This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. Coco is rated PG for mild threat, violence.
Young Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming a musician, just like his departed icon Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). But Miguel’s family is set against his ambitions. Years ago, his great-great grandfather abandoned his wife and daughter to pursue his own musical career, and since then music has become a household taboo.
Desperate to enter a local Day of the Dead talent contest – and believing he’s discovered a secret connection between himself and his hero – Miguel steals a guitar from de la Cruz’s shrine. However, the theft curses Miguel and transports him to the Land of the Dead.
With the help of shambling skeleton Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), he has until sunrise to obtain a blessing from his dead ancestors – or risk never getting back to the Land of the Living.
Pixar’s been under a cloud of late, given a spate of lukewarm reviews for the likes of The Good Dinosaur and Cars 3 – and, more seriously, the recent allegations against studio head John Lasseter. The glowing critical reception of Coco, however, shows that the creators of Toy Story and Up still have some tricks up their sleeve.
Though the animation is entrancing from the off, Coco‘s story takes a little while to kick into gear. The opening chapter suggests we’re heading for a ‘just be yourself!’ misfit tale in the mould of a thousand other kid’s films: but then, things get strange. Drawing on Mexican folklore and culture, Coco creates a vibrantly realised afterlife where the emotional palette is as rich as the visuals.
Like all of Pixar’s best, Coco features moments in which anyone with half a heart will be hard-pressed not to get tearful. The portrayal of Coco herself, Miguel’s ageing great-grandmother, is quietly beautiful: and the themes of family, memory and loss will resonate with children and adults alike.
Coco handles its themes in a family-friendly way, but please check the BBFC certification as some elements may not be suitable for younger or more sensitive children.
- Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? Which bits were your favourites?
- Why don’t Miguel’s family like music? How does it make him feel that they disapprove of his dream? What did you think of the songs in the film?
- How did you feel when Miguel was taken to the Land of the Dead? Did you think this was a scary world, and why or why not?
- What did you think of Miguel’s skeleton relatives? How does he learn to appreciate his family, both living and dead? What makes family special and important for you?
- Why is Hector worried that Coco will forget him? How does Miguel help Coco to remember?
- Why might it be important to remember people we love who aren’t around any more? What are some of the best ways of remembering?
- Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? How would you rank it alongside Pixar’s other films?
- How did you respond to the look of the film – especially the design of the Land of the Dead? Which details in the animation particularly stood out to you?
- Were you convinced by Miguel’s family’s hatred of music, and the origin story behind it? In what real situations might adults risk prioritising their own hangups over their children’s dreams?
- How did you react to the film’s imaginative vision of the afterlife? Did it relate in any way to your own beliefs about death? Is it possible to know anything about what happens when we die – and does it matter what we believe?
- In your view, did the film succeed in exploring ideas about death and loss in a child-friendly way? Were there any moments you felt might be upsetting for children, or lead to awkward questions? What do you think is the most appropriate way for children to learn about death?
- Coco implies that the definition of a worthwhile life is being remembered by loved ones when we’re gone. Do you agree, and why or why not?