Celebrating the lush, vibrant tapestry of life, Pixar Studios, once again, hits audiences right in the feels with Coco, the imaginative tale of a young aspiring musician's journey through the Land of the Dead and learning to cherish our loved ones. The Blu-ray is a feast for the eyes and ears thanks to an excellent audio and video presentation, making the overall three-disc package Highly Recommended for the entire family.
Pixar has been pushing the boundaries of imagination since their inception, from visiting the world of toys, monsters, and superheroes to journeying the depths of the ocean, the mind of adolescence, the far reaches of outer space and alternate realities. With little left to explore, the computer-animation studio keeps things more grounded and familiar in Coco, taking audiences on a tour of Mexico and its rich culture while simultaneously traveling to the Land of the Dead. Marking their 19th feature-length film, the theme of confronting and dealing with death is, of course, nothing new to anyone versed with the vast majority of Walt Disney-owned content. However, what makes this introduction to a traditional Mexican holiday and the festivities surrounding it particularly special is a story celebrating the dead and loved ones who have passed away. Whereas previous Pixar movies cope with the pain of saying goodbye, this tale tackles the idea of remembrance. Rather than tearful farewells, we welcome their memories into our home and never forget.
Amid this cloak of memorials and reminiscences, we follow young adolescent Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) preferring his dream of becoming a famous musician instead of joining the shoemaking family business. Little Miguel's ordinary world is always looking to the future with little care for the past, taking inspiration from his hero Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), an iconic folk singer and actor that continues to be celebrated and cherished. His family, on the other hand, seems stuck in the past without a concern for the future. Or better yet, they live with the pain of some bygone event that strictly forbade music for future generations. And Abuelita Elena (Renée Victor) strictly enforces this ban, even going so far as using her chancla (leather slipper) as a deadly weapon to repel musicians from her grandson. The tension of following family tradition or pursuing one's personal goals is a universally relatable subject that's interestingly met with Miguel learning a lesson rather than the familiar Disney formula where the hero achieves their objective.
Within the Pixar canon, such themes are arguably more common, where the central protagonist learns selfish pursuits are not always for the better. But this is precisely what makes the studio extraordinary, along with the fact that they manage to captivate the youngest in the audience while charming older folks, building towards a conclusion that should leave even the hard-hearted blubbering in tears. And this journey begins when Miguel selfishly steals from the dead — or more specifically, de la Cruz's legendary guitar — and is punished with a trip to the Land of the Dead, which is more a tapestry of passionate, enthusiastic activity showered in a kaleidoscope of vividly flamboyant colors and energy than a gloomy world where life ends. Here, our would-be hero makes an ally in Héctor (Gael García Bernal), a charming down-and-out grifter who serves as both a mentoring guide through the afterlife and the key to Miguel's primary aim of returning home without sacrificing his dreams of playing music. And as expected, things are not as they first appear.
Much as they did in The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out, Pixar surprises moviegoers with an unexpectedly poignant tale that will pluck at the heartstrings like a talented guitarist soothing the ears of a troubled mind. And Héctor's "Remember Me" tune provides the central core of that plot's deeply emotional message of never forgetting our ancestors, those who have shaped and influenced future generations. Be it positive or negative, they left their mark on the family, and as Mamá Imelda (Alanna Ubach), the matriarch where the story originally began, essentially puts it, we don't have to forgive them but we also shouldn't forget them. Along the way, the exceptionally beautiful film is showered with several hilarious Easter eggs and cultural references, from the obvious, such as Frida Kahlo making a spot-on appearance, to the more obscure, like the de la Cruz characters being an amalgamation of Mexican icons Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete. With other blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments — Was that Cantinflas partying with de la Cruz? — Coco is an absolute joy to be cherished as another Pixar classic if not highly ranked among their best achievements.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment brings Coco to Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack with a code for a Digital Copy. The Region Free, BD50 disc sits comfortably on the panel opposite another BD25 containing bonus material sitting atop a DVD-9 copy of the movie. All three are housed in a lightly embossed, glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc commences with skippable trailers before switching to a menu screen with the standard options, music playing in the background and full-motion clips.
Moviegoers are given a memorable tour through the Land of the Dead thanks to a stunningly gorgeous 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that lights up the screen right from the opening moments. A vast and splendid array of sumptuous colors wash the 2.39:1 image with the warmth of amber-yellows hues, giving the little town of Santa Cecilia a lovely picturesque quality while the Rivera household feels cozy and welcoming. Miguel's journey through the Land of the Dead is showered with energetic purples, soft pinks, and electrifying blues, and the orange of the marigold petals are continuously dazzling while reds and greens glow with a radiant splendor. Simply put, this is a feast for the eyes, sure to keep viewers mesmerized from start to finish. Black levels are equally rich and inky throughout with opulent shadows that penetrate deep into the screen for a fantastic three-dimensional feel without sacrificing the tiniest detail within the darkest areas.
