I have been pretty vocal about how disappointing the 2017 movie year has been. Easily one of the worst I can remember. What I didn't mention was how the lack of quality animated films exacerbated the problem.


When you reflect back on the crap dished out this year, it's enough to make you gag! "Despicable Me 3", "The Emoji Movie", "Cars 3", "The Boss Baby", "My Little Pony", "The Lego Batman Movie", "The Lego Ninjago Movie", the totally awful "The Nut Job 2", the equally horrid "Smurfs: The Lost Village", and the recent "The Star". "Captain Underpants" was the one semi bright star in a galaxy of clunkers.


Pixar, gets a second shot to redeem itself, after "Cars 3" with their latest toon, "Coco". This is Disney's first effort to address the Mexican market. [Note: "Coco" already opene in Mexicoc and is already the biggest selling film ever released!]

One can't help but remember that Dreamworks released Jorge R. Gutierrez's "The Book of Life" two years ago (2014) that revolved around the Mexican Dia de los muertos (Day of the Dead). It was about a young Mexican guy named Manolo who sets out on a quest to do stuff against his families wishes. There was a guitar involved.


Lee Unkrich ("Toy Story 2 & 3", "Finding Nemo", "Monsters, Inc") takes Jason Katz's story of a young Mexican boy named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) who dreams of pursuing a career in music though his family strictly forbids any involvement in music.


Their reasons date back to a relative who abandoned the family so he could seek fame and fortune in music. Miguel wants to do the same; he wants to follow his dreams and be just like his favorite singer Ernesto Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt). So he swipes Cruz's legendary guitar and after an accident, finds himself on the other side to begin his journey to find his great grandfather whom he thinks is actually Ernesto.


During his journey through the land of the dead he runs into all his past relatives who are trying the best to keep him from pursuing his goal. It seems there are various levels of death, the last being when nobody in the family remembers you.


Which brings us to the one decent song, that is played over and over again in various beats...Remember Me... which is crucial to the film. In order for Miguel to make it back to the land of the living, he needs the blessings of one of these deceased relatives. His solution is to fiund his great grandpa to get his blessing because surely he'll understand.


As is usual with Pixar, and probably moreso in this case, plenty of detail was applied to the attire of the cast, the landscape and even the food. The colors are bright and vibrant - probably the most colorful film Pixar has made since "Ratatouille". But quite frankly, it resembles Gutierrez's "The Book of Life" ... a lot! Maybe that's why Disney made an attempt to trademark Day of the Dead. [That didn't work out however.]


As a mostly fun, yet still dark for young children, the film hits all the high notes as a celebration of a culture and manages to do so with any princess or queens.


"Coco" is the best animated film of the year, which really isn't saying much considering the dearth of quality films this year. Disney/Pixar does a great job of relating Mexican culture to a vibrant, fun film.   -- GEOFF BURTON