It’s been a while since I’ve seen Coco last holiday season. I’m finally back from the Land of writer’s block to share some thoughts. If you haven’t seen this film yet, please do if it’s still running near you, or stream it when it becomes available. It’s a work of art, it’s profound and stop saying it’s just another cartoon for kids. I mentioned before that few films can get me emotional and this film had me fighting back tears in its last few minutes.
However, many people see Coco as a copy of, or can’t help but compare it to the 2014 film The Book of Life because of several similarities. The Book of Life is another animated film with similar themes, most notably the Mexican holiday of Dio de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). The film’s animation is more stylized but just as colorful and just as musical. The Book of Life is just as entertaining but Coco will pull at your heart strings.
So let’s discuss the similarities between Coco and The Book of Life. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen both films yet.
- The celebration of Dio de los Muertos. Both films happen within the Mexican holiday of The Day of the Dead. The common concept in both films is that you remain immortal in the afterlife as long as you’re not forgotten in the land of the living.
- Both of the main protagonists love music but are discouraged by family. Both also choose the guitar as their instruments. Manolo Sanchez in The Book of Life lives in a family of matadors while young Miguel Rivera in Coco live among shoemakers where music is banned.
- Both heroes find themselves in the Land of the Dead. Manolo is tricked by the deity Xibalba and dies while Miguel is magically transported there after strumming a mystical guitar. Well, that’s different. Both heroes try to find their way back to the land of the living and that’s where their journeys differ.
- Both of the heroes’ families discourage music. The Sanchez’s are a family of bullfighters by tradition while the Rivera’s hate music because of a tragic past event.
- Both families have twin ancestors in the afterlife. I kind of like the twin sisters in The Book of Life.
- Antagonists of both films meet their end with a large bell. Is there some basic story behind both films? If there is, they’re both well adapted with their own plots and twists.
The Book of Life is more fantastical as it delves with some religious concepts while Coco uses the Land of the Dead more as the backdrop for the story. Plus, The Book of Life is more of a love story between the characters Manual, Maria and Joaquin while Coco is more of a family drama and voyage of self-discovery for the character Miguel.
Coco is not your typical Pixar flick where anything Pixar is rarely typical. It’s perhaps the saddest Pixar film I’ve seen since Inside Out. It’s rife with familial conflict that extends into the afterlife but is tempered with genuine love between the characters. As per the concept of immortality, this film gives more emphasis on being remembered or forgotten in the land of the living as opposed to how it’s shown in The Book of Life, and moves the story along and drives the conflict between the heroes and the villain. Coco is also surprisingly devoid of white stereotypes as the settings are highly localized and steeped in Mexican culture which is both eye-opening and educational. Coco is certainly not a ripoff. Just a victim of many coincidences or perhaps just giving some homages to another good film. Check out Coco here and The Book of Life here to make up your own mind.