DirectorLee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Release Date(s)2017 (February 27, 2018)
Studio(s)Pixar Animation Studios (Walt Disney Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
Disney and Pixar’s Coco is the tale of a 12-year-old Mexican boy named Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez). Miguel has a problem, which is that he loves music while his family wants nothing to do with it. Long before Miguel was born, his great-great grandfather, a talented musician, abandoned his wife Imelda and daughter Coco. Heart-broken, his wife raised their daughter by making shoes, thus creating a family business that’s now the pride of her descendants… except for Miguel. With the Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration fast approaching, Miguel sees a chance to prove his talent in the festival’s musical competition. So he borrows a guitar from the tomb of the famous singer, Ernesto de la Cruz, who he believes to be his great-great grandfather. In the act of taking it, though, Miguel crosses over into the Land of the Dead, where he meets his ancestors, including Imelda. She tries to return him to the world of the living, but not before making him swear never to play music again. Miguel refuses, realizing that if he can find Ernesto, he’ll be able to return home on his own terms. So with the help of a trickster named Héctor, Miguel sets off across Land of the Dead to find his long-lost relative and hero.
Directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3), Coco is a wondrous CG fantasy-adventure, with a dramatic and cultural sophistication that’s rarely seen in American animation. Its story manages to be engaging and funny, even as it delivers a rich celebration of Mexican heritage and tradition. Moreover, this is a tale of family through the generations, dealing with issues of love, loss, and the connections that bind the living and the dead together across time – something almost any viewer can relate to. With a fine cast of voice talent that includes newcomers as well as the likes of Benjamin Bratt and Edward James Olmos, and a fine score by Michael Giacchino, Coco ranks among the best animated films of recent memory.
Coco’s digital animation was rendered in 2K and finished at the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. It was upscaled and given an HDR10 color grade for its release on 4K Ultra HD. But don’t let the upscaling put you off; this is one of the most finely-textured animated films I’ve seen yet. Character and environmental detail is extraordinary, visible in everything from skin and hair, to bone, brick, stucco, fabric, and water. That, combined with the film’s bold color palette and impressive use of atmospheric effects gives Coco a unique realism and dimensionality, almost as though it were animated with physical models. That palette is greatly enhanced with an HDR grade that lends natural glare to bright skies and surface reflections, deepens the darkest shadows, and enriches and broadens the coloring. Eyes have a glossy liquid appearance, metal gleams, and the inlay on Ernesto’s guitar has a lovely pearlescent quality. This is gorgeous animation, exquisitely rendered, and luminous in HDR. [Editor’s Note: We’ve learned from director Lee Unkrich that Pixar has tested rendering their animation at full native 4K and found that there isn’t enough of a visual benefit vs 2K. Doing so would also increase both the processing power required and rendering time significantly.]
Audio on the 4K disc is provided in a smooth and expansive English 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos mix (Dolby TrueHD compatible) of lovely clarity and fullness. This isn’t a bombastic presentation, but rather a lush and atmospheric experience that envelops the listener within the soundstage. Directionality is precise and natural, lots of ambient cues from the height channels. LFE is firm but never overpowering, while dialogue and music are crisp and clean. This a fine reproduction of the theatrical sonic experience for the home and it serves the visuals well. Additional audio options include English 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, and French and Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, with optional subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.
Disney and Pixar’s package includes the 4K UHD disc, which is movie-only, along with two Blu-ray discs, one containing the movie in standard 1080p and another full of extras. There are no special features on the 4K disc itself, allowing abundant room for the video and audio data, but the movie Blu-ray includes the following (in HD):
- Feature Commentary (by director Lee Unkrich, co-director/writer Adrian Molina, and producer Darla K. Anderson)
- Welcome to the Fiesta (2:16 – with optional commentary by Unkrich, Molina, and Anderson)
- Mi Familia (10:00)
- Dante (6:14)
- How to Draw a Skeleton (3:18)
- Previews (4 in all, including Star Wars: Forces of Destiny – Ewok Escape and The Incredibles 2)
The Special Features Blu-ray adds the following (also in HD):
- Deleted Scenes (7 scenes – 33:07 in all)
- A Thousand Pictures a Day (20:03)
- The Music of Coco (13:12)
- Land of Our Ancestors (6:19)
- Fashion Through the Ages (8:39)
- The Real Guitar (3:08)
- Paths to Pixar: Coco (11:44)
- How to Make Papel Picado (2:19)
- You Got the Part! (2:12)
- Trailers (5 in all, including the Dante’s Lunch web exclusive)
- Un Poco Coco (3:05)
The featurettes offer interesting insights into the culture and process of the film, and also the personal stories of the crew, but are not especially detailed from a technical standpoint. Meanwhile, the deleted scenes reveal that Coco was once more of a musical, before the filmmakers fully appreciated the contradiction in the idea of a musical about a family that scorns music. Note that the package also includes a Movies Anywhere digital code on a paper insert.
Coco is a lively, moving experience and one of Pixar’s best films to date. It’s also visually dazzling, sonically rich, and deeply satisfying. The film has already won the Golden Globe, the Annie Award, and the BAFTA for Best Animated Film, and it’s very likely to take home the Oscar in that category as well. This is a genuine achievement and a film that truly deserves to be seen in 4K Ultra HD. Don’t miss it.
- Bill Hunt