With spot-on contrast delivering crisp, brilliant whites throughout, the bones of the dead are immaculate and gleaming, which is especially appreciated as poor Miguel slowly turns to bones himself, showing a distinct difference between the clothing and the makeup he wears. De la Cruz's famous guitar even seems to sparkle when the light hits it just right, making it appear as though made of ivory but during certain close-up shots, we can actually the lacquer finish cracking. In fact, definition and all around clarity are simply phenomenal, exposing the individual threading in the traditional clothing of the women or the smallest imperfection in the wooden houses in the Land of the Dead. Viewers can count the separate rocks making the cobblestone roads or the cracks in the buildings of the marketplace. The only issue holding this otherwise lovely presentation from perfection are several instances of very mild aliasing in wide shots with candles burning in the background or a few extreme wide shots taking in the landscape looking a bit softer than the rest of the movie. But again, this is a negligible lapse in a spectacularly beautiful HD video.
Disney brings the Día de Muertos festivities to home theaters with an exceptional, reference-quality DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack in either 5.1 or 7.1 configurations, but owners will want to decide on which before pressing play because the disc defaults to the five-speaker version automatically. In either case, the sound design is continuously kept busy with the chatter of the living visiting the marketplace or the voices of the dead walking the streets of the afterlife. During the two talent shows and the big sunrise concert at the end, the room is drowned in the cheers, applause and eventually boos of the crowd, displaying excellent directionality and fully immersing the viewer in the middle of the mass. Action sequences come with superb panning effects, as noises discretely travel from one speaker to the next, creating an awesome 360° soundfield. When applying the receivers' Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, many of those same effects flawlessly move into the overheads, nicely expanding the soundscape.
In the fronts, the soundstage feels expansive and broad, as the background action fills both sides of the screen with convincing off-screen activity and fluid movement from left to right and vice versa. The lossless mix exhibits outstanding clarity and detailing in the mid-range, revealing exceptional distinction and separation in the upper frequencies and during the loudest sequences. The music and song selections, naturally, benefit from this, displaying a great deal of warmth and fidelity as each pluck of the guitar string can be heard and every high-pitched vocal note can be appreciated. Added to that, the music and action enjoy a hearty and responsive low-end that delivers a punchy, ample bass without being too aggressive or calling attention to itself, but simply supplying the visuals with a great sense of presence and space. Amid the fantastical festivities, vocals always maintain priority and are always intelligible, providing each line and inflection with an emotional depth that will bring tears to anyone's eyes.
Audio Commentary: Directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina are joined by producer Darla Anderson for an enjoyable and insightful conversation on the plot, character and the research that went into creating the film.
Mi Familia (HD, 10 min): Filmmakers share family memories that prompted aspects of the plot.
Dante (HD, 6 min): A discussion on the Xoloitzcuintli dog breed that inspired the animated pet.
How to Draw a Skeleton (HD, 3 min): Kids are offered a quick drawing tutorial.
Welcome to the Fiesta (HD, 2 min): Rough test footage with optional commentary by filmmakers.
A Thousand Pictures A Day (HD, 20 min): Filmmakers travel through Mexico to research the culture and the Day of the Dead festivities.
The Music (HD, 13 min): As the title implies, the piece looks at the music's key role in the film.
Paths to Pixar (HD, 12 min): Crew shares personal anecdotes and career history leading to the film.
Fashion Through the Ages (HD, 9 min): On designing the authentic clothing of the characters.
Land of Our Ancestors (HD, 6 min): A closer look at designing and creating the Land of the Dead.
The Real Guitar (HD, 3 min): On digitally creating the guitar along with a real-life recreation.
How to Make Papel Picado (HD, 2 min): Lesson on making the decorative craft banner.
You Got the Part! (HD, 2 min): Video of Anthony Gonzalez receiving the news he got the part.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 33 min): Collection of seven excised scenes.
Trailers (HD): Six promotional pieces.
For their 19th feature-length film, Pixar Studios' Coco takes audiences on a tour of the Mexican holiday of Day of the Dead, and the theme of remembering loved ones. Following a young aspiring musician's journey through the Land of the Dead, the CG animated film is a lush, vibrant tapestry of a rich cultural history celebrating life and those who have shaped our lives. The Blu-ray arrives with a gorgeous and sumptuous video and a reference-quality audio presentation, a feast for the eyes and ears of the entire family. With a healthy, informative assortment of supplements, the overall three-disc package is highly-recommended, sure to provide hours of enjoyment.