Coco is more than just another Pixar movie. The upcoming November film introduces many audience members to particulars within Mexican culture, like the meaning behind the holiday Dia de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, and its importance to every family.
The film has gone to many lengths to portray and respect Mexican culture, although it did have to create its own vision of the afterlife. During a conference in Beverly Hills for the upcoming film, actor Edward James Olmos, who plays Chicharrón in Coco and is best known for his roles on Battlestar Galactica and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, spoke to the press about the movie and what he believes it will mean to the audience.
“People who… are gonna see this movie are going to come out really moved, especially when you haven’t thought about your parents or you haven’t thought about your loved ones,” Olmos explained. “You haven’t really gotten into your own family, and you been too busy living your life that you haven’t gone back to even say, ‘Thank you.’ You haven’t been even to the cemetery where they’re buried now for 30 years or 20 years or however long they’ve been away from you.
“When was the last time you visited your great-great grandmother’s burial site? ‘That’s a touchy situation there, Ed.’ Right. Most of us don’t even know who they are because the stories weren’t passed on. And then, so they’re gonna walk out and gonna feel that emptiness, and they’re gonna to try to fill that emptiness with the knowledge from what they just got so they’re going to investigate and move forward.
“That’s why I’m so grateful–six years ago, you didn’t know we’d be, politically, the shape that we’re in, nobody did. Nobody knew that Mexicans were gonna be treated like they’ve been treated over the last year… Nobody. The last two years have been very difficult for us, and it’s hard not to come about and have an attitude. So, but you try to stay strong, knowing that the pendulum swang one way… It’s gonna swing back. And when it does, it will have a different reaction. It will have another sense of who we are and the changes. This placed us in a very strong position for the future.”
Olmos’s role in the film as Chicharrón is brief, as he’s only one scene, but it’s crucial to the story and touching. “People are going to say, ‘Thank you’ to the Mexican culture for introducing them to a value that they did not know anything about,” said Olmos. “We celebrate, you know, Halloween. Hello? That’s how we celebrate the Day of the Dead. We dress up, and you know, we go out and ‘trick or treat!’ You know? And think about that versus what the Day of the Dead really represents for many of us which is a time to celebrate in the memory of and pass the stories on. Celebrate life at its fullest. I’m, as Chicharrón, doing the one scene, it’s one of my proudest moments in the art form.
Coco opens everywhere on November 22.