- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pixar’s latest animated blockbuster celebrating family, traditions, dreams and song bursts onto the ultra-high definition format in Coco (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG, 105 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $29.99).

This love letter to Mexican culture highlights the wild adventure of a 12-year-old boy named Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) and his hairless, sausage-shaped dog Dante during El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) holiday.

The son of a cobbler, he lives with his extended, shoe-making family but is forbidden to play music by his grandmother Elena. That’s because his great-great-grandfather abandoned his great-great-grandmother Imelda a century ago to pursue a singing career and left her to raise her young daughter Coco alone.

However, Miguel’s dream is to become a musician like Mexico’s great songsmith Ernesto de la Cruz. The obsession has him break into the mausoleum of his musical hero, steal his guitar and unintentionally get transported to the Land of the Dead.

There, he meets up with many of his skeletal ancestors including Imelda, a trickster named Héctor and the mighty de la Cruz as Miguel looks for help to return to the living before he is stuck with the dead.

Suffice it to report, the palette used by Pixar through this story makes for a rich and colorful universe propagated by living skeletons, wild spirit animals, elaborate costumes, folk dancing, parades and musical numbers.

The film’s themes about the importance of family and never forgetting loved ones will resonate with every human lucky enough to watch “Coco” and is a very worthy addition to any home theater library.

4K in action: Although stunning color saturation through the ultra-high definition and high dynamic range enhancments gives the intricate animation a visual pop, viewers are still only getting an upgrade of the movie rendered from 2K-source material and not a pure 4K experience.

Still, I immediately noticed the sprawling infusion of fluorescent oranges, pinks, blues, purples and greens throughout, highlighted early on with the brilliant-to-gaze-upon musical number starring Ernesto de la Cruz and rows of colorful dancers.

Once Miguel crosses over a marigold bridge into the Land of the Dead (another visual smorgasbord), the colors get even more intense while he wanders through a hue-rich, bustling metropolis surrounding the Plaza De La Cruz, which reminded me of Disneyland.

Impeccable animation details to appreciate include colored etchings on skulls, glass shards, age lines in older characters, candle flames jiggling at altars, a lifelike fireworks display and water in a stalagmite-dripping cave.

Just a few of the visually dazzling moments that that will require rewatching or pausing to admire the craftsmanship include Dante’s transformation into a spirit guide, a visit to a Mexican graveyard, Miguel glowing in orange light as he moves to the Land of the Dead and watching some of the coolest, energetic skeletons ever to star in a movie.

It’s also worth noting that the animation looks almost nearly as impressive on the Blu-ray version of the film, maybe even slightly brighter, although not as rich or sharp.

In either viewing instance, Pixar once again has delivered an inspiring animated world that delivers a nearly three-dimensional quality. I only wish it had been a full-screen presentation.

Best extras: Owners will need to pop up in a pair of included Blu-ray discs to find a variety of bonus content tied to the film, which took six years to bring to life.

The best starting point is getting to watch the movie again, this time with director Lee Unkrich, co-director Adrian Molina and producer Darla K. Anderson. They deliver an insightful optional commentary track that has the trio often touching on the importance of immersing the viewer in the cultural heritage of the story and traditions of El Dia de los Muertos.

They also cover character development, visual effects and changes to the film’s structure along with minutiae such as adding Pixar characters as piñatas, animating characters to look like they are realistically playing musical instruments and building appealing, and not too, scary skeletons.

Next, viewers can watch about an hour’s worth of featurettes loaded with interviews from cast and crew covering music, costuming, character and location design and the important educational trips to Mexico to meet with families.

It’s worth noting that nearly every segment touches on the cultural inspiration for “Coco” and the research required to delver the delightfully authentic goods, down to building that silly pooch Dante based on the national dog of Mexico, the Xoloitzcuintli.

Youngers fans will enjoy a pair of short featurettes that teach them how to draw skeletons and make papel picado art, cutting paper into elaborate designs.

Finally, “Coco” connoisseurs will want to dive deeper into some of animation choices made in the film by first watching a 2-minute, proof of concept video of the cemetery scene (narrated by Mr. Unkrich, Mr. Molina and Miss Anderson) and 33 minutes of deleted scenes. Each scene is introduced by Mr. Unkrich and Mr. Molina and is mostly revealed by slightly animated storyboards.

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