First Reaction: "Coco" Is "The Book of Life" Remade by Pixar; Second Reaction: If Not, What Should’ve Been Done?
When the previews came out for Coco, I threw shade almost immediately. "They stole this from Guillermo Del Toro produced, Jorge R. Gutiérrez directed The Book of Life!" People denied it. Oh, no. Coco is "original!" every Pixar fanatic shouted. Ha. Yeah, right!
First, getting this off my chest, why isn't this movie called Miguel? Miguel is our lead boy, beautifully acted out by this newcomer actor called Anthony Gonzalez. I wish voiceover actors had their own special Academy Award section. This young fellow deserved a nomination for something. Coco depends on his voice for at least 95 percent of the movie. You can't have a story about Miguel discovering the importance of family and name it COCO, OK!
I loved the character design on this movie. Dante the dog is precious. You want to snuggle with him. Dante's side theme about how stray dogs are good hearted is beautiful. The characters across the film are amazing. All the animators here too deserve an Academy Award like special effects people get. Something beyond what the producers get for Best Animated Feature.
From an animation standpoint, the part where Diego and Dante arrive into the land of the dead is total inspo.
For a good first half of the movie, Coco is a nearly identical remake of The Book of Life with the lead character made younger to make things less obvious. A few minor details changed. The pig becomes a cute dog sidekick. We don't have a rival vying for Miguel's love.
We do find Miguel wanting to play his guitar against his family's will, on the Day of the Dead. Día de los muertos en español, mis estudiantes; mind your accent marks on the "i" in día, Spanish class pupils! Miguel's family doesn't want him to play music. Of COURSE MIGUEL ENTERS THE LAND OF THE DEAD and meets all his past dead family. Of course, Miguel resolves things performing his guitar and singing. Miguel goes a whole movie and returns to his living self on earth in his ¡ciudad! All wrongs have been made right!
Pixar could've made minor changes. Miguel could have wanted to be a famous soccer player (footballer for you Aussie/UK buddies). Make Miguel a girl! Anything. You're Pixar, the company providing little kids their animated dreams in film. Where is your creativity? If not your production team, from your executives saying, "Guys, can we change things? This is too obvious." How Pixar doesn't get sued remaking The Book of Life makes no sense. If I came out and remade Coco, people would sue me. You, surely. Pixar? Nah. Someone shouted, "Pillage The Book of Life, Pixar team! No, no, no, this animation doesn't look like The Book of Life enough. Step it up, like, yeah, The Book of Life animated better." Please, Pixar, I'm a fan of your studio. Why did you do this? You could have been inspired by The Book of Life and made an entirely new tale nothing like the original.
I loved Coco. I would have loved it more if it were not a Book of Life rip off.
Update: June 21, 2018
Who knew this post would be so controversial? Everyone I know and don't know asked me about it. Here we go. We'll examine both views.
"But! Coco was a work in progress before The Book of Life because [insert story told by Pixar]!"
It's very possible to be in the middle of a film, or about to begin, and be inspired by a rival film.
"Do you just say so because both films take place in Mexico?"
No way. If you remake my life story with Anne Hathaway and write in that no, it cannot be my life tale in film, Anne is one inch taller as is my character who's not really me but kind of me. Changing a few details does not affect the outcome that, yeah, it's really similar.
If someone remakes Jumanji set in China, it doesn't make it NOT-Jumanji.
"What if Coco really is an original tale?"
First, say it is. The right thing to do at Pixar, and the company is loaded rich so redo's aren't that bad nor hard to turn around in record time with their staff sizes, is to remake parts of this movie. As the film director, an executive, a share holder, or anyone involved in Coco in any aspect, you should have publicly told people how you are going to correct this film because you pride Pixar on being the first to do everything and must have redone parts of this film. Small scenes. Address the issue right in your face and deal with it. Make everyone know from the start you aren't big on copycatting, or everyone will have the reaction I had initially reviewing Coco.
Secondly, assuming it was and Pixar made the mistake of not addressing anything, address it when the movie comes out. Maybe add an animated short before the film explaining some background on Miguel and his family. Do something after the movie with new scenes as the credits roll. Do anything. Ignoring the obvious comparisons will not help anyone. In fact, I would go right ahead using the (SPOILER STOP READING!) copycat stolen songwriting theme in Coco and do a whole added scene on it referencing The Book of Life. Be driven and aggressive!
"Do you hate Pixar?"
On the contrary. I've been contacted by a few people I feel either want to end up employed at Pixar or are somehow going to be in some respect. These people totally chew me out where I feel they've been invested a bit much in Pixar and/or Coco. No way. I'd love to work for Pixar, sing on a Pixar movie soundtrack, compose a score for a movie, act in a movie, direct one, or be in the vicinity of Pixar's studios. As someone who is a lifelong fan of Pixar works since I first saw Toy Story in theaters, I hope this web post is intended to show the right versus wrong ways to approach animated filmmaking and what to do when things seem not to be going your way.