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New Pixar Film Helps Us Redefine Death

In Coco, the animated Pixar film released in November, Miguel has a problem: he dreams of becoming a musician, but his family has hated music for generations. When Miguel discovers a portal to the Mexican underworld on Día de Muertos, he embarks on a journey to get the blessing of his idol, a famed musician Ernesto de la Cruz, who just might be his great-great-grandfather. Along the way, he reunites with his deceased ancestors and enlists the help of Hector, a desperate soul with a mysterious connection to de la Cruz―and, as it turns out, a connection to Miguel, too.

In Coco, death is not the end of life, but the continuation of life. During Miguel’s journey in the underworld, he accidentally learns the truth of his family history, which leads the movie to a happy ending. For Miguel, the takeaway is an understanding of the true nature of death: souls continue to thrive after death as long as they are remembered by the living. Miguel also realizes the importance of continuation of family legacy. The movie is named Coco for Miguel’s great grandmother, Mama Coco, who is the only one on the world who has many memories about family history. At the end of the movie, the audience is reassured that music and tradition have been redeemed by the family’s memory.

The movie uses a delightful, even funny plot to emphasize the importance of maintaining family ancestors’ spirit and ideas for young audience. We are living in a fast-pace world; we might not feel that we need to grieve for our past family members, listen to their fantastic life stories, imagine them living happily in another world, or recall their memories which are the only thing left in this world. But Coco reminds us to do this.