Western Animation / Coco

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There's a bone to pick with people, in more ways than one.

"Never forget how much your family loves you."
Mamá Imelda

Coco is a computer-animated film by Pixar, released first in Mexico on October 27, 2017, and in the United States and most other territories on November 22 of the same year.

Directed by Lee Unkrich, this is the story of a 12-year-old Mexican boy named Miguel Rivera who, living in a family of music-hating shoemakers, ends up creating one of the most extraordinary family reunions ever upon discovering a generation-old mystery surrounding this so-called "music curse".

A first look into the film's concept can be viewed here. The teaser trailer for the film can be viewed here, as well. Dante's Lunch "Short Film" trailer. It's become the number one movie of all time in Mexico, with critics and audiences alike praising it for its sensitive and artful representation of the Mexican holiday and culture.

For the first few weeks of its run, the Frozen short Olaf's Frozen Adventure was attached to the film's theatrical release.

Please move any character tropes to the Coco character page.

Coco provides examples of:

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    A-F 
  • Adult Fear: The backstory of the Rivera family is steeped in this.
    • Imelda was left to raise her very young daughter by herself when her husband Héctor left home in hopes of making a living while doing something he loved. Not only was he never interested in fame but he also never wanted to tour around different towns and cities every day for fame like Ernesto. She never found out that her husband had been murdered so she believed that he walked out on the family and was so devastated by this that she banned music from the family. The rest of her family was so hurt by her husband's supposed abandonment that they upheld the ban well after her death and avoided even speaking his name for generations.
    • On Héctor's side, his 25-year-old childhood friend murdered him when he was only 21-years-old all on the account that Héctor wanted to return home to his wife and daughter, and because his family never learnt that he was murdered and believed that he abandoned them, Héctor ended up disgraced and ostracized from his family in the afterlife. He doesn't even realize he was murdered for 96 years and when he does, Ernesto essentially tries to murder him again.
    • There's also the reaction of the Rivera family members, both living and dead, when Miguel runs away. The whole thing feels similar to a terrified parent trying to find their child missing in a mall. The whole thing ends with the dead Rivera family members watching as Miguel is nearly murdered and then Héctor almost undergoes Final Death.
    • Two of the Rivera ghosts, Julio and Victoria, were actually Coco's late husband and daughter respectively, meaning she's not only a Widow Woman who outlived one of her children, but a daughter who waited her entire life for a father whom she isn't aware was murdered.
    • When Ernesto de la Cruz is threatening to throw Miguel off a building, Hector is too weak from being forgotten to do more than plead helplessly: "He's a living child, Ernesto!"
    • Lighter than the other examples listed here, but the idea that a beloved member of the family could one day become so senile, they don't understand anything that's going on around them, know what year they're in, or even recognize their own children, is pretty scary to a lot of people. Especially since it happens in real life tragically often, and there's not much anyone can do to prevent it or fix it. It's doubly scary if you consider the possibility it could one day happen to you. Though the ending of this story shows that, even with her Alzheimer's, Mama Coco still loves her family with all her heart, even if she isn't always lucid enough to express it.
    • During his life, Héctor spent so much time working away from home that he was genuinely worried that his relationship with his daughter would suffer for it. Remember Me is a sweet song, but it's also a product of guilt, a desperate plea for his daughter to understand that he still loves her even though he's not around to show it.
  • Advertising by Association: As usual with Pixar films, the trailer says "From the creators of Toy Story and Finding Dory".
  • Age Cut: During the papel picado prologue, there’s a brief scene where young Coco dances across and becomes a young woman.
  • The Ageless: The appearances of the spirits of the Land of the Dead are based on what they looked like at the moment of their death, more or less; never really changing aside from cleaning up any potential wounds they may have had (like the many fractures Ernesto would have probably received by being crushed to death by a bell). As a result, Ernesto de la Cruz appears to be in his 40s at most, Héctor himself doesn't appear a day over 21 years old, while Mama Imelda and Papa Julio look much older. When the almost unresponsive and senile Coco dies, she arrives in the Land of the Dead still with white hair and hunched over, but much livelier. She can even walk again.
  • Agony of the Feet: When Imelda stomps on Ernesto's foot on stage, escaping his grasp while he whines and jumps around in pain.
  • All Part of the Show: Mamá Imelda successfully plays off dodging and evading Ernesto's bodyguards as dancing when she accidentally ends up in the Sunrise Spectacular stage and turns to singing to avoid alarming the crowd. Likewise, Ernesto disguises his attempts to stop Imelda and recover Héctor's photo as dancing and performing, complete with turning his scream of pain into a hearty Mariachi grito when Imelda stomps on his foot to set herself free and steal back the picture. The audience is, of course, none the wiser.
  • Ambition Is Evil:
    • The villain's Backstory: Ernesto de la Cruz only became the star he was after he murdered Héctor and stole his songs. He's also the only character to point out, quite correctly, that achieving your dreams sometimes means leaving your hometown and family, and this is framed in a rather negative light.
    • It is also the reason why Mamá Imelda prohibited music for the Riveras. She doesn't hate music, quite the contrary, she was a musician herself along with her husband, but when her husband never returned home from his first music tour, Imelda believed that music could cause a person to become so ambitious that they would abandon their loved ones to chase their dreams. Afraid this might happen to her children, she prohibited music for her family. Ironically the prohibition almost forced Miguel to do exactly that and Imelda soon realizes that it didn't work too well. "Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!", indeed.
  • Amusing Injuries: Let's just say that a lack of flesh and blood on your bones is bound to make these a regular occurrence. In an interview with NPR, the creators point out that because everyone is already dead, no one can be seriously injured, and so the Land of the Dead is completely devoid of things like safety rails.
  • An Aesop:
    • 'Follow your dreams' and 'let your children do what they love,' which are present in Miguel's passion for music going against his family's traditions.
    • 'Fame and fortune are pretty meaningless if people have nothing positive to say about you once you're dead.'
