Pixar's first orig­i­nal story un­der Trump a 'love let­ter to Mex­ico'

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

It is known for movies about mon­sters, in­sects and chil­dren's toys but Pixar's lat­est, very hu­man story is "a love let­ter to Mex­ico" at a time of sim­mer­ing racial ten­sion. Tak­ing the coun­try's Day of the Dead fes­ti­val as its theme, "Coco" will hit US the­aters some 12 months af­ter Don­ald Trump's Novem­ber 8 elec­tion vic­tory on an anti-immigration ticket that en­flamed His­panic com­mu­ni­ties across Amer­ica. It has been hailed as a wel­come cor­rec­tive to a di­vi­sive presidential cam­paign in which Trump called many Mex­i­can im­mi­grants rapists and vowed to build a wall be­tween the United States and its south­ern neigh­bor.

"We're cre­at­ing it for the world and it's go­ing to hope­fully have a great positive in­flu­ence around the world," said "Coco" di­rec­tor Lee Unkrich, who has been at Pixar since 1995's "Toy Story," di­rect­ing its two se­quels. "But for Mex­ico par­tic­u­larly, we're try­ing to cre­ate on some level a love let­ter to Mex­ico and I hope peo­ple embrace it that way."

Pixar show­cased early art­work for the movie as it opened the doors to its se­cluded head­quar­ters in the Bay Area of San Francisco to the news me­dia, with its 21st year as a fea­ture film stu­dio draw­ing to a close. Star­ring new­comer Anthony Gon­za­lez, Gael Garcia Ber­nal (Amazon's "Mozart in the Jun­gle") and Ben­jamin Bratt ("Doc­tor Strange"), "Coco" tells the story of a 12-year-old Mex­i­can mu­si­cian who jour­neys to the Land of the Dead in search of his an­ces­tors.

Pixar's 19th fea­ture-length movie fol­lows 21 years of un­par­al­leled success marked by $11 bil­lion in box of­fice re­ceipts and 13 Oscars since "Toy Story" blazed a trail as the world's first com­puter-gen­er­ated fea­ture film.

The com­pany be­gan life in 1979 as the Graph­ics Group, the com­puter divi­sion for Lucasfilm, charged by Ge­orge Lu­cas with de­vel­op­ing a dig­i­tal film and sound edit­ing sys­tem and ad­vanc­ing com­puter graph­ics. John Las­seter, the legendary found­ing di­rec­tor of the divi­sion's fea­ture out­put, came on board in 1983, and three years later it was bought by Ap­ple guru Steve Jobs and given its now­fa­mous name.

Af­ter win­ning plau­dits for a se­ries of pioneering shorts, the stu­dio turned its at­ten­tion to full-length movies, join­ing with Dis­ney to pro­duce "Toy Story," which went on to be­come the high­est-gross­ing film of 1995, mak­ing $374 mil­lion world­wide. "Of course we were com­pletely buoyed by how well it did, crit­i­cally and com­mer­cially, I knew at that point I wanted to con­tinue to be a part of what we were do­ing at Pixar and luck­ily they wanted me to con­tinue help­ing them," Unkrich told AFP.

Jobs re­lo­cated the com­pany in 2000 to a 22-acre cam­pus in Emeryville, near San Francisco, where ev­ery de­tail was care­fully de­signed to en­cour­age cre­ativ­ity among its 600-strong work­force, which has since dou­bled. Em­ploy­ees can swim in an out­door heated salt wa­ter pool, play soc­cer or beach vol­ley­ball, en­joy pic­nics in an am­phithe­ater or gather in the main build­ing, de­signed with the same mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­tural vi­sion as the Ap­ple Store.

No more se­quels

Pixar had al­ready won best an­i­mated pic­ture Oscars for "Find­ing Nemo" and "The In­cred­i­bles" by the time Dis­ney bought the com­pany for $7.4 bil­lion in 2006, mak­ing Jobs its largest sin­gle share­holder. A hat­ful of fur­ther stat­uettes fol­lowed as "Rata­touille," "WALL-E" and "Up" saw Pixar's rep­u­ta­tion trans­formed from new kid on the block to an­i­ma­tion's king of the castle.

It has not all been plain sailing-"Cars 2" was seen as a cre­ative mis­step and panned by crit­ics while the do­mes­tic box of­fice re­ceipts for "The Good Di­nosaur" came in be­low its pro­duc­tion budget. Unkrich re­calls "Toy Story 2" be­ing plunged into cri­sis when the pro­duc­tion team re­al­ized with the dead­line loom­ing that the story was not work­ing.

The crew got back on course af­ter Jobs-who died in 2011 -- took Unkrich aside and ad­vised him that the achieve­ments he was most proud of were al­ways when "there wasn't enough time and there weren't enough re­sources but some­how peo­ple came to­gether and got the work done." "Coco" is lead­ing a new wave of orig­i­nal Pixar films un­der devel­op­ment fol­low­ing the stu­dio's re­cent an­nounce­ment that it was putting se­quels on the back burner af­ter 2019's "Toy Story 4."

"With each new one we make, there's never any guar­an­tee that they're go­ing to work or be ac­cepted," says Unkrich. "We try our best ev­ery time to make en­gag­ing films that we're in­ter­ested in and we just hope the rest of the world likes them." — AF\P

Con­cept art from Pixar’s ‘Coco’

David Ayer and Mar­got Rob­bie

In this March 16, 2015 file photo, Molly Ring­wald, left, and Ally Sheedy walk the red car­pet for "The Break­fast Club" 30th An­niver­sary Restora­tion World Premiere dur­ing the South by South­west Film Fes­ti­val in Austin, Texas. — AP

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