5 Ways to Prep: Coco
By George Rose
November 28, 2017
The blockbuster news story of the week is that Disney/Pixar’s chief creative officer (John Lasseter) is the latest legend to be accused of sexual harassment. The man responsible for Pixar’s birth, the director of Toy Story, the reason for the current Disney renaissance… likes to give extended hugs, compliment people and enjoys strip clubs. Ummmm, as far as sexual assault stories go, this seems like harassment-lite. I’m not sure what to think of this, in terms of the greater scandal currently destroying the little goodwill Hollywood has left, but I do have a theory to offer: Lasseter is the preemptive patsy for Coco’s probable shortcomings.
It’s worth noting that Lasseter hasn’t been fired, which is the immediate reaction of most employers. Instead, he is taking a six month sabbatical. The timing of this news story is also suspect, on the day of Coco’s sneak-preview release. Is this an attempt at free publicity? Highly unlikely. Is this a case of early damage control over the likely scenario where Coco underwhelms at the box office? DING DING DING! You don’t believe me? Let’s go on a journey, my friends, and discuss how the five ways to prep for Pixar’s release are also the five ways to prove Disney might be using Lasseter to deflect attention after Coco fails to set the holidays on fire. After all, it won’t be long before people realize this movie was already made.
#1) The Book of Life (2014)
Today, the year is 2017. It usually takes about three years to make an animated movie. That means the creators of Coco would have started production around 2014. That’s odd because that’s also the year The Book of Life came out. It’s about a young Mexican boy who is told to ignore his passion for music and somehow finds himself in the Land of the Remembered on the Day of the Dead, one of Mexico’s most culturally important holidays. It was created by a master Mexican filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro, and received 82% positive reviews. It had gorgeous 3D animation, lovely music, and tons of humor. It’s a shame it wasn’t a bigger box office hit.
It was, however, the apparent muse for Pixar as we now have Coco, a near identical replica of The Book of Life. Sure, you can make multiple movies about the same source material, that’s nothing new. It’s not like Mexico is a one-hit wonder with only one story worth telling, or only one way of telling their most important story. I’m all for inclusion and, given how Donald Trump has trashed the Mexican people over the last year, it’s a perfect time to celebrate our neighbors to the south. But let’s call a spade a spade. Though Coco tells a story many want to hear, it kind of feels more like a box checked off Disney’s racial to-do list.
Blatant rip-off aside, let’s look at the numbers. The Book of Life earned about $50 million in the US and $100 million worldwide. $10 million of that was from Mexico. To help promote Coco and possibly as an early way of softening the recent Lasseter blow, Disney has been all over the internet to remind us “Coco is the biggest blockbuster of all time in Mexico!” It currently has about $50 million there. That’s five-times more than Book of Life. If the world reacts to Coco the way Mexico has, as compared to Book of Life, that means roughly $250 million stateside and $500 million worldwide. Those numbers are ambitious but not entirely out of reach.