    • 'Family comes first'. Because fans may come and go, but your family will love you forever.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: The crowd responds with thunderous applause when Ernesto gets a bell dropped on him following him being outed as a fraud and a murderer.
  • And This Is for...: Imelda when she smacks Ernesto with her shoe twice after finding out that he killed Héctor and tried to kill Miguel.
  • Animated Musical: Averted. Music is a major theme of the movie and several characters sing, but all of the singing occurs In-Universe.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Seize your moment," which is Ernesto de la Cruz's Catch-Phrase and is repeated by the characters throughout the movie in various contexts.
    • "Remember Me", Ernesto de la Cruz's In-Universe Signature Song which is originally written and performed by Héctor for his daughter Coco. Remembering deceased loved ones is one of the film's Central Themes, which ultimately becomes an important plot point towards the end of the film.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: After his failed attempt to cross the bridge, Hector is charged with disturbing the peace, fleeing an officer, and falsifying a unibrow. Lampshaded by Hector when he responds to the last charge with "That's illegal?"note 
  • Art Shift: The prologue is depicted in 2D animation on papel picado banners.
  • As You Know: At the time Abuelita Elena is explaining Miguel the traditions of Día de Muertos it's clear that he already knows all this, and all this information is directed to the audience who isn't acquainted with Día de Muertos (especially those audiences who aren't Mexicans).
  • Audible Gleam: Played for Laughs during Miguel's opening narration when he mentions "sparkly underwear for wrestlers" as something Imelda could have started a business on instead of shoes.
  • Award-Bait Song: Remember Me / Recuérdame. Just to make sure they cover all bases there are six recorded versions of the song in the Spanish dub:
  • Bait the Dog: When Ernesto first appears, it seems he's just as amazing as he was in life. He also willingly bonds with his supposed great-great-grandson Miguel and encourages him to follow his dream. Then it's revealed he's a fraud who he murdered his best friend and stole his songs to become famous. After this, he tries to murder Miguel, even though at the time he thought he was his great-great-grandson.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Inverted. Dead family members with no photo on their ofrenda cannot cross the marigold bridge to the living world, as shown by Héctor when he tries to cross but ends up sinking into the petals.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Miguel wanted to become a musician like Ernesto de la Cruz. He got more than what he bargained for.
    • Imelda spent her whole life trying to forget the man who walked out on her, and make Coco forget him too. When she sees that Héctor is dying the Final Death thanks to Coco forgetting him, she's visibly horrified and remorseful to see that it's worked all too well.
      Imelda: [ruefully] I wanted to forget you. I wanted Coco to forget you too, but...
    • Ernesto murdered Hector and stole his songs because he wanted to be famous. When the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead discover the truth, he became infamous for being a reviled murderous fraud.
  • Be Yourself: Ernesto decided to embrace his true nature as a musician instead of his family and encourages Miguel to disregard his family's wishes to do the same.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Pepita pulls this twice. First she and Imelda help Miguel and Héctor out of the cenote and later she catches Miguel in mid-air after Ernesto tossed him off the tower.
  • Big Shadow, Little Creature: The last scene has Dante tread in from the right followed by a huge shadow that looks like Pepita, but turns out to be a small cat; this is Pepita's true earthly form, as Imelda's beloved pet cat.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: The Time Skip at the end has Miguel showing his new baby sister all of the deceased family members upon the ofrenda just before their grandmother puts up a photo of Mama Coco. Fittingly, the novelization confirms that the baby is named Socorro. Or, Coco for short.
  • Black Comedy: Inevitable in an animated comedy where half of the cast are living dead. It ranges from Ernesto de la Cruz dying a ridiculous death (a giant bell falling on him) to skeletons falling apart and putting themselves together again.
  • Book-Ends:
    • The movie starts and ends with a shot of an orange flag on the banner, with the movie’s title at the beginning and "THE END" at the end, with the former appearing in the latter's place in the international versions.
    • The movie also opens with Miguel explaining his dream of becoming a musician even though his family is vehemently against it, lamenting how his family seems to be the only one in Mexico to hate music. By the end of the movie, Miguel is seen in full mariachi garb as his family gathers at the dinner table on Dia de Muertos while reaffirming how much he loves his family in song.
    • Another example for Ernesto: his first scene has him surrounded by a stand packed full of his adoring fans, before being accidentally crushed by a giant bell. In his last appearance, his former fans aren't so kind upon learning what a fraud he is, and Imelda's alebrije intentionally brings the bell down on him.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Rivera family's business of shoemaking. Miguel wishes Imelda had started a fun business, like making candy or fireworks. However, making shoes was a good idea, financially — shoes are something everyone needs, and they have to be replaced semi-frequently. And it paid off; the business is still up and running nearly a century later, and it's enough to support the entire family.
  • Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: One of the skeletons going to cross the marigold bridge to the Land of the Living is wearing rather enormous braces that fit his huge jaw. It's mentioned that his photo is on the offrenda of his dentist.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The things Héctor borrowed from Chicharron include his van, mini-fridge, and femur.
  • Broken Pedestal: Ernesto de la Cruz is the inspiration behind Miguel's love of music, but it turns out that not only was he a fraud, he actually murdered the original musical genius Héctor, who is revealed to be Miguel's actual great-great-grandfather. Ernesto also becomes one to the Lands of the Living and Dead once they discover the truth.
  • Broken Record: When Héctor is shocked at learning Ernesto is Miguel’s great-great grandfathers, his response is simply this:
    Héctor: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait, wait...Wait, no, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait, wai-wait, wait, wait. Wait, wait...
  • Calacas: The Calacas are all skeletal, but their design include fully-functioning human eyes and small ornate markings. They are only allowed to venture to the land of the living when their living relatives have their photographs displayed on an altar during Dia De Los Muertos and can take the astral forms of inanimate objects (from food to guitars and clothes) back with them. Living humans that are brought to the afterlife can only be sent back from a blessing of a relative that is already there before sunrise lest they turn into a Calacas permanently. Should the memory of them on Earth fade away completely, they themselves fade away into "the final death."
