Disney Pixar’s next film, Coco, is about a 12-year-old aspiring musician, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), who after an accidental grave robbery finds himself in the Land of the Dead. Victorian-era architecture and famous artist José Guadalupe Posada inspired the scenery for the Land of the Dead. Director Lee Unkrich states, “A lot of folk art and images that people are used to seeing associated with the celebration of Día de los Muertos are directly influenced by Posada. We leaned into that Victorian aesthetic that he embraced, creating his art at the turn of the century, and that ended up influencing a lot of the design, costuming, style, and architecture in our world.”
Filmmakers compare the Land of the Dead to Monsters, Inc’s Monstropolis. There are a lot of unique things about Monstropolis, but it is very much rooted in the world we know. The Land of the Dead is pattern the same fashion. In Coco, Skeletons have not lost their humanity just because they are not quite human. Unkrich explains, “We had this notion that whatever your job was in life, that’s still your job in the afterlife, for better or worse.There are people that still have to do the same kind of boring, bureaucratic jobs that they did in life.”
In the film, Miguel first stops at The Department of Family Reunions where he encounters his real ancestors. This is the place where some comings and goings are organized and also where Miguel faces a bureaucracy-happy clerk played by Gabriel Iglesias.
One thing that does separates the world of Coco from Monstropolis is that filmmakers decided not to lean on any pop culture references in the film that might make for good puns in the Land of the Dead. “It’s an easy gag to do stuff like that, and we try to make films that are timeless. I want people to be watching these films 75 years from now, and who knows what will be out in the world then? We tried to not go for that easy pop culture reference laugh.” –Lee Unkrich.