Disclaimer: We received tickets to a screening of COCO to facilitate this review. The thoughts and opinions below are my own.
It’s Pixar time, yo!
Not going to lie, I was nervous about this one. The whole idea of going to the land of the dead and hanging out with a bunch of skeletons seemed like something that was going to be too far on the scary side for my kids, since they’re both in the phase of not being able to watch Snow White once the evil queen turns into the witch (too scary!!!). Still, the trailer was really beautiful and I love the idea of introducing Mexican culture to the kids in such a vibrant way. I spent a lot of time going back and forth to Mexico when I was little (my dad went to school in Guadalajara) so I have great memories of the street vendors and the brightly colored alebrije creatures made out of painted clay.
Before I saw the movie I was lucky enough to be part of a blogger roundtable with Emron Grover, one of the Pixar artists who worked on the movie. He was the Tailoring Lead, in charge of the team that built the fabric pieces of the movie (think of ALL those outfits the skeletons are wearing!) and he gave us some behind the scenes info. The Pixar team spent six years working on Coco and Emron spent three of those years just trying to solve the problem of how to get the fabric to look realistic on the skeleton using the computer. Even simple pieces of clothing, like Miguel’s hoodie, ended up being really complicated because the hoodie needed to change depending on what was going on in the scene. I can tell you that all that hard work was worth it – it’s amazing when you watch the film! It’s one of those movies that is almost distracting because it’s so beautiful.
I expressed my concern about the kids being too scared of all the skeletons running around and he assured me that the “scariest” part was when Miguel is running around bumping into the skeletons because he’s just starting to realize that he’s passed over to the other world, a scene that they show in the trailer. So, if you show your kids the trailer a couple of of times, they’ll be totally fine. And he was right!
I won’t give away any spoilers here, which makes talking about the plot pretty difficult, but I’ll tell you that there are some moments where you’ll probably get a little teary and there’s a TON to talk about as a family when it’s all said and done. Huge emphasis on family, genealogy, and the love of music but also plenty of Spanish words woven into the dialect and little cultural moments that are worth highlighting and discussing. We haven’t even gotten through all the details and now we’re planning on another family trip to see it in the theater at least one more time. Like I said, I was worried that it was going to be too weird (and even maybe too politically charged right now in the states) but after seeing it I feel like the theaters are going to be really crowded for weeks.
The focus on music was a great way to reintroduce the idea of learning an instrument to the kids. We’ve dabbled in piano but it comes and goes according to our family schedule (with the “going” being a lot more common) and we’ve talked to the kids about other instruments but they always get frustrated when they don’t sound like professional musicians on the first try. Seeing Miguel work at his music and stay passionate about it was inspiring and I jumped on that like nobody’s business, running right out to pick up a child-size guitar.
I found a Coco themed First Act acoustic guitar for kids at Toys R Us, which seemed perfect for the moment. The First Act guitars have child-friendly strings and they come with a few chord cards to help with the initial finger placement.
I also did some research on starting guitar lessons for kids and came up with a list of helpful suggestions:
Get them excited about the instrument without overwhelming them: Avoid super expensive instruments, multi-hour lessons, and YouTube videos of child prodigies for now or there will be too much pressure in the beginning. Coco was a great way to get the kids excited about playing music, as was buying a kid-sized guitar, but you could also take them to the music store to pick out a beginner book or make a practice chart with prizes for time completed.
Outsource your lessons: Apparently kids don’t learn as well from their parents as they do from other people. Our kids are a little bit stuck at the moment since local lessons are expensive and weirdly crowded here in Salt Lake City, but I have seen some virtual music lessons that look promising.
Let them make videos: I love this one. Performing the first learned songs is exciting but kids are also more likely to make a mistake if they feel the pressure of someone watching them AND there’s a limit to how often you’ll want to sit and listen to those initial super-simple-and-repetitive musical numbers. Instead, let them borrow your phone and they can record themselves until they get one good take, which can easily be texted to grandparents for all of the praise and applause emojis.
Stick with it for two months longer than they want to: It’s pretty inevitable that your kid will get frustrated/bored/distracted and want to give up on their instrument. Two months seems to be the magic number for either breaking through that wall and getting the kid excited again or proving that yes, he definitely does not want to play that instrument. So, make a deal and reward them for giving it the old college try for two more months, whether they ultimately stick with it or not.
Will our kids stick with guitar? I hope so! There are so many good things that coming from the kind of brain bending that music requires and guitars are such a portable, universal, and versatile instrument. Plus, how cute does Eva look with that guitar??
Pixar’s Coco is out in theaters now! Let me know how you liked it!!