Thank you to Disney and Pixar Studios for hosting me during the #PixarCocoEvent.
I get geeked out about the most random things. In this interview, I geeked out because I was interviewing Serena from Legally Blonde. I might have mentioned that to her after the interview. I might have gotten a hug and I might have been told that Legally Blonde 3 is a definite possibility. Talk about days being made. And if that wasn’t already enough, Anthony Gonzalez and Alanna Ubach both sang to us during the interview. Oh, and we talked about their new film, Pixar’s Coco, too.
Did they enjoy last night’s premiere?
Anthony: Oh, that was amazing. It was so much fun, doing all of the press. And it shows all of the work that all these people have been putting in, and, yeah. I just love it, and I can’t wait for everyone else to see it.
Alanna: It was so surreal. I was sitting in between my mother, who is 78 years old and my husband. And we just had a little boy. So, between the two of them… He was just floored, and he didn’t really know that I could sing like that. I mean, you know, he’ll hear me in the shower… but this was really important. And my mother used to tell me about this story of llorona. So, it was a big surprise for her to hear this song that I sang, because it’s about that woman, and it is about that character that she used to talk about when I was a little girl.
The film talks about “seizing your moment”. What is his biggest moment so far?
I loved singing a lot for a lot of commercials and movies and press. Like, I got to sing for Coco, y’know, and it’s just so much singing with Miguel, or singing as Miguel. I had so much fun singing the wonderful lyrics, and it was just so much [fun] being Miguel. And singing. I had so much fun with the Grito. Especially that scene where…Hector is teaching mean about the Grito, I’m like, “Oh, no, I don’t know about this.” Yeah. I just really loved doing Gritos.
And here is where they sang for us…
Alanna: Sure. Oh, my goodness. Well, why not. This is really fun. I like to sing it to my son before he goes to sleep, and I have a 12-week old at home. It goes:
There we go. Very simple. But it puts him to sleep all the time. Like, without fail. So, very important song. My mother. My mother used to sing it to me. Mi mama es de Sinaloa. Mi papa de Puerto Rico. And, both of them, actually, knew that song. And it’s about trying to coax a burro, a little donkey, to get up the hill. It’s like, “Come on little donkey, get up the hill, so you can have your corn.” That’s what it’s about. It’s ridiculous.
Anthony: I’ll just sing Remember Me. Okay.
Does Anthony have advice for other your actors?
Anthony: Thankfully, I had the support of all of my parents and my siblings, so it was very easy to me to do what I love… I love singing, and I love to act. So what I really did is just never give up, and really do my best, and do what I love, and no one can stop me.
I actually never thought I would be an actor, but I would start going to this television show where I would read books in Spanish with all my siblings and other kids. And one day a director was present, and she thought that me and my brothers would be great actors, so she gave us an agent, and I’ve been with him since I was four years old, and, yeah, look, here I am.
Does Alanna think the movie is important for parents?
Alanna: Well, I think it just paints such an exquisite picture of the afterlife, and when my son is old enough to see this film, he’ll be able to say, “Mama, if this is what the afterlife is like, I’m not afraid of death.” It’s just as beautiful as birth.
How would she like to be remembered?
Alanna: How would I like him to remember me? That I sang him funny, silly little songs, and that I loved him with my very soul. He breaks my heart every single day. He gets a hammer to my heart and pounds on it, and then hands it back to me, and then it takes me 23 hours to put it back together all over again, and then the following day he does the same thing. He’s my life. He really is my life. And I hope he remembers me as someone who…that he was my life. He’s just everything to me. I never thought in a million years that I would have such a love for this little potted plant, who is my life right now.
Who was Alanna’s inspiration for Mamá Imelda?
Alanna: This is based on my Tia Flora. When I was a little girl, I remember her inflections. She was very grand. She was a very ornate character, and such an important figure growing up when I was a little girl. I remembered it being eight o’clock in the morning, she had a full face of makeup on constantly, and she always wore her high heels. And at Christmas time it was, when she entered the room, she was, “Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad!!” I was so put off by her as a little girl, because she was just too much, but now as a woman in my early forties, I can look at this woman with such respect. And she had such passion. She was the DNA of my family, and she was very passionate and had this stoicism that was so admirable when I was a kid, growing up. I never forgot her inflections. To me, she was very sing-song-y, and she spoke the way she spoke Spanish when she spoke English, and so I thought, ah, I’m going to make this character. I’m going to base her on my Tia Flora.
Does Anthony celebrate Day of the Dead?
Anthony: I do celebrate the Day of the Dead. I actually started celebrating when my grandfather passed away. And he was very special to me, because he was always there for me, and he would just be so funny, and he was always there to support me in what I loved to do, which was sing. So starting when I was six year old, he passed away. I would love to celebrate the Day of the Dead, because it was a day where I could be with him, and connect with him once again, and that’s why I loved this joyful celebration. And I can’t believe I’m part of a movie that celebrates and shows this wonderful celebration.
What traits does Anthony share with Miguel?
Anthony: I feel like me and Miguel just both want to pursue our dreams. Miguel looks at his idol, like he wants to be just like him. That’s the quote he says, “I want to be just like him.” And I have a lot of singing idols and acting idols. I want to be just like them, too. So I’m very similar to Miguel, because we both just love the music, and we both care about of our families, a lot, and we know how important that celebration of Dia de Los Muertos is. That’s what I love most about really doing the voice of this awesome character.
What would they like audiences to talk away from the film?
Anthony: What I hope that the audience gets from watching this wonderful movie is to really, if they have a secret passion, to share it with the world, and do what they want to do in life, and do what they love, and to really, really know about the wonderful culture, Mexican culture, and the wonderful celebration of the Day of the Dead. And maybe, who knows, maybe they will start celebrating, because it’s a universal celebration.
I have tons more to share from the #PixarCocoEvent, plus plenty of behind the scenes scoop from my trip last August to the Pixar campus. You can find all of my Coco event coverage here.
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” in in theaters now.