This experience was hosted by Disney & Pixar. However, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own!
Facts About Alebrijes, Pepita, and Dante in COCO
One of the amazing thing to learn during my visit to Pixar in August, was the amount of research that thee team did before and during teh creation of COCO. That research included the exploration and introduction of Alebrijes to the film. During the trip, we had the chance to see how they incorporated alebrijes into the film, learn more about the creation of Pepita (spirit animal in the Land of the Dead), and see how they created Dante (Miguel’s Xolo Dog.)
Alebrijes are chimera animals that were created in 1936 by Pedro Linares, a pinata maker. The story says that he saw these mythical creatures while experiencing dreams while suffering from a high fever. He started creating paper mache versions of the creatures and they became popular. Over the years, the way they are created has changed with many alebrijes crafters using Copal wood.
The unique thing about creating alebrijes is that each artist can put their own designs into the pieces as they are not a representation of any single animal. Since these do not have any religious or cultural significance the Pixar team introduced them as “Spirit Animals” in the film.
Pepita is the main alebrije in the film and she is the Spirit Animal for Miguel’s family. She is the compilation of several animals and when you take a closer look at her you can see a lizard’s tail, gorilla arms (front), eagle feet (back), ram horns, lion face, and eagle wings. Her size and beauty are breathtaking in print form and become so much larger than life on the screen.
To help capture the true essence of a large cat in her face, the team used images of angry large cats for a reference point. This creates a stunning similarity with large cats and provides Pepita with a level of authority in her visual appearance. The team used glowing, fluorescence to provide detail in the small spots on Pepita’s wings and coat. They also used it for her eyes.
The florescence creates a big impact when Pepita is in the dark because she creates a natural glow to the area around her. It also provides the ability for her to be seen in the dark. She is stunning in full color and when she “glows-in-the-dark.”
Alebrijes are often collected and we were given the chance to enjoy some of the collection that belongs to Adrian Molina, COCO writer, co-director, and story artist.
To help us start our collection, we were given the opportunity to paint our own 3D Pepitas. This was a fun and unique experience that allowed us all to get in touch with our artistic side.
I think I proved that I will not be getting a job at Pixar as an artist anytime soon but I did get a good start on painting my Pepita. My daughter happily took over when I came home and finished my creation.
As if we didn’t have big shoes to fill when painting our own version of Pepita, Adrian Molina decided to show us how easy it is to draw Dante.
Dante is the adorable Xolo dog that follow Miguel wherever he goes. He was designed after the real Xolos , which are native to Mexico and Central America. They are considered “hairless” but actually have some tufts on their body. The lack of fur on Dante provided the team with some extra work like when they were creating the skeletons. Fur/Hair on an animal allows animators to hide issues and imperfections. The team had to pay special attention to the wrinkles, skin texture and other tiny details.
To create the bumps, blotches, and variations on Dante they used different paint techniques. They also created “skin simulations” to provide more stretch and movement to his skin to make him appear more natural. The creation of Dante also included research into how a street dog would actually look and the health of xolos.
They applied the unrefined appearance of street dogs to Dante by putting a rip in his ear and folding it over. Since xolos lose their teeth, they also applied that Dante and that is what causes his tongue to constantly hang out. To tackle the manipulation of Dante’s tongue in animation, they used the same rig/device they used to control Hank’s tentacles in Finding Dory.
To develop Dante’s character, animators created Dante’s Lunch. A short tail that showcases the cartoonish nature of Dante and makes everyone fall in love with his simple mind. They were able to truly capture the essence of a puppy in an adult dog’s body. He has a fun casual approach that makes him endearing in spite of his imperfections.
During our trip, we were able to see the first 30 minutes of COCO and I am not-so-patiently counting down the days until it arrives in theaters. I feel in love with Dante and Pepita instantly and can’t wait to see how they fulfill their roles in Miguel’s journey. I am once again blown away by the research, time, and care that the team put forth in all the characters.
If you are as excited about Dante and Pepita as I am, you can bring these adorable characters home in plush form from the Disney Store. They have a fabulous line of COCO inspired merchandise so make sure to check it out so you can bring this fabulous movie to your home.
About the Film
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself magically transported to the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector, and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
Keep up with the latest information by following along online.
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Coco is in theaters everywhere on November 22, 2017.