Music is the language of emotion. Of expression. Of individuality. A setting. An overall feeling that allows one’s psyche to experience a place or mood that defines an origin of being. And there’s nothing more soothing to the soul than unique harmonies that define a film. As champions of “the cause,” Disney has had the magical touch. Unleashing their melodic madness has helped piece music to movie in the most enjoyable ways. Pleasing two of our most vital senses (sight and hearing), a lot of their creativity has granted them never-ending respect. When you hear an iconic Disney tune, you know the movie. You envision it. You feel it. And depending how nostalgic you may get, you live it. On the flip, even though Pixar really isn’t known for musicals, they’ve been able to lay their touch of appealing melodies to some of their titles, mainly their shorts. And while a few may not want to submit to the thought, Pixar films have morphed into musicals in some form. FINDING NEMO has a fine tune at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a rapid, forty-minute musical, and TOY STORY’s been rehashed with song and swag as Woody, Buzz, and buds belt out numbers on Disney cruises. As we approach the release of COCO, although its overall scope pertains to unity and strength upon family, its heart-beat happens to be music. An appeal Pixar has, is, and forever will take serious when it comes to this title. Perhaps (in my opinion) one of their first titles to be considered a musical.
One of the key attractions during our outing to Pixar back in August was the music behind the movie. The footage that was presented to us had borrowed some sounds from previous titles. And even though the scenery wasn’t laid out with its original score and tracks, it was still a vibrant experience. But what capped off the magic to COCO’s outing was the presentation to the music of the film. A detailed exposition for us to see and hear how the film’s score and songs act as storytelling tools. Tools of which feed off its originality and layers scenery with melodic beauty. The stars of the presentation were the following: a powerful audio demo by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez (who voices the role of Miguel) and guitarist, Federico Ramos. (A man who for years has strung along with the best in the business and whose musical influences will be smeared all over the film.) As he allowed us to enjoy his authentic rhythms for COCO, his soothing art was accompanied by follow-up commentary and informative introductions by Michael Giacchino (Composer), Germaine Franco (Orchestrator), Camilo Lara (Consultant), and Adrian Molina (Writer/Codirector). All for purposes of deeper comprehension and appreciation.
Piece after to piece, cultural influence was mandatory for purposes of getting it right. “Let’s just get the best answer possible” expresses Michael Giacchino as a main, collaborative objective in a music team one-on-one I was granted after music presentation. As a “love letter” for Mexico by the director (who expressed it during a press conference), Camilo Lara follows up by saying “It’s such a pleasure to work with someone so open. He wanted it to be as authentic as possible. To recreate what would happen in a pueblo like Santa Cecilia. [COCO’s location] He was very respectful and at the same time not afraid of using modern stuff just to cross some barriers that actually happen in day-to-day life in Mexico. And he’s a very musical guy.”
Actual recording started August 14th and wrapped September 23rd. Taking first steps is where all power lies. “From the very beginning, the order of the day was we all wanted it to be authentic. Lee (Director) and Adrian (Co-director) … when I spoke to them said we want it to feel authentic. We don’t want it to be your normal score that you would find in any other movie. At Pixar we work really hard to make sure that each film has its own identity. And I know I do that with my music. It was all about making sure the heart was in the right place, but sonically it feel like it was of the world we were seeing on screen.”
Consisting of three areas: 1. Source music 2. Songs and 3. Score (as explained by Michael), the overall arc that intertwines harmonies is the magic that allows a film to glow. With COCO, the arc will be uniquely beautiful. Having worked on the film’s songs, Germaine Franco mentions, “I always wanted the songs to feel Mexican and to feel like they weren’t an idea of what Mexican music sounds like. But also, to tell the story within the scenes, so, I always incorporated Mexican rhythms, chord patterns, and melodic phrases that would be a thing you hear in Mexico, and not have crazy Jazz rhythms, because there is Jazz music in Mexico, but it’s not organic to Mexico. So, I wanted to take those sounds I heard growing up and make it so that when you’re hearing the songs it would be something that you could hear in Mexico. I was conscious of using instruments that are indigenous to that particular area.” (COCO’s location)
My full interview with COCO’s music team can be heard below. They continue to open up a lot more about the process of which without doubt will be quite a charm to listen to once available. Something I know that’ll add more to its appeal will be tunes sung by Anthony Gonzalez. Already making a mark without the release of the film, the power behind this young man’s voice is incomparable to any other child singer out there. Quite frankly, I’m anxiously awaiting to see how the rest of the world reacts. As a whole, COCO will be an animated force to be reckoned with both visually and sonically.