As most of you know, Pixar recently announced its next film, Coco, that will premiere this year in late November. The logline for this film is, “Coco follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who sets off a chain of events relating to a century-old mystery, leading to an extraordinary family reunion.”
Right off the bat, people noticed that themes of Coco were very similar with the plot of another film called The Book of Life that was created and directed by a Mexican artist named Jorge R. Gutierrez. You may be familiar with Gutierrez’s work, as he created the Nickelodeon series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. Gutierrez directed the movie The Book of Life; which is a movie also about a boy…a Mexican boy…who plays guitar…who also goes to the land of the undead. People on Twitter called to call out similarities between this screenshot from the movie and the art from Coco that I posted above:
The Book of Life did not do that well in the box office. With its $50 million budget, it barely got to around $100 million. Most people were okay with the movie, but did not like the plot of the movie all that much. I mean, most if not all of the animated movies that perform well in theaters are either from Disney or Pixar. Underdog animated films are not given the light of day.
According to Gutierrez’s twitter, he had been pitching The Book of Life since 2000; in 2007 it was at DreamWorks. Fans of Pixar took to Twitter to call out Gutierrez for ‘copying’ Coco. Apparently Gutierrez pitched BOL to Pixar as well but it was turned down. Funny how now we’re getting movies with diverse stories and characters from Pixar now, when PoC and LGBT creators have been trying to pitch their stories with no such luck.
Now, this begs the question; will you choose to support Pixar, or not go see Coco in theaters? Personally, I am conflicted. I follow a couple of the artists who did some work on Coco. Pixar employs a lot of people and creates beautiful films. At the same time however, why do white, male artists now have to go ‘study’ places and its culture to make films about the lives of others, instead of having the people who they’re studying just work on the film directly? Gutierrez even said he would’ve loved to work on Coco but clearly, he didn’t. Coco will undoubtedly do well at the box office because it’s being made by Pixar. It’s sad to me and many others to see Pixar do stunts like this; if you want an original story, why not work with the people who have the originality? Gutierrez also said that BOL was a love letter to Mexico. Very few animated movies that are mainstream represent a culture in such a genuine, sensitive way.
I hope to see Pixar diversify their staff in the future to make movies that employ the ideas and visions of those who aren’t the old white men that keep perpetuating these glass ceilings.