Miguel is a young boy who loves music but his family doesn’t. It all goes back to his great great grandfather who wanted to be a musician and left his family to seek his dream. Ever since then, the family has banned all music. So Miguel practices in secret and dreams one day of being just like his idol, the Great Ernesto de la Cruz.
The family’s hatred for music is so deep that Miguel’s grandmother prohibits him from going to the Plaza to shine shoes because the Mariachis gather in the plaza. The family won’t even go to the Plaza to join the village Day of the Dead festivities, choosing to celebrate at home. Miguel tries to sneak out, determined to play at the Plaza’s talent show. When Miguel discovers that his missing great great grandfather is Ernesto De La Cruz, Miguel tries to tell his family that he wants to be a musician not a shoemaker. Their reaction is horror, choosing to focus on the fact that Ernesto abandoned his family over what would make Miguel happy. Miguel’s grandmother even breaks his guitar, which causes Miguel to run away from his family. He wants to play in the Plaza but can’t find anyone that will let him borrow a guitar. Miguel decides to sneak into the village monument to Ernesto to borrow his guitar. But when he touches the guitar, Miguel is transported to the Land of the Dead. Half alive and half ghost, Miguel meets the spirits of his deceased grandparents, aunts, uncles etc. Miguel discovers that he’s been cursed because he stole from the dead. In order to return to the Land of the Living he must receive the blessing of his family. Miguel is given the blessing but with a condition that he never plays music. Miguel immediately breaks his word and is transported back to the Land of the Dead. Because none of his aunt and uncles, nor his great great grandmother Imelda will give him an unconditional blessing, Miguel runs off to find Ernesto who he is certain while send him home without the ban on music.
Along the way, Miguel meets Hector, a spirit who has no family to put his photo on the ofrenda. Worse, his only living family who might remember him is old and senile and on the verge of forgetting him completely. when that happens his spirit will die a second death and he will be completely gone. He agrees to help Miguel get Ernesto’s blessing in exchange for Miguel taking back his photo and putting on it the ofrenda so Hector can return one last time to see his daughter.
Miguel does find Ernesto, who isn’t the man Miguel thought he was. Nor, as it turns out is Hector. The truth about Ernesto and Hector casts a different light on the family curse. After some rather madcap hijinks, Miguel narrowly makes it home to his great grandmother Coco and with a song inspires her to remember her father and save him from being forgotten forever. His family is also encouraged to let Miguel play music, especially now that he’s learned a hard lesson about fame. And a year later, Miguel plays in the plaza alongside the spirit of his actual great great grandfather, Hector, whose photo has been restored to the family ofrenda.
Now I have no idea how accurate the movie is about Mexican village life or the traditions of Dia De Muerto but it was a sweet film nonetheless. And certainly it has made me curious to find out more about this holiday. I would actually love to see Pixar use their movies to encourage more such explorations of other cultures.