I know, I missed the hype for Pixar’s latest masterpiece, Coco. I didn’t see it until this past week.
I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t my favorite Pixar movie, but I was still deeply impressed by the creativity, the colorful animation, the music, and above all, the story.
Pixar has the reputation of making story after story that touches us in the deepest parts of our hearts. The biggest, baddest, toughest humans among us can walk out of a Pixar movie crying because they just got healed from some childhood trauma or something.
The key to Pixar’s success is that they don’t overcomplicate their stories. They pick simple, profound truths about life, love, and people, and then proceed to remind us of those truths with unforgettable stories and characters.
I loved how the creators of Coco took an already established piece of Mexican culture and used it to create a fantasy world where Miguel travelled to meet his ancestors. They created a more physical, visual picture of the written/spoken truths we all learn over time and from the knowledge people leave behind for future generations. Rather than learning these things in letters, history books, Miguel learned them face to face. What a creative way to communicate the message!
The message. Pixar has pretty consistent messages. Live in the moment. Life with the people you love is an adventure. Keep swimming. But family always comes first with Pixar, always.
Miguel was born into a family where music had supposedly torn the family apart. His great-great-grandfather had left his family behind to pursue the dream of music. The fear his family had was that music would take another loved from them. Miguel feared that his family would steal his dream. The false belief everyone had was that it had to be one or the other.
In the Land of the Dead, Miguel met his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz, a musician who had followed his dream to the letter. What Miguel discovered upon closer view, however, is just how empty Cruz’ dream was. The man had become so obsessed with his all-important dream that he had literally murdered for it.
The victim? Miguel’s great-great-grandfather, Hector. Hector knew his family was the real dream and was willing to walk away from the glamour of Cruz’ world in order to return to the true music of his heart. But he was cut short, kept from his loved ones, and has spent lifetimes trying to return to his family, to his little girl, Coco.
Here’s the thing about dreams. They are beautiful things, they can cast vision, hope, spread joy and new things to the world. Dreams make horrible masters, however. Those that follow the dream blindly, forgetting all else, reach an empty reward. What is the point of living your dream if you have to do it alone? If you’ve burned bridges, lost loved ones, and destroyed relationships?
What I loved about Coco is Pixar reminded us yet again of a simple truth.
The people we love do not have to be an obstacle to the dream, instead, they are the dream. When we love our people first, the rest falls into place and becomes something even greater.
Hector had a song, a beautiful song. Remember Me. It was the song he used to sing to his sweet little girl, Coco. He had loved to make music with his family. Once he left their lives, the music left as well.
At the end of the movie, Miguel races back to his great-grandmother Coco, racing against time as Hector is fading away in the Land of the Dead, as he has been forgotten by all his family that still lives, except perhaps for Coco. Miguel must help his great-grandmother remember her Papa before it’s too late.
*pulls out tissues*
And with the music, Coco remembered her Papa. Hector was restored, a family was healed, and Miguel began to make music again. But this time Miguel had a greater purpose for his music, a greater understanding of what it meant and what it could accomplish. His dream of music had enabled him to restore his family and change their past, and their future legacy. He wasn’t able to reach this greater level of the dream until he embraced his family and accepted their importance in his life. And once he did, the dream became reality and it became better!
I don’t know what your dreams are. Sometimes our dreams may take us farther away geographically, for a time. But they should never take us away in our hearts from the people we love. The people we love make the dream more beautiful because they are the dream. Regardless of what you do in your life, the people you love make it worthwhile. You can be cleaning toilets in a gas station, or singing on American Idol, it doesn’t matter, life is about the people we love.
Thank you, Pixar, for once again bringing us home. Home in our hearts, home in our priorities, home to the truth.