Thank you to Disney and Pixar Studios for hosting me during the #PixarCocoEvent.
One of the first questions I was asked after my trip to Pixar Studios was, “Is that new movie going to be scary?” I totally understand the concern. We’re used to thinking of skeletons equated with Halloween and horror movies, and Pixar’s Coco is full of skeletons. There’s no reason to worry, though. The skeletons in Coco are practically cuddly. Well…as cuddly as you can be when you’re a skeleton.
We had the chance to learn from Character Shading Lead Byron Bashforth, Simulation Technical Director Emron Grover, Supervising Animator Gini Santos and Character Art Director Daniel Arriaga about how they brought the skeletons in Coco to life. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t an easy task!
Animating skeletons was completely new to the team at Pixar, and it created a whole new set of challenges. How do you get a skeleton to emote? How do you create different characters, considering most skeletons look very similar?
Through a long process of research and test animations, they created the skeletons in the Land of the Dead with multiple variations in shape. They also decided it worked best to fuse the jawbone to the rest of the skull, even though it is not connected in real anatomy.
The filmmakers had to question things like if the characters had hair and if the hair grew from the bones or acted more like a wig?
Other questions they had to address? How do the skeletons move without the connective tissue present? How far can they push the movement?
They had a little fun with the character of Hecor, giving him a gait that was inspired by Dustin Hoffman’s character, Ratso, in Midnight Cowboy.
That’s not to say that Hector didn’t give the team some specific challenges. The amount of bones shown by his frayed and tattered clothing meant extra work for the animators. Actually, all of the skeletons created the need for a little problem solving when they added clothing into the mix. The technology they use to give fabric realistic movement also caused the fabric to snag and bunch around the bones when it was animated. They spent years upgrading their collision system (how they animate cloth) to get ready for the skeletons on Coco.
They also played with different versions of face paint on the skeletons. There’s not much paint around the mouth areas of the characters because it was considered too distracting while they acted. The paint not only ties into the traditions of Dia de los Muertos, it was also another way to visually separate the characters.
You can see how the skeletons were brought to life when Coco hits theaters on November 22, 2017. Make sure you follow along with all of the #PixarCocoEvent coverage for more behind the scenes scoop!
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.