With last weekend being Dia de los Muertos, I decided to watch Disney’s “Coco.”
I remember feeling ecstatic when I heard the movie announcement. It struck something within me that I didn’t know I was missing.
Growing up, my life revolved around watching Disney movies. Like many little girls, I looked up to the princesses but never truly had one that I wholly related to. I related to Belle because she loved to read and was brunette, but outside of that, I didn’t see myself or my culture represented on the big screen.
I found out about Elena of Avalor around the same time. This new series lives only on the Disney sister network, Disney Junior, and serves a younger, smaller audience. It was their newest effort to expand the Disney Junior programming.
The series is set in the fictional kingdom of Avalor, a country resembling many Latin American countries but vague enough to include wider Hispanic cultural similarities.
The show’s creator said in an interview with USA Today that they employ cultural consultants and a diverse cast to keep them on track.
I like the idea that many, different Hispanic cultures can be represented through this one series, but I do wish Disney’s first Latina princess had the same large-scale treatment as previous princesses such as Cinderella or Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.” Not everyone has access to the Disney Channels, which immediately shrinks the demographic reach for the series, but many people have access to movie theaters.
Again, Disney moved closer to having a popular character that represented me, but fell a little short in my opinion.
Finally in 2017, I got what I had been searching for. “Coco” premiered in theaters all around the world. It follows the story of a Mexican boy named Miguel during what is arguably Mexico’s most famous celebration, Dia de los Muertos.
The movie is comprised of an all-Hispanic cast, many of whom were already very famous telenovela actors in Mexico.
The New Haven Register reported “Coco” was the first motion picture with a nine-figure budget to feature an all Latino cast. It did well at the box office and made about $50 million in its opening weekend in the United States and Canada.
I have many theories as to why it did so well. I don’t think I was the only one to feel a gaping hole in relation to cultural representation in Disney films. I think other kids and adults were anxiously waiting to see their culture represented on a Disney-scale project.
I convinced my family to watch it on opening weekend and not one of us left disappointed. In fact, like in true Disney/Pixar fashion, we all left with tears in our eyes.
It had heart, striking imagery and a thoughtfully composed score. This was the story we had been waiting for.
“Coco” felt more than Disney simply attempting to satisfy an audience; it felt like it had an authentic appreciation of the culture.
I got to see a family so similar to mine speak like mine, intermixing Spanish words with English sentences. I got to hear Mexican music played throughout the movie and it be appreciated like the form of art it is. I got to see a glimpse of all the things that made me who I am on the big screen.
Best of all, I got to share it with people who might not have had that insight to my culture before this movie. I got to see a wider appreciation for my culture grow beyond stereotypes and misrepresentation.
While I know getting excited over a children’s movie doesn’t seem that earth-shattering to some folks, I ask you to think about the Hispanic kids growing up right now who have the benefit of seeing someone like them on the big screen, being viewed as just as important as the rest of the Disney characters.
They get to see their culture appreciated on a wider scale that gives the rest of the world a glimpse of who they are. This story can serve as a great jumping off point to begin discussions about diversity and growth within the industry.
I know that Mexican culture doesn’t account for every aspect of Hispanic culture, but this is definitely meaningful step in the right direction for diversifying Disney.
The Disney kid inside me finally has a movie that feels like home.