  • The Cameo:
    • The Pizza Planet truck drives past Miguel's house during his montage of Elena refusing music.
    • A figure of Nemo can be seen on the table that Miguel drums on.
    • Woody, Buzz, and Mike Wazowski appear as piñatas.
    • Among the guests at De la Cruz's party were real life Lucha Libre legend El Santo, comic actor Cantinflas, singer and actress Maria Felix and Mexican revolutionary figure Zapata.
    • John Ratzenberger makes his traditional Pixar cameo as a deceased orthodontal patient.
    • Skrillex is one of the participants in the afterlife battle of the bands.
    • Pixar Composer, Michael Giacchino, makes a brief appearance as the Sunrise Spectacular's conductor.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Ernesto accuses Miguel of this for bringing up how a line he said in real life while he was alive was the same as something he says in a movie, and extrapolating that he murdered the person he said it to just like in the film. Though in this case Miguel was right.
  • A Cappella: The scene where Héctor is singing "Remember Me" starts out with him singing it acapella with no music, then when it changes to the flashback of him singing it to little Coco the acoustic guitar slips in, then slips back out upon returning to the present. The album version keeps the guitar intact for the entire song.
  • Catch a Falling Star: Dante attempts this, but he's not strong enough to rescue Miguel as he's falling. Pepita actually ends up rescuing him.
  • Cat/Dog Dichotomy: Miguel's animal companion, the dopey, amiable dog Dante, and Mama Imelda's, the large and initially frightening jaguar-like alebrije Pepita.
  • Caught on Tape: How Ernesto is exposed to the crowd as a fraud during the Sunrise Spectacular.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: The Department of Family Reunions.
  • Celestial Deadline: Miguel has until sunrise to get back to the Land of the Living or he'll be stuck there for good.
  • Central Theme: The importance of family. Dreams are important and you should follow them and support others' dreams but through it all, nothing is more important than the people who love you.
  • Cessation of Existence: If you 're no longer remembered in the world of the living, this is what happens to you in the Land of the Dead.
  • Character Narrator: Played with at the beginning, where Miguel's off-screen Opening Narration is revealed that in-universe he's pouring the whole thing out to a customer of his shoe-shining business, because he can't talk to his family about it and he needs to tell someone.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Héctor disguising himself as Frida Kahlo to cross the marigold bridge is a great gag, but then it turns out that he knows where de la Cruz is supposed to be rehearsing for his Sunrise Spectacular because he borrowed the costume from the show's costume designer. While he's apologizing for losing it, Miguel meets the real Frida Kahlo, who's choreographing a performance piece with a lot of dancers costumed as herself. She encourages his artistry and imparts the plot-critical information that no, Ernesto is not here rehearsing, he's holding a very exclusive party that they'll have to find a way into. Later, Héctor's way in is to disguise himself as Frida again. And later still, the entire family disguise themselves as Frida Kahlo thanks to that dance piece she designed, with Miguel personally thanking Frida for her help after she wishes him luck.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Imelda's picture is knocked off the ofrenda, and we later find her berating a customs official because the lack of a photo means she can't go to the Land of the Living.
    • At first Héctor's letters to Coco are simply revealed as a Tragic Keepsake, showing that Coco never stopped loving or missing her father, and bringing the family around to embracing music again. Then, a year later, it turns out the letters were instrumental in exposing Ernesto's misdeeds (leaving him condemned in the world of the living as well as the Land of the Dead and his punishment thus complete) and Héctor's reputation restored.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Héctor's first appearance seems to be a one-off bit demonstrating the rule that people can't cross back into the land of the living unless there is an ofrenda for them to visit. Then Miguel crosses paths again with him later, and he eventually turns out to be very important to the plot, as does the reason why his photo is not in any ofrenda.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Héctor's ability to dress up as Frida Kahlo ends up being helpful a couple of times later.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: When Hector confronts De la Cruz just as Miguel is about to receive a blessing to become a musician, Hector recites the words that were told to him just before he died of food poisoning. Miguel points out that those same lines were recited in a scene in film starring de De la Cruz, where he was given a poisoned drink by his best friend, which was playing at that very time in a nearby TV. This leads to Hector to realize that on the night he decided to quit show business and go back to the family he left behind, and take his song book with him, he and De la Cruz shared a farewell drink. Moments later, Hector collapsed and died on the street, with De la Cruz blaming it on food poisoning, and getting famous by singing the songs Hector composed.
  • Comical Overreacting: At the beginning of the movie, any time music is so much as mentioned in front of the Riveras, expect their reactions to be hilariously over-the-top for the audience. Until they find out about Miguel's hidden shrine and guitar...
  • Concert Climax: The climax takes place at Ernesto's "Sunrise Spectacular." It's something of a combination of the Action Movie and Romantic Comedy versions of this trope, as it involves a Race Against the Clock, the villain being exposed to the world and the reunion of Héctor with his family.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Miguel arrives at the intermediary station between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead just as Héctor his true great-great-grandfather tries and fails to cross the bridge, meaning they can bump into each other later on in the Grand Central Station. After Miguel learns that Dante is his spirit guide he speculates that it wasn't just a coincidence, even though Dante had nothing to do with the timing of his arrival.Or did he? 
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: Ernesto de la Cruz's version of Remember Me is big and flashy, and sounds like a fond farewell to all the women he's left behind, while Hector's version is a slower, more wistful plea for his daughter not to forget about him while he's away working.
