Filipina animator behind Disney-Pixar’s new Mexican hit

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  • In the upcoming Disney-Pixar movie “Coco,” there might be no Filipino touches like the “bahay kubo” inside Nemo’s aquarium, but Filipina Pixar supervising animator Gini Cruz Santos assured Filipinos will love the movie about the celebration for people’s dearly departed.

    “The Mexican culture, they kind of share our dynamic a little bit as family. For me, I was excited because I felt like all our research in the dynamic of our acting and just kind of a how the Mexican family relates to each other feels Filipino,” Santos told a group of journalists during a roundtable interview.

    “Coco” introduces Miguel, an aspiring singer who dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, the most famous musician in the history of Mexico. Nonetheless, his family forbids music until he discovers why and until he unlocked the secret in the land of the dead during the Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead).

    Santos, who counts Disney’s “Brave” and Dory in “Finding Nemo” as among her notable works, admitted that the biggest challenge for her in making the film is to animate the skeletons because kids might get intimidated.

    “Kids might be afraid to see them (skeletons) at first but we’re hoping that they would relate to see Miguel, being another kid, interacting with skeletons and hopefully be like ‘Hey it’s okay with Miguel, it should be okay (for us),’” the Pasay City native and the University of Santo Tomas graduate said.

    In the film, the Mexican holiday, just like Undas in the Philippines, was richly shown.

    “We did a lot of research before the film started to get inspired. Anything you see in the film is inspired by our trips down there,” said Santos.

    For the creation of the Land of the Dead, Santos explained, “The beauty of things that no one has ever seen is that you can kind of make it up but you need to be responsible for things about it so that it becomes believable.”

    For now, Santos does not see herself directing a full-length animation movie.

    “Some of us strive to be a director, some of us don’t. I don’t know if that is something I ever thought I wanted to do. I can do a short (film) possibly but I love animation. If I think of an idea and I want it to be a short, I guess, that’s kind of a different path.”

    From the Land of the Dead, Gael García Bernal (Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle”) helps bring to life charming trickster Hector, while Benjamin Bratt (“Doctor Strange”) is the voice of Miguel’s idol Ernesto de la Cruz, and Edward James Olmos (“Blade Runner”) lends his voice to Chicharrón. Alanna Ubach (Bravo’s “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce”) provides the voice of Miguel’s great-great-grandmother Mamá Imelda, Selene Luna (“My Bloody Valentine”) voices Tía Rosita, Alfonso Arau (director/producer for “Like Water for Chocolate”) is the voice of Miguel’s late great-grandfather Papá Julio, and Herbert Siguenza (“Ben 10: Alien Swarm”) lends his voice to both Tío Oscar and Tío Felipe, Miguel’s late identical twin uncles.

    J.M. severo, PS

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