In Pixar's new movie Coco, a young boy named Miguel connects with his ancestors in a wild adventure to the Land of the Dead after a Día de los Muertos celebration. And the actor who voices Miguel in Coco is 12-year-old actor Anthony Gonzalez, who, the movie makes clear, is seriously great, as is the film itself. Coco is a great pick to watch during the holidays, because Miguel's journey kicks off with something that many people will relate to: family disagreements. The movie's Nov. 22 release — right in time for Thanksgiving — was likely no coincidence, as there's nothing more perfect to watch with your family than Miguel's celebration of his own.
Even though Gonzalez is 12 now, he started filming Coco when he was only nine years old. It seems like the young actor has always been ready for a leading role, though. An interview with the actor in The Star describes how a four-year-old Gonzalez got signed to a famed talent agency immediately upon singing a mariachi song in his audition. It seems perfect, then, that Gonzalez's breakout role is now in Coco, which celebrates the Latin American tradition of celebrating Día De Los Muertos, which honors one's family's ancestors and loved ones. The holiday is celebrated on Nov. 1, and its traditions and customs are featured prominently in the new animated movie.
Gonzalez's family emigrated from Guatemala before he was born in Los Angeles, and the actor has a personal connection to the celebration. As Backstage reports, Gonzalez is familiar with Día De Los Muertos and he uses it himself to honor to his ancestors. "When I was six, my grandfather passed away and the only time I can connect with him and remember him is the Day of the Dead," Gonzalez told The Star in an interview this September.
Even though the holiday might sound like a somber day of remembrance, both Coco and Gonzalez portray it as the opposite. "It’s a wonderful time, a joyful one" Gonzalez told The Star. "It’s not really negative. It’s more of a celebration, a time to remember the ones who passed away that you love." As the trailer for Coco makes clear, the holiday can be colorful and exciting, which is exactly what filmmaker Unkrich wanted to convey. In an interview with Backstage, the diriector of the latest Pixar movie describes the holiday by saying,
"[It's] about this obligation to remember loved ones that have passed on, remembering them every year in a joyous way, putting things out that they loved in life and passing their stories to a new generation."
Coco proves that a movie that's focused on the dead can become a lively celebration of culture and tradition. Unkrich made sure to make it as authentic as possible, too, telling Backstage, “I wanted to make a film that people in Mexico could watch and feel like it had been made for them." Unkrich, who previously directed Toy Story 3, made sure to involve people more familiar with the culture the film portrays than himself. For instance, Mexican-American director, Adrian Molina, joined him as a co-director, and all of the film's voice actors are Latinx, like Gonzalez.
The full roster of actors voicing characters in Coco include well-known names like Benjamin Bratt, Jaime Camil (who plays Rogelio in Jane the Virgin), Gael García Bernal, and Alanna Ubach (who you may know from Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce). The young Gonzalez may be a newcomer, but he's already in good company, and in a major leading role. The 12-year-old actor likely has a great film career in his future, and Coco is an incredible start to that.