  • Covers Always Lie: Any movie or soundtrack cover showing Miguel and Hector on the marigold bridge together falls guilty of this, since Hector can't cross the bridge for most of the movie.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The Land of the Dead has only been seen on Día de Muertos, but from what's depicted it seems to be a 24/7 party filled with amazing sights, sounds, and performances where the vast majority of the dead get to enjoy themselves and reunite with their loved ones after death on top of getting a chance to see how their living relatives are doing once a year. On the other hand, the forgotten, those without pictures on their family's ofrendas, are often left to scrape by in slums filled with trash and garbage with little hope of ever seeing their families again before finally suffering their Final Death and fading away into a place no one knows (or likely cares) about.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The credits show various events and artifacts of the movie depicted on the many papel picado banners, as marigold petals fly through the scenery.
  • Creator Cameo: The orchestra conductor of Ernesto's concert in the climax is modeled after composer Michael Giacchino.note 
  • Crowded Cast Shot: The movie ends as every Rivera family member, living and dead, all gather round Miguel as he is raised on his dad and uncle’s shoulders while singing "Proud Corazón" and the view pans up as mentioned below.
  • Cry into Chest: Miguel cries into Héctor's chest when both find themselves tossed into the cenote. At the end, he does this with his father when he believes Coco has fully forgotten her father.
  • Cue the Falling Object: At the Department of Family Reunions, enraged Imelda smashes a computer with her shoe but Papá Julio comes to interrupt her. After a minute the computer gives off a final surge in an unsuspected moment.
  • Curse Cut Short: When Chicharrón accuses Héctor of borrowing his femur:
    Chicharrón: Where’s my femur?! You — [He singes and faints before he can get the words out.]
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: The reason why Miguel's family is so adamant that he never play a musical instrument, and abandon his hopes of being a musician is because mamá Coco and her mother were abandoned by her father, a musician, who went on tour, found fame and never came back. It turns out that Hector is Miguel's great-great grandfather, not de La Cruz, and the reason why Hector never came back from tour was because after deciding to quit show business and go back to raise his family, de La Cruz, Hector's stage partner, poisoned his drink, stole Hector's song book, and blamed his death on food poisoning.
  • Dance Party Ending: The film closes with the Riveras, both living and dead, dancing around over Miguel's musical number.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Land of the Dead is actually a thriving community of skeletons who are actually friendly and even help Miguel during his journey.
  • The Dead Can Dance:
    • The Frida Kahlo dancers rehearse and then perform on stage at the Sunrise Spectacular.
    • Héctor kicks up his heels after Dante pushes him on stage during Un Poco Loco.
    • The huge crowd at Ernesto's grande Fiesta in his tower are dancing.
    • Imelda dances while singing La Llorona to evade Ernesto and Ernesto joins her.
    • The reunited Imelda and Héctor dance a waltz together as Miguel sings Proud Corazón.
  • Deader Than Dead: Skeletons vanish from the Land of the Dead when the living no longer remember them, though no one knows what happens to them after that. They even call this "Final Death".
  • Dead Hat Shot: There's a close up on Chicharrón's hat after he's vanished from the Land of the Dead.
  • Death as Comedy: Ernesto was killed in 1942 when a church bell fell on him during a performance.
  • Death Glare: In Héctor's flashback, Ernesto gives one to Héctor as he drinks his shot of tequila, not knowing that there's poison in it.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The "following your dreams" aesop. For the deconstruction part, while Miguel's musical aspirations are sympathetic, it also leads him to forgoing his family when he assumes that they won't support him. This also leads to becoming more and more selfish to the point of saying hurtful things to his family. The reconstruction comes after discovering Ernesto's true, villainous colors. Miguel learns how important his family is and that while it's perfectly okay to have dreams, he shouldn't make that more important than his family. Because he learned this lesson, his family learns that music isn't as corrupting as they had once believed.
  • Dem Bones: The dead are all depicted as friendly-looking skeletons.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Said by Miguel when the end of his Opening Monologue is actually spoken off-camera and the mariachi guy heard.
  • Died Happily Ever After: Mama Coco is happy to be in the Land of the Dead thanks to being reunited with her family.
  • Diegetic Switch:
    • During the scene where Miguel and Héctor are in the pit upon learning the truth, Héctor looks at the ripped-up photo from the ofrenda and begins singing "Remember Me" a capella, before switching to the flashback of him playing the song to Coco when she was younger.
    • "Proud Corazón" starts out as a background piece played as Héctor reunites with Imelda and Coco in the Land of the Dead before crossing the marigold bridge with the rest of the Riveras, before switching to Miguel singing it onscreen for his family following such.
  • Disguised in Drag:
    • Héctor disguising himself as Frida Kahlo. It's a Running Gag.
    • Miguel and his family get into Ernesto's concert at the climax by disguising themselves as the back-up dancers for Frida Kahlo's performace-art piece... which means all of them, including the men, are dressed as Frida Kahlo.
  • Dishonored Dead:
    • Given how he left his family (or so it originally seemed), Miguel's great-great-grandfather doesn't have a presence on the Rivera family's ofrenda. The one family picture of his great-great-grandparents has his face torn out. Miguel's great-great-grandfather is eventually revealed to be Héctor.
    • After the truth comes out about Héctor and Ernesto de la Cruz, the memorial dedicated to Ernesto appears to be condemned one year later. A bust of him is shown to be covered by a sign that says "FORGET YOU."
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: The runners-up at the Battle of the Bands end up taking first place after Miguel leaves after being betrayed last minute. Fortunately, they offer to sneak Miguel into Ernesto's tower so he can perform there after all.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Played for Laughs near the start of the film, when the Riveras catch Miguel talking to a Mariachi at Mariachi Square. They interrogate him to know "what did he offer" Miguel, and aggressively let him know that they "know your tricks," as though he were a child abductor offering candy, or a street peddler offering drugs.
  • Dreamworks Face: Miguel pulls one when trying to imitate Ernesto's facial expression captured on a record cover.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After having spent most of his life being shut out from music of any kind, having his faith in his lifelong idol shattered, and coming within a hair's-breadth of being murdered by said idol several times, Miguel manages to return to the Land of the Living and the Riveras (both living and dead) learn the truth about Héctor. As a result, Héctor is forgiven, his photo is placed on the family altar and he finally reunites with his daughter. The Riveras, who hated music before, now embrace it and Miguel is able to chase his dreams of becoming a musician.
