Theme: Remember Me
The setting for Coco, Pixar Animations 19th multi-million dollar blockbuster, is the Hispanic Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). This syncretic Christian holiday is commemorated in Mexico on the same three days (Oct. 31-Nov. 2) that Allhallowtide is celebrated in other countries of Western Christendom.1 While the film’s setting may have pagan or extra-biblical elements, the heart of the story remains true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and these are the features which shine through and make Coco another Pixar triumph.
The movie opens with the twelve year old protagonist, Miguel Rivera, narrating his family’s history. Once upon a time . . . in the beginning therewas a Mama, a Papa, and music. The Papa had a dream to play his music for the world and left one day never to return. Mama, believing he had deserted her, banished all music and went to work making shoes; thus the family business was born.
Looking along and through this tale, one can see the Biblical back-story of how a good God created His creation in music (Job 38:7) and placed a man and woman in a garden, instructing them to be fruitful and multiply. But a separation occurred which brought a note of discord and an expulsion from the garden. No longer able to make music together, the family was torn apart. Now forced to work by the sweat of their brow, they pass this life of exile on to future generations.
The Hero Journey
The movie switches from back-story to present day Santa Cecilia and the dilemma of young Miguel. He is born a musician, but being a member of the Rivera family where music is outlawed, he is expected to put on the apron of a shoemaker and join the business.
On Dia de Muertos he decides to follow his heart and his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, the most famous musician in Mexico, whom he believes is his great great grandfather. Seizing his moment, he “borrows” the famous guitar from the idol’s monument and is suddenly propelled out of the ordinary world and into the land of the dead.
Like all Hero Journeys, Miguel is making a descent into the innermost cave and an ordeal where he discovers what really happened in the beginning. Hector, his down and out guide in the land of the dead, is his real great great grandfather, not de la Cruz. As it turns out, Hector never deserted his family but was poisoned by Ernesto who then stole all of Hector’s music in order to make himself famous.
Just as in the Bible the power of love overcomes the love of power, Miguel is resurrected by the sacrificial love of his family and returns to the land of the living with the elixir of life….the truth.
Singing Hector’s song, Remember Me, to his greatgrandmother Coco, Miguel awakens in her memory; she pulls out of her drawer the torn photograph of her Papa along with all his letters which prove he wrote the songs Ernesto made famous.
One year later, the Rivera family has a new member and she was not born under the curse. The music has returned, the photograph has been restored,and Hector is honored in the town and remembered in the family; everything has been put to right.
The family picture of God the Father and his children, torn apart by sin, and the one who stole the music was restored by Jesus Christ the faithful son who did not grasp but humbled himself, entered the land of the dead by way of his cross and defeated death and the evil one ( Philippians 2:5-11). All Saint’s Day is fundamentally a celebration of Christ’s victory over death. He has restored the family picture and brought reconciliation between God and Man,between Heaven and Earth.
1. Allhallowtide is the triduum encompassing the Western Christian observances of All Saints’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day and All Souls’Day, which lasts from Oct. 31 to Nov.2 annually. Allhallowtide is a “time to remember the dead; including martyrs, saints, and all faithful departed Christians. Wikipedia