8 Amazing Details about the History & Significance of Dia de los Muertos

Elements of the family always have been part of Disney Pixar’s COCO from the initial pitch of the film in the fall of 2011. We sat down with the Adrian Molina (Writer & Co-Director of COCO) and Dean Kelly (Story Artists for COCO)  to discuss the History and Significance of Dia de los Muertos. The filmmakers wanted the film and the traditions to be “rooted in the real world” (Adrian Molina). They took research trips to Mexico to experience the culture and traditions of Dia de los Muertos.

Here are 10 details about the history and significance of Dia de los Muertos. All the details below came from the presentation from Adrian Molina and Dean Kelly. As with all Pixar films, research was crucial to making a beautiful film. They wanted to go beyond just setting the film during Dia de los Muertos and instead wanted Dia de los Muertos to be a crucial part of the story of COCO.

 

Dean Kelly and Adrian Molina present at “Coco” Long Lead Press Day, which included a filmmaker roundtable, presentations about the music, story, characters and set designs of the film, on August 4, 2017 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Marc Flores / Pixar)

Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos means the Day of the Dead.

Celebrated in Mexico Primarily

Dia de los Muertos is a heritage tradition that is celebrated primarily in Mexico.

Roots in Pre-Colonial History

The roots of Dia de los Muertos come from the indigenous pre-colonial history of Mexico.

Family Reunion

As part of the celebration, the souls of the dead are welcome back to the land of the living. The family is reunited with their loved ones. Dia de los Muertos is a grand family reunion. It is a time to be joyful and celebrate.

The Ofrenda

Dia de los Muertos has many rich traditions related to the celebration. The first of the traditions that is included in the film, COCO is the Ofrenda. It is an alter that is decorated to greet the spirits that are returning for Dia de los Muertos. Ofrenda means offering in Spanish. As such, the families leave offerings like food, drink, and items that the deceased loved ones loved in life. The items are there to nourish them after their long journey from the land of the dead to the land of the living.

 

Family Photos on the Ofrenda

Families display photos of their family members on Ofrenda. This keeps the family ever present. It helps inspire memories and stories of the family members.

The Marigold Path

The marigold path is a large part of the celebrations of Dia de los Muertos. It is a path of marigold petals that are meant to guide the ancestors to the cemetery or the home. It is said that the unique smell and the vibrancy of the petals help guide the spirits on their way. The marigold path is a symbol of the connection between generations.

 

Dia de los Muertos Cementary Vigil

Before Dia de los Muertos, the families will sweep and clean the cemetery plot of their ancestors. The entire community will come out in mass. It is a quiet occasion, but it is extremely joyous. It is a time for togetherness and reunion. The entire family even with the ancestors is coming together.

 

Glimpse of the Making of The Land of the Living and The Land of the Dead

During my trip to Pixar, I watched 38 minutes of the new film. In that short snippet, I was exposed to the beautiful imagery of both the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead. 

Land of the Dead 

The Land of the Dead was heavily influenced by the engraver, Jose Guadalupe Posada, the Mexican victoria era, and the city of Guanajuato in Mexico.  The skulls that are so iconic to the celebration are incorporated into the design of the city. The city is layered that has a network of tunnels under it. You can see the history of Mexico vertically showing that the early people that entered the Land of the Dead are shown at the bottom of the buildings while the top of the structures are more modern.

Sets Supervisor Chris Bernardi at “Coco” Long Lead Press Day, which included a filmmaker roundtable, presentations about the music, story, characters and set designs of the film, on August 3, 2017 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)
Director of Photography for Lighting Danielle Feinberg at “Coco” Long Lead Press Day, which included a filmmaker roundtable, presentations about the music, story, characters and set designs of the film, on August 3, 2017 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)
Danielle Feinberg presents at “Coco” Long Lead Press Day, which included a filmmaker roundtable, presentations about the music, story, characters and set designs of the film, on August 4, 2017 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Marc Flores / Pixar)

Marigold Grand Central Station

The Marigold Central Station was modeled after Grand Central Station in New York. The marigold bridge connects the two worlds of the land of the living and the land of the dead.

 

COCO – Concept art by Huy Nguyen. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Department of Family and Reunions

Victorian DMV that lends an air of authenticity because you can feel the bureaucracy.

 

The Land of the Living

The Riveria Compound has the family home and the Shoes Workshop. The land of the living is filled with imagery of the celebration of the  Dia de los Muertos. The colors are extremely warm in contrast to the cool colors of the Land of the Dead.

See The Land of the Dead & The Land of the Living in the New Trailer for COCO:

 

PIXAR*DISNEY COCO IN THEATERS NOVEMBER 22, 2017

FOLLOW COCO ON YOUR FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA:

FACEBOOK * TWITTER * INSTAGRAM * COCO WEBSITE

Stay tuned here on April Golightly for more Pixar’s COCO coverage!

 

 

Disclosure: I was invited by Disney to attend this all expense paid press trip but all opinions are 100% my own. Thanks so much! XOXO

*Photo credits: Deborah Coleman / Pixar

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