  • Easily Forgiven: Played With. Imelda's unwilling to forgive Héctor right away since even after learning that he was killed by Ernesto before he could return, he still abandoned her and Coco; by the finale, they're back together for real. Also, in the living world after the one year Time Skip, the Riveras forgave Héctor and accepted music once again. It can be assumed that just like their ancestors, they didn't automatically forgive Héctor overnight, but it took some time and effort from Miguel and Coco, as well as finding Héctor's letters that revealed the truth, to convince them to do so.
  • The End: The fifth Pixar film to finish with this after A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and Finding Dory.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Tía Rosita mans the camera and Tía Victoria turns on the sound as Ernesto confronts the Rivera family backstage at his concert, broadcasting the entire thing to the stadium screens and outing Ernesto as a murderous fraud.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: Miguel says that he always thought the Land of the Dead was something adults made up, like vitamins.
    Tía Victoria: Miguel, vitamins are a real thing.
    Miguel: Well, now I'm thinking maybe they could be.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Frida Kahlo has a monkey alebrije, based on the pet spider monkey she had in Real Life.
  • Exact Words: "I hope you die very soon." This at first seems like an amusing line to mean that Ernesto looks forward to the next time he sees his reunited great-great-grandson when he returns to the afterlife for good. However, once the twist is revealed, this hints that Ernesto may be jealous of Miguel's natural talent, and rather hopes he dies before he becomes more famous than him.
  • Expanded Universe: There's the storybook "Miguel and the Amazing Alebrijes", which ties in with the movie. It deals with Miguel thinking over which animal should be his spirit guide for a class project. It's likely this book took place before the events of the film.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Not counting the prologue and Time Skip at the end, the film's plot is set over a period of 24 hours.
  • Facial Markings: All the skeletons in the Land of the Dead have colorful markings on their skulls, giving them a resemblance to traditional sugar skulls that are decorated or eaten on Dia de los Muertos.
  • Facial Recognition Software: Before leaving the Land of the Dead, every dead person has their skull scanned. The scan is matched to a photo on an ofrenda, and the dead are told where their family is. It seems to be mostly to help the dead find their offerings, rather than for any sort of security, as even if you run past the scanning, you can't cross the petal bridge to the Land of the Living if your picture's not on an ofrenda.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Héctor doesn't react to Imelda calling out from across the station, nor does he notice Miguel gasping in response to the name being shouted.
    • You can tell just how far Imelda will go to forget her husband:
      • When Miguel insists that the guitar that cursed him belonged to his great-great-grandfather, it doesn't occur to her that he shouldn't know who he is, and even if he did, that he couldn't possibly have found the guitar that belonged to him, given what she thinks she knows about him.
      • It’s evident when Miguel is weaseling his way out of the office that he’s going to go look for his great-great-grandfather. His family spots him minutes later leaving with Héctor. When Imelda corners Miguel in the alley without Héctor, it’s easy to deduce that Miguel has the wrong idea of who his great-great-grandfather is. But Imelda doesn’t seem to realize that.
    • *None of the Riveras searching the music competition for Miguel notice him on the stage with Héctor. Glaringly so for Imelda, considering that they were singing a song that was written for her.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Héctor's death. He is poisoned by his colleague Ernesto, collapses in the street, and dies in what is shown to be a quite painful way...on screen.
  • Fanservice Extra: Played with. Miguel walks past a woman posing for a nude painting, but since she's a skeleton, there's nothing there but bones.
  • Feedback Rule:
    • Miguel's hesitant start into his first performance before a large crowd at the "battle of the bands" is accompanied by the microphone giving off a harsh feedback.
    • Similarly, the microphone produced a feedback at the start of Imelda's improvised "La Llorona" performance at the Concert Climax.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: The Rivera family react to seeing a Mariachi player offer to let Miguel play his guitar with the same horror and protective outrage as if he was street dealer offering the kid drugs, and they chase him away just as ferociously.
  • Fighting with Chucks: Tío Oscar takes Tío Felipe's bones to build a nunchaku that he uses against Ernesto's mooks.
    • Blink and you'll miss it but Felipe tries using his empty sleeves as nunchaku to keep the mooks from following the other Riveras onto the stage.
  • Final Death: When there's no one left in the living world to remember someone in particular who's no longer living, they disappear forever. We learn about it as it happens to an old friend of Héctor's, and Héctor himself comes within a hair's breadth of suffering the same fate.
  • Fisher Kingdom: Spending a long enough time in the Land of the Dead causes Miguel to slowly transform into a skeleton over time. He has to leave before he fully transforms.
  • Flashback Cut: When Miguel recognizes Mama Imelda at the Land of the Dead, there's a swift flashback to her photo on the ofrenda.
  • Flower Motifs: There are aztec marigold petals covering the floor in Ernesto's tomb. They also form the bridge between the world of the living and the dead, and a petal is used to embody the blessing that can return a living person from the Land of the Dead. Truth in Television, since marigolds (known in Mexico as Cempazúchitl) are a symbol of Dia de Muertos in Mexican culture. Traditionally, a trail of marigold petals leading from the entrance of the house to the altar is used to guide the spirits of the deceased.
  • Fluorescent Footprints: Pepita can illuminate footprints with her breath which helps to track down Miguel and Héctor.
  • Foreshadowing: Has its own page.
  • For Want of a Nail: The movie's plot wouldn't have occurred in the first place had Dante not broken a frame holding the family photo of Imelda and Coco with their mystery father.
  • Framed Clue: When Imelda's framed picture is knocked off the ofrenda and Miguel picks up the photo inside, he notices a part of the picture that was folded away, showing Ernesto de la Cruz's guitar in his great-great-grandfather's hand. He concludes that Ernesto must be his great-great-grandfather, which boosts his desire to become a musician.
