Set in Santa Cecilia, an imaginary town in Mexico, the film tells the story of Miguel, a boy determined to emulate his musical hero Ernesto De La Cruz, a character who has more than a little in common with the late singer and actor Pedro Infante. The extravagant, house-size tomb that Miguel enters is actually based on Infante’s tomb in Mexico City’s Panteon Jardín. Since Infante’s death in a plane crash in 1957, crowds have flocked to the tomb on the anniversary of his death each April.
Panteon Jardín, Álvaro Obregón, Mexico City, Mexico +52 55 5683 3434
In De la Cruz’s tomb, Miguel is magically transported to the Land of the Dead, a mysterious and beautiful realm where he meets his dead relatives. Many of the details of this land echo Guanajuato, the historic town in central Mexico. The Land of the Dead has a similar layout to the Mexican town, with colonial architecture, cobbled streets and balconies on many buildings.
In one scene in the film Miguel stops in front of a bronze statue honoring his musical hero. A similar statue in Guanajuato commemorates the Mexican musical legend Jorge Negrete, another figure who inspired the Pixar character.
Just like in Coco, lingering mariachi performers are a common sight in Mexico’s plazas. The Plaza Garibaldi in the heart of Mexico City is one the most visited squares in the country and is packed at all times with serenading mariachis. Tourists flock to the area in search of performances to put them in a party mood.
Coco’s director Lee Unkrich has himself revealed that Santa Fe de la Laguna in Michoacán was the key inspiration behind his fictional Mexican village. The tiny yet lively town of just 5,000 inhabitants has a similar size and layout to Santa Cecilia. It also holds impressive Day of the Dead festivities and its walls are decorated with the same red and white color scheme.