm exercise. But he was just floored, he was just floored, and he didn’t really know that I could sing like that. I mean, he’ll hear me in the shower, but this was really important. And my mother used to tell me about this story of llorona. So, it was a big surprise for her to hear this song that I sang, because it’s about that woman, and it is about that character that she used to talk about when I was a little girl.

Q: Can you talk about something that you feel is like her, personality-wise.
AU: This is based on my tia Flora. When I was a little girl, I remember her inflections. She was very grand. She was a very ornate character, and such an important figure growing up when I was a little girl, because, I remembered, it being eight o’clock in the morning, she had a full face of makeup on constantly, and she always wore her high heels. At Christmas time it was — you know. When she entered the room, she was, “Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad!!” It was so — I mean, I was so put off by her as a little girl, because she was just too much, but now as a woman in my early forties, I can look at this woman with such respect. She had such passion. She was the DNA of my family, and she was very passionate and had this stoicism that was so admirable when I was a kid, growing up. I never forgot her inflections. To me, she was very sing-song-y, and she spoke the way she spoke Spanish when she spoke English, and so I thought, ah, I’m going to make this character. I’m going to base it her on – after my tia Flora.

Q: What was the biggest challenge when putting that together in your head, re: how you wanted to portray her?
AU: Walking into the sessions on my own. Thank goodness, you have Lee and Darla as your — the angels on your shoulder. Because their passion for this, for this piece, is so infectious that even if you’re tired, and you’re just coming off of a plane, and you’re stepping foot in the headquarters of Pixar for the first time, it is a little intimidating, but they make you feel so welcome. You can’t help but want to do your most, your best work possible, when doing this. Because they showed us the sculptures of these characters. It really did help to actually not meet Gael and Benjamin in person, because I was just given these figurines of them. So it made it even more magical to actually portray, because you’re actually looking at these figurines, rather than the person that you are star struck by. And you want to say, “I loved you in Y Tu Mama Tambien, you were amazing in that.” So, it really did help to just be given the sculpture. I’m pretty sure I would have been a little too star struck and nervous to act with him. So, there you go.

Q: And now you can say you were married to him?
AU: I can say I was married to him. Very exciting. I will be the most envied girl in America, and beyond, in Latin America!

Q:Do you celebrate Day of the Dead?
AG: Yes. I do celebrate the Day of the Dead, and like the time I actually started celebrating was when my grandfather passed away. He was very special to me, because he was always there for me, and he would just be so funny, and he was always there to support me in what I loved to do, which was sing. So starting when I was six year old, he passed away. I would love to celebrate the Day of the Dead, because it was a day where I could be with him, and connect with him once again, and that’s why I loved this joyful celebration. And I can’t believe I’m part of a movie that celebrates and shows this wonderful celebration.

Q: How are you balancing school work and social time with friends with this?
AG: Well, one of my big dreams was to be home schooled, and I finally got to be home schooled. And I love it, because I get to act more, and I get to sing more, and that’s why I wanted to be home schooled, because I’d get to pursue my dream more.

Q: Anthony, what is a characteristic that your grandpa had that you hope you are able to embody?
AG: Well, a characteristic he had — he was very silly and funny. He would tell me jokes. And he would just joke around with me. “Oh, you can’t do pushups.” And then I would go down and go do pushups. We had a very good bond together, and that’s why I just love celebrating the Day of the Dead.

Q: What traits do you feel you share with Miguel?
AG: I feel like me and Miguel just both want to pursue our dreams, like, Miguel. Miguel looks at his idol, like he wants to be just like him. That’s the quote he says — “I want to be just like him.” I have a lot of singing idols and acting idols. I want to be just like them, too. So I’m very similar to Miguel, because we both just love the music. We both care about of our families, a lot, and we know how important that celebration of Dia de Los Muertos is. That’s what I love most about really doing the voice of this awesome character.

Q: What has all of this been like for your parents?
AG: It’s been a complete blessing for me and my parents. Especially my mom. She’s so happy. And every time she sees the movie, I turn around, and she’s crying. She’s just so happy, and she can’t believe I’m in a Disney-Pixar movie, and I can’t believe it too. She’s been an incredible support to me.

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Q: What do you hope audiences get from watching?
AG: What I hope that the audience gets from watching this wonderful movie is, basically, like a secret passion that they have, to share it with the world, and do what they want, to do in life, and do what they love, and to really, know about the wonderful culture, Mexican culture, and the wonderful celebration of the Day of the Dead. And maybe, who knows, maybe they will start celebrating, because it’s a universal celebration.

AU: It was so important for Pixar to make this movie, because, to me, it really does respect the one important quality that Latin and Latin Americans have, and that is the importance of family. That it can never be broken. No borders or presidents or politics can ever break the bond of familia.

coco movie

You can read my review of Disney/Pixar’s Coco here, and print free Coco activity sheets here.

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COCO is now playing in theaters everywhere!

Watch for more on Disney/Pixar’s COCO to be shared here soon, including interviews with the other cast and film makers.

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.


  1. Oh my gosh, they look like such fun people! I really loved reading about their experiences working on the film. Smiles for days! I love it.

  2. This movie has been getting so much press lately – I feel like I need to see what all the fuss is about!!! Releasing a movie around the holidays is ALWAYS a smart move!

  3. What an awesome opportunity and an equally awesome interview! It’s unbelievable the amount of work that goes into a film like this.

  4. I am totally ready to see this movie! I just love how vivid and colorful it is not to mention the music.

  5. I’ve been thinking about seeing this movie. You have convinced me!

  6. This sounds like a great interview. A lot of great questions. I can’t wait to see this movie. I see it’s out now too, and I’d love to take my girls to see it.

  7. Ruth I. says:

    I love this fun interview, it must have been amazing to sit and talk with them. I am planning to see the movie in the weekend, I know it will be worth it.

  8. I have to sit and watch this movie. Seems like a fun family film!

  9. My husband and older son got a chance to go see this movie last week. I can’t wait to see it myself. It sounds like a fantastic movie.

  10. Wow, what a fun interview to take part in. They sound like nice people! We can’t wait for the movie.

  11. Mary Edwards says:

    I can’t wait to see this. I’ve heard such great reviews from so many people.

  12. I have heard so many great things about this movie. My daughter and I watched the trailer together. She is five and this is the perfect movie for us. We can’t wait to see it.

  13. sara lafountain says:

    My daughter and I plan to see Coco this weekend. What an amazing opportunity you had by visiting this movie screening.

  14. My kids really loved this movie! Anthony did a nice job with Coco. I didn’t even think about it that there was a real kid behind the scenes doing the singing for the character. It was an impressive performance!

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