  • Freudian Slip: "That's for murdering the love of my life!" Coming from an infuriated Mama Imelda, it clues Héctor and the others in that she is still in love with him after all these years despite being angry. However, when questioned, she angrily responds, "I don't know, I'm still angry at you!"
  • From Bad to Worse: It's bad enough to learn that your best friend got famous off your music without ever giving you any credit but worse to discover that he murdered you for your music and wants to erase you from everyone's memories for good.
  • Futile Hand Reach: From Hector towards Miguel when Ernesto tosses the boy off the tower.

    G-L 
  • Gaslighting: After Hector realizes that De la Cruz poisoned him, De la Cruz tries to convince him it didn't happen. "You are confusing movies with reality." Seconds later, De la Cruz tells the security guards that Hector "is not well."
  • Genre Savvy: While infiltrating the Sunrise Spectacular, during the Huddle Shot it's shown that all the Riveras have marigold petals prepared to send Miguel home, likely in case one or most of them are incapacitated during their effort to get Héctor's photo from Ernesto.
  • Get Out:
    • During Miguel's montage of Elena denying music, she spots a trio of traveling musicians and tells them to leave the house.
    • Chicharrón says this to Héctor upon their meeting prior to being forgotten.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Miguel tries to gain entrance to Ernesto's party, he boldly claims to be Ernesto's great-great grandson. Cut to him being tossed away by the unimpressed bouncer.
  • Girls Have Cooties: Miguel makes a disgusted face while watching a romance scene in one of Ernesto's old movies.
  • Gonk: "Everyone Knows Juanita" seems to be describing such a person, with the punchline revealing that Juanita is actually an object of desire for the much uglier singer.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: In the Land of the Dead, most of the skeletons wear multicolored clothes; Ernesto wears silver, making him appear almost black-and-white, hinting he's the Big Bad.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: The movie is full of Spanish-language words and some dialogue, since the setting is Mexico. Averted in the Mexican Spanish dub, where the characters all speak Spanish.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: For the first 20 minutes, it's a cute story about a kid who just wants to be like his musical idol, despite his family's wishes. Then he strums on a stolen guitar, and it becomes a Race Against the Clock.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: It turns out that Héctor would frequently travel with Ernesto in order to support his family by doing something he loved, but he soon realised that he missed his family too much and as he was preparing to return to them, his friend Ernesto, who wanted to achieve his dreams so badly, murdered him, stole his songs and never told Héctor's family that he was dead, causing them to completely ostracise him.
  • Hereditary Curse: Sort of—the reason that the Riveras hate music is because, due to Miguel’s great-great-grandfather leaving his family to become a performer and that Riveras have suffered since then, they believe that they've been "cursed" by it. In truth, while Héctor and Ernesto were on their first music tour together, Héctor grew disillusioned and homesick, that he quickly decided that he was ready to return home to them but was murdered by Ernesto before he could.
  • Honor Before Reason: Before the music competition, Miguel admits to Héctor he's never performed before. Héctor offers to play on Miguel's behalf, given he has more experience. But Miguel wants to play instead because it's not about winning, but earning de la Cruz's approval. Héctor lampshades how inconvenient it is to choose now to have such a sentiment.
  • How Is That Even Possible?: The clerk in the Land of the Dead is allergic to Dante, despite 1) Dante not having any hair and 2) the clerk not having a nose. Neither the clerk nor Miguel have any answers to how that works.
    "Well, I don't have a nose, and yet here we are."
  • Huddle Shot: Miguel and the dead Riveras have one after sneaking backstage to Ernesto’s Sunrise Spectacular and plot to get Héctor's picture back.
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: Well, not so impossible for Dem Bones, seeing as they don't really have waists; it's practically standard for the Land of the Dead to have hilariously waspish dresses, cinched around their spinal columns.
  • Incredibly Long Note:
    • Ernesto's version of "Remember Me" ends on a rather long high note, leading to the big bell to fall and crush him to his death. Same with Héctor’s original version, but on a quieter, more gentle chord.
    • The end finale song "Proud Corazón" has Miguel pull one of these in the final crescendo.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: After Ernesto is exposed as a fraud, a thief, and a murderer, the conductor responds to his attempt to get the show going again by giving him a Death Glare and snapping his baton in two.
  • Invisible to Normals: As usual, ghosts are invisible to living people.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: The alebrijes are revealed to be normal animals that, after becoming spiritual guides, change into supernatural forms whenever visiting the Land of the Dead.
  • Ironic Echo: Ernesto's motto "Seize Your Moment" takes on a dark undercurrent during the third act when he uses it to mean not just following your dreams, but murdering anyone who gets in their way.
  • I See Dead People: Dante can see ghosts and interact with them. It's implied this works for any animal that becomes a spiritual guide.
    • Dante is a Xoloizcuintle, a breed of dog that the Aztecs believed the Gods gave to them to protect them in both death and life. Those dogs were sacrificed when their owners died in order to guide their souls across the river that led into the Afterlife. So Dante's ability to see the dead is like a superpower for his breed. That's why people in the Land of the Dead, such as Frida Kahlo, are fond of him.
  • It Was with You All Along: Miguel spends a good chunk of the movie searching for Ernesto de la Cruz, who he believes is his great-great grandfather. It turns out that his actual great-great grandfather is Hector, the man who was helping him find Ernesto.
  • I've Come Too Far: Ernesto's motive for trying to kill Miguel. "I've worked too hard, Héctor! Too hard for him to take away everything!"
  • Jaw Drop: Several times.
    • When the customs officer sees the live Miguel, his jawbone actually falls off and hits the desk.
    • Héctor combines it with an Eye Take, as his eyeballs fall down into his mouth.
    • Rosita and Victoria when they see Imelda singing on stage.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Even though Miguel is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, he wasn't wrong that Imelda was keeping him from something she knew he loved.
