Disney invited me out to Pixar a few months ago to learn all about COCO a new movie about family, tradition and Day of the Dead. After doing extensive research on the traditions of the people of Mexico, Pixar learned a lot about Alebrijes which are imaginary characters made of many characters put together. They are beautiful full of many colors and features that bring them to life.
The origination of Alebrijes:
Pedro Linares came from a family that created pinatas and he became very sick and had a fever dream. His dream took him into a forest that chimera animals started to appear. When he woke up, he wanted to capture in a “paper mache” type sculpture of what he saw. Now they are made from a wood called copal. And the amount of love and detail is amazing. These creatures aren’t really from a religious background, they are just the artist’s imagination. They are pretty amazing.
Pepita is an Alebreje and her development was also fully researched. She is a mixture of a lot of different animals. She has a ram horn, a lizard tail, eagle feet and eagle wings, tiger face and tiger arms. The animator really liked creating her, he basically said that this is the type of animation animators dream for. They get to be so expressive and creative when crating a mythical creature. They were realistic yet dream like in origin and it had to be that way in animation and it was a joy, I could tell by the look on his face as he described the process that he really had a blast. He researched lion and tiger faces. Pepita had to be able to scare people. Feathers were also key to creating Pepita.
Think Voltron, Thundercats put together. The color had to look like real fur in Pepita, they thought about how hair looks on horses. The light from Peipta can be seen on the other characters in certain dark scenes as a reflection. As a natural light would reflect. Pepita seems to belong to mama Imelda and is her spirit guide. I think we’re to assume that Dante is Miguel’s spirit guide. I’m sure that will become clear once we watch the movie.
If you go watch a movie at AMC and get there in time to watch the pre-show, you will learn all about what type of dog Dante is. He is a Xoloitzcuintli, and they call him Xolo for short. Actually, I can share the short here:
Now let’s talk a little bit more about animating Dante. Dogs have such expressive tongs, the animators had so much fun looking for “stupid” do videos. The short Dante’s Lunch was a way they started developing Dante. Many of the personality posing photos are thrown out because they don’t fit. It’s the pushing of the character and posing though, that helps the animators figure out the character. He evolved even more from the short to the actual movie. He’s going to be an integral influence on Miguel. Just like every boy and his dog they get into and out of trouble together.
See COCO in theaters November 22.