Skip to Content

Creating The Alebrijes In Pixar’s Coco

Thank you to Disney and Pixar Studios for hosting me during the #PixarCocoEvent. This post contains affiliate links.

These little guys are alebrijes. They’re from the personal collection of Alonso Martinez, a Character/Rigging Artist at Pixar. He, along with Nick Rosario (Directing Animator) and Christian Hoffman (Characters Supervisor) helped to introduce us to the alebrijes that are featured in the film Coco during our visit to the Pixar campus.

Alebrijes, a form of Mexican folk art, were first created by artist Pedro Linares. In a feverish dream, he saw a colorful forest full of chimera-like animals. After his recovery, he began making papier-mâché versions of those creatures. Alebrijes are now most commonly made from copal wood found in Oaxaca.

Although they’re not from a religious or mythical background, the filmmakers decided to pay homage to alebrijes by making them spirit guides in the film. 

COCO – Pepita concept art by Daniel Arriaga. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

COCO – Pepita concept art by Huy Nguyen. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

COCO – Concept art by Zaruhi Galstyan. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

COCO – Pepita concept art by Greg Dykstra. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Alonso Martinez working on “Coco” on July 25, 2017, at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

The primary alebrije featured in the film is Pepita, Mamá Imelda’s spirit guide. Pepita is a mixture of a ram’s horns, a lizard’s tail, an eagle’s feet and wings and a tiger’s arms and face.

They faced some challenges in creating the digital puppet of Pepita. They wanted her to feel organic, like a real animal, while still paying respect to the harder lines of the traditional wood carvings. The faces and expressions of big cats were studied extensively to help the filmmakers give Pepita a sense of fierceness.

Pepita also has a fluorescence in the film. Her glow actually illuminates her environment.

Press paint models of Pepita, an alebrije, at “Coco” Long Lead Press Day, which included a filmmaker roundtable, presentations about the music, story, characters and set designs of the film, on August 3, 2017 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

During our visit to Pixar, we were given the opportunity to paint our own 3D-printed Pepitas. Yep, those are my hands up there, painting my very own Pepita, with a manicure that looks like I painted my nails with white out. (Won’t be using that polish again…)

I joked that when I got home I was going to completely repaint my Pepita, cover her in glitter and make her glow in the dark. In reality, I remembered this weekend that I still needed to touch up her paint job. She got a decidedly lower key makeover than I had planned.

I don’t see a career as an alebrije artist in my future, but I’m more than happy to have my own little Pepita hang out in my office amongst my movie toy collection.

And speaking of movie toys…

Coco merchandise is already making its way into stores! That includes this Pepita figure.

The Pepita plush that manages to looks both fierce and adorable at the same time.

And this alebrije-style Dante plush that I’m completley obsessed with.

Don’t forget to follow along with all of my #PixarCocoEvent coverage, including a behind the scenes look at the LA premiere in just a few weeks!

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history. Directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”), co-directed by Adrian Molina (story artist “Monsters University”) and produced by Darla K. Anderson (“Toy Story 3”), Disney•Pixar’s “Coco” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2017.


As The Bunny Hops®