THEM BONES – Filmmakers included subtle nods to the skeleton residents in the Land of
the Dead. For example, the cobblestone streets feature some bone-shaped paving stones.
CHANGE OF PLANTS – Artists at Pixar Animation Studios like to add vegetation—grass,
trees, bushes—to exterior environments. But “Coco” filmmakers felt the Land of the Dead
should be different. The only living plants in the vibrant fantastical world are marigolds.
- Filmmakers learned during their research trips to Mexico that the color and aroma of
marigold petals are believed to help guide the spirit of a family’s loved one home
during Día de Muertos.
RECYCLED – Miguel’s loyal canine companion Dante is a Xolo dog—short for
Xoloitzcuintli—the national dog of Mexico whose origins are deeply rooted in
Mesoamerican civilization. The Xolo was regarded as the representative on Earth of the
Aztec god Xolotl, the god of fire and lightning. Nearly hairless, Xolo’s also often have
missing teeth and for that reason, their tongue naturally hangs out. Filmmakers wanted to
include this into Dante’s design and have his tongue behave like a character itself. To
achieve the look, they borrowed the rig used in “Finding Dory” for “septopus” Hank’s
- Filmmakers invited local Xolo dogs to Pixar so artists could interact with the lovable
dogs and study their anatomy.
- Xoloitzcuintli comes from the Aztec god Xolotl and the Aztec word for dog, Itzcuintli.
- Archaeological evidence found in the tombs of Aztec Indians, among others,
indicates the breed may go as far back as 3,500 years.
- Many consider Xolo dogs to have healing abilities.
PULLING STRINGS – In “Coco,” Miguel recycles an old guitar, patching it up and painting
it to mirror Ernesto de la Cruz’s signature guitar. But filmmakers knew that if they assigned
an adult artist to do the design, it wouldn’t look right. Director Lee Unkrich called on his son
to tackle the project and create the recycled guitar’s design.
- All of the guitar playing in “Coco” is technically accurate. Filmmakers videotaped
musicians playing each song and strapped GoPros to their guitars to give animators
- Ernesto has an ofrenda room in his grand tower in the Land of the Dead where he
keeps all of the offerings people have given him over the years. There are giant
spirals of guitars and other instruments among the gifts.
HIT THE RIGHT NOTE – Additional facial rigs were added to Ernesto de la Cruz that
enhanced his Adams apple, throat and cheek vibrations when he sings.
A LEG UP – When Miguel and Héctor pay a visit to Chicharrón in hopes of borrowing his
guitar, it becomes clear that it’s not the first time Héctor has borrowed from his friend.
Chicharrón sports a pipe where his femur once was—a bone forever loaned to Héctor.
- Chicharrón is the least remembered character in the Land of the Dead. Artists
wanted to showcase the effects of being forgotten: his face has more chips and
grooves and his bones are much looser and more weathered than his counterparts.
CLOTHES MAKE THE CROWD – More than 500 pieces of clothing were made to dress
the crowd characters—from the residents of Santa Cecilia to the skeleton-attendees of
Ernesto de la Cruz’s party in the Land of the Dead. Pixar artists spent time drawing in life
sessions with Mexican folkloric dancers. Artists shaded, shaped and combined the 500
individual pieces in a variety of ways to outfit thousands of crowd characters.
CHIN UP – Character artists spend months finding the right look for each character. And
because Ernesto de la Cruz is a larger-than-life character known around the world, they
wanted to give him identifiable attributes, including a cleft in his chin—visible in both the
living and dead versions of the character.
- Artists gave the character a distinctive curl of hair that falls across his forehead.
- He sports a pencil-thin mustache, which was common in the era Ernesto was
- Ernesto wears all white in the Land of the Dead. With so many vibrant colors
surrounding him, it helped ensure that Ernesto would be the center of attention—
just the way he likes it. Even his bones are pristine because he’s so well
- Animators gave Ernesto a bit of a swagger to showcase his celebrity status.
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