You can often find the heart behind a film in the writers, directors, and producers of a film. They are the ones who spend all their time to bring a film to life – 6 years for Disney Pixar’s COCO. That’s why it was such a pleasure to interview Director Lee Unkrich, Writer & Co-Director Adrian Molina, and Producer Darla K. Anderson and find out why do they like to make us cry? Because if you’re one of the millions of people who have seen Coco, you’ll understand why I had to borrow tissues from my neighbor when watching.
Why Does Pixar Like To Make Us Cry?
Because it feels like Pixar loves to make us cry. We were all feeling the emotions after having watched COCO the night before. So we asked them, why do they like to make us cry?
Lee: I don’t know that I like making you cry, but I like making you feel something. I mean, I know that when I go and see movies, they’re very few and far between where I actually feel genuine emotion or a movie really sticks with me after I’ve seen it. So, you know, when we make our movies, we try to do that. There’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to, but I think that’s the most satisfying for us if we can have the audience feel something personal to themselves, and we know we’re on the right track when we have those feelings ourselves.
Darla: In order to feel all those feelings you’ve had to go on a journey with all of our character, and you’ve had to, you know, laugh with them and be on big adventure with them, and become completely invested with them. We have to earn, we have to earn all of that emotion. So, it comes out of a multitude of the emotions from the movie.
On the Part That Made Me Cry the Most
So there’s a part in the movie where I ugly cried the most. It’s towards the end, and I’m pretty sure my seat neighbor, Amy, heard the sobbing and handed me tissues. It’s a tiny bit of a spoiler, but not one that will will ruin the plot. Lee said, “We had the idea to have Miguel to sing to mama Coco and kind of bring her out of her dementia very early on. It was in our first screening I think, and I think we were all very effected that first time that we put it together.”
It was that scene where so many feelings came to the surface. It reminded me of my own mother taking care of my abuelita. She lived with us for years while I was growing up, and while she got older, she forgot a lot of things, even my mother. I knew it hurt my mom, but yet still she sacrificed and cared for her, because she loved my grandmother so dearly. All families love each other, but Latino families, their love runs especially deep. That’s part of the culture. I know that there are certain memories, music, smells, that could bring my abuela back to us, back to the present, but they were few and far between. It was so special to finally be able to watch COCO with my own mother. She LOVED it!
Coco premiered in Mexico. How important was that to you guys?
Darla: “Oh, it was really important.”
Adrian: “Yes, it was very important. We try to talk as much as we can about how much research that we did on this film and part of the effect that that research had on us wasn’t just on the story. It was the fact that we were meeting these families and we were making these friends, and we were collaborating with artists all over Mexico. The least we could do to pay homage to the beauty of the tradition and the place where they came from. We were just over the moon to have the opportunity to premiere in Mexico, especially in Mexico city at the Palace of Fine Arts. It’s like, who gets that opportunity, and the level of love and engagement from that audience and from the country ever since.
Lee: “It’s been a little overwhelming.”
Adrian: “It’s been very overwhelming in the most beautiful way. It just felt like all we could do to say thank you so much for opening your hearts, opening the doors, and maybe a gesture on our part to say what a beautiful tradition, this is where it comes from everyone, take notice!”
I think everyone would like a love letter to them. COCO is a love letter to Mexico, and by golly, they deserve it. I want a love letter to the United States, to Bolivia, to Colombia, to Ecuador, to every country. The more we can support movies such as these, the easier it will be for everyone to have their own love letter in a story, because we all deserve one.
Why You Should Stay Until the End of COCO
Lee: “I had an idea at some point that I thought it would be lovely to do some sort of digital ofrenda at the end of the film because we had learned so much about the traditions and we had incorporated them into our lives at Pixar. For the second year now we’ve created a big ofrenda in the atrium of Pixar and we’ve invited everyone in the company to bring in photos of their loved ones to put on the ofrenda. I just had this thought, wouldn’t it be lovely to, to kind of thank all the people that supported us, and continue to support us across time. We ended up extending the opportunity to everyone in the company to submit a photo of somebody who they had lost who was important to them.
I regret that it’s at the end of the credits because I think that a lot of people won’t see it because a lot of people don’t stay for credits. But for the people who do, I think it will be very meaningful for them, and it’s very meaningful for us. It’s a very personal reflection of thanks to everyone who’s been there for us.”
I also wish that they had put it towards the beginning of the credits. I love seeing all the pictures pop up on the screen and know that those are the people that have supported dreams. You can even find Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, and Don Rickles amongst the digital ofrenda at the end. It’s not like the Marvel credits, but meaningful just the same.
What Would You Like to Be Remembered For?
Adrian: “I would probably like to be remember as someone who tried to use their art to make the world a better place.”
Lee: “The same thing I always tell my kids; the only thing I want for them is to be kind people. That’s always the most important thing to me, so I would like to be remembered as somebody who was kind and fair.”
Darla: “I think especially as a woman who had courage to learn how to find my voice, and to set an example for others. I’m always conscious of that in the world. If you’re in any kind of a public figure to set an example to find your voice and speak out loud about things that matter.”
A huge thanks to Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina, and Darla K. Anderson for their work, research, dedication, and words of wisdom on the movie COCO. They really are the playmakers (like my favorite Troy Bolton in High School Musical like to say).