    • Elena asks Miguel if he wants to be forgotten by his own family. Later, it turns out that she has a reason for it: Héctor is forgotten by all except one of the Riveras.
    • When confronting Miguel privately, Imelda still wants him to give up music, but makes a valid point that there are more important things than music, a lesson that Miguel will learn later on.
    • Imelda's anger at Héctor is fair given that he did abandon his family, but she softens up after learning he wanted to come back but was poisoned by Ernesto.
    • Earlier on, while spending time with Miguel, even Ernesto recognizes that the boy should be allowed to follow his heart and play music. He's also not wrong that achieving your dreams sometimes means sacrifices and making difficult choices. Sacrifices as in "leave your hometown," not "poison your loved ones."
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Despite Ernesto being killed by a falling church bell, he murdered Héctor and stole his songs from him. But even in death, people still flocked to his concerts and he continued to throw many a party. It wasn't until 96 years after Héctor's death that both worlds learned the truth and he faced the consequences.
  • Karmic Death: While initially portrayed as a tragedy, Ernesto de la Cruz is killed by a bell while singing the song and playing the guitar of the man he murdered. Said song is also the lullaby he sung to his young daughter, and Ernesto killed Héctor due to choosing his family over his musical career. That wasn't enough, because he would maintain his reputation even among the dead.
    • It should also be noted that at the time of his death, Héctor was 21 years old. Ernesto was killed in 1942, exactly 21 years after he murdered Héctor.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Elena destroying Miguel's guitar, which is implied to have taken him years to make, causes him to pull a Screw This, I'm Outta Here! moment.
    • An almost literal case with Miguel after the Land of the Dead talent show. First, he calls off his deal to help save Héctor from becoming Deader Than Dead just to pursue his own musical dream. Then, when Dante tries to get Miguel to go back, Miguel harshly yells at him to go away, and says Dante is not an alebrije but a dumb dog, which visibly hurts Dante. Later, he insults Imelda for not respecting his wishes to pursue his dreams.
    • Ernesto throws Héctor and Miguel into a cenote and takes Héctor's picture from him. In context, this would ensure Héctor's forgotten and rendered Deader Than Dead, and Miguel, whom Ernesto believes to be his own great-great-grandson, would die of his curse.
    • Ernesto murdering Héctor was already unforgivable, but the flashback showed that while Héctor was dying, Ernesto makes a smug comment that it was probably the chorizos Héctor ate earlier.
    • Not only did Ernesto murder his best friend for his songs, he even based a scene in one of his movies on the murder, only arranging it so he's the hero in Héctor's role and giving himself a happy ending by figuring out he was (nearly) poisoned.
    • A far more personal violation? Ernesto stealing the song 'Remember Me' after murdering Héctor. A song he wrote as a gentle, loving ballad to his beloved daughter as a way of keeping them in one another's hearts...and Ernesto turns it into a bombastic, meaningless ladykiller ballad, stripping it of the love and emotion Héctor created it with.
    • Ernesto also stole Hector's guitar. This isn't much on its own, but when it's compounded with everything else listed in this section, it's just needlessly cruel. Presumably, Ernesto had a perfectly good guitar of his own, if he really planned to be a professional musician, but he had to have Hector's as well, and he flaunts it, it's just as iconic of his imagery as KISS's makeup. This is what leads Miguel to deduce their relationshipnote . Considering he stole it from the man he murdered to pursue his dreams, it's like he was bragging about the murder and kept the guitar as a trophy, something real life killers have been known to do.
  • Kick the Morality Pet: Miguel gets called out for deciding to risk both his own and Héctor's lives to get a better deal on his blessing, culminating in him to pull a Kick the Dog moment at Dante when he tries to get him to come back, after which he realizes what he's been doing wrong.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The bell that crushed de la Cruz to death came down as he was singing "Remember Me".
    Miguel: It's not what it looks like! De la Cruz is my—[guard walks through him]
    Guard: There's nobody here.
  • Kubrick Stare:
    • Elena gives one to Miguel as she is marching up to him just as he is about to play guitar for the mariachi guy.
    • A Maestro gives one to Ernesto after the latter has been exposed as a fraud and a murderer.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Ernesto de la Cruz, who was killed when a bell fell on him in 1942, has a similar bell fall on him after it is revealed in the Engineered Public Confession that he poisoned Héctor and stole his songs.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Héctor edits a profane word out of his song: "and her.... knuckles... dragged down to the floor."
  • Latino Is Brown: Played straight. All the (living) characters have dark skin.note  Justified, as many Mexicans have at least some Native ancestry, especially in the state of Oaxaca where the film is set. This is implied with the Rivera family, where many female members wear traditional clothing.
  • Light Is Good: When Miguel makes it home and plays "Remember Me" for Coco to rejuvenate her thoughts, the sunlight is shining through the window on them.
  • Light Is Not Good:
    • Miguel's skeleton transformation will become permanent if he is not home before sunrise.
    • Ernesto wears light blue during his "Remember Me" video, whilst he wears white in the Land of the Dead. However, he's not what he seems.
  • Logo Joke: The usual rendition of When You Wish Upon A Star that plays on the Disney logo is played by a mariachi band.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Héctor reveals himself to be Miguel's great-great-grandfather when he mentions that his daughter's name is Coco. Miguel, in turn, reveals himself to be Héctor's great-great-grandson by showing him the picture of Mamás Coco and Imelda with the father's face torn out.

    M-R 
  • MacGuffin: The photo of Héctor that Miguel tries to obtain from Ernesto.
  • Magic Music: Subverted. Miguel strumming Ernesto's guitar in his tomb seems to be what causes him to cross over between worlds. However, it's later revealed that he crossed over due to being cursed, for stealing from the dead when Dia de los Muertos is a day for gifting to the dead.
  • Marshmallow Hell: Elena hugs Miguel just a little too closely.
  • Match Cut: Whenever Miguel recognizes a dead family member of his, the view briefly snaps from a shot of them to their photo on the ofrenda in the same position as they are.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Miguel goes up to do his first performance ever, he's incredibly nervous. But a little encouragement from Hector gets him going and quickly he's confidently working the crowd. Practically the same thing happens several hours later when his great-great-grandmother Imelda accidentally gets booted onto a stage; a little encouragement from Miguel and soon she's belting out the performance of a lifetime, despite having not sung in nearly a century. It's meaningful in showing exactly how Miguel's music inclination isn't inherited just from his great-great-grandfather, but also the great-great-grandmother who banned music from the family in the first place.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Miguel's pet dog Dante is named after the famous author of The Divine Comedy. Like the narrator of The Divine Comedy, this Dante also a living being visiting the afterlife. In-Universe, in a Blink-and-You-Miss-It scene, it's revealed that Miguel named Dante after Ernesto's horse in one of his films.
    • Santa Cecilia, Miguel and Ernesto's hometown, is named after the patroness of musicians, Saint Cecilia.
  • Memorial Photo: Used as a way to show dead family members are remembered, rather than in a funeral manner, The photo on the ofrenda is the proof that a dead person is remembered and can travel across the marigold Bridge to visit the land of the living.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The alebrijes; most of them are mammal/reptile-hybrids with bird-like attributes.
    • This is also Truth in Television and Shown Their Work. Alebrijes are a part of Mexican folklore and were created by a man who was haunted by nightmares of grotesque mix and match monsters. Since the creatures were so strange and colorful that he couldn't explain to anyone what they looked like he decided to make papier maché figurines of them. Eventually his nightmares ceded and people started asking to buy the figures and became a staple of Mexican folklore and art.
  • Monochrome Past: Miguel’s flashback of Ernesto becoming a star, and Héctor's flashbacks of Ernesto poisoning him to death and stealing his music and singing "Remember Me" to young Coco are rendered in old-fashioned sepia tone.
  • Mood Lighting: When Miguel first meets Ernesto at his tower, the inside of the ballroom is full of vibrant colors. After the party is over and when Héctor reveals the truth, the room is darkly colored to show Ernesto's true colors are exposed to the viewers.
  • Morality Chain Beyond the Grave: The hate for music that runs in the family originated with Mamá Imelda, the head of the family from two generations ago. Apparently, she could not only hold a grudge her entire life, it keeps scaring her children and grandchildren into doing the same long after she's gone.
  • Motion Capture: The characters’ guitar playing was animated using this technique.
  • Multigenerational Household: Miguel lives with his parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, and great-grandmother.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: While Miguel is talking with a mariachi man in the village square, the mariachi hands Miguel his guitar and offers to be his first audience, much to Miguel's delight, but Elena enters right before he gets a change to strum the guitar. It occurs again when Miguel is singing "The World Es Mi Familia" to get Ernesto's attention, but isn't watching where he's going and accidentally falls into the pool.
  • Musical World Hypotheses: The Diegetic type; all of the songs are performed as part of an act or for an audience.
  • Mysterious Parent: It's common in animated movies for one or both parents to be absent from the protagonist's life without explanation, and the consequences are usually vague. In this story, however, a missing parent is a crucial plot point, has huge consequences on the family left behind, and his death is explored and the family comes to terms with it.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Mamá Imelda banning music from her family comes back to haunt her years later when Miguel calls her out on it while in the Land of the Dead.
    • Eventually averted. By swiping Ernesto's guitar from his mausoleum and strumming it, this curses Miguel to be unseen by the living and slowly transforms into a skeleton over time in return. The guitar actually belongs to Héctor, and once the curse is broken and Miguel returns home, the truth is revealed, Coco regains her memory and the ban on music is lifted whilst Héctor’s legacy becomes famous in Ernesto’s place.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: If Ernesto hadn't been so brash as to put his last toast with Héctor in one of his films, with him, in Héctor's position, realizing the tequila is poisoned, Héctor would have gone to his Final Death thinking he'd been done in by bad chorizo. That, more than the revelation that he also stole Héctor's songs, drives the whole second half of the plot, as Ernesto suddenly has to cover up a murder that had been so cleverly concealed even his victim didn't realize it was murder.
  • Nice Kitty...: Ernesto tries in vain to sooth angry Pepita as the latter approaches him on stage for a final asskicking.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: Miguel is nice and innocent, and apparently the polar opposite of Ernesto de la Cruz, who is harsh and secretly a fraud. Héctor stays in-between due to being humorous, but frequently argues with someone when things don't go his way.
  • Never Say "Die": Considering the subject matter, HEAVILY averted.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ernesto de la Cruz bears more than a passing resemblance to Pedro Infante. In fact Pedro himself appears as a skeleton in a blink and you miss cameo next to his partner Jorge Negrete.
  • Non-Standard Character Design:
    • All the residents of the Land of the Dead have crude skeleton appearances that look almost the same, but Ernesto de la Cruz looks very much like he did when he was alive. This is a clue to that he's not what he seems.
    • Héctor is the only skeleton who has rusty yellow bones, is barefoot, and wears rags. This shows he's being forgotten, and once he is remembered once again by the Riveras, his bones revert to white, he gains a pair of shoes, and his clothes are good as new.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever Héctor did with Chicharron's van, mini-fridge, and femur is so mysterious that Word of God won't even disclose the answers.
  • No OSHA Compliance: A bell that's heavy enough to crush someone to death should not be suspended by a single rope that can go slack with one accidental pull of a lever.
    • The Land of the Dead notably lacks a large number of safety systems on the heavy machinery within it. Justified, as everyone is already dead and are only prone to Amusing Injuries in this respect.
  • Not in Front of the Kid: Héctor noticeably alters some dirty lyrics in his bawdy song about Ugly Juanita at the last second, after remembering that Miguel is listening.
  • Oblivious to His Own Description: Miguel tries to imitate how skeletons walk to make his disguise more convincing. Héctor thinks the kid looks silly, not realizing at first that Miguel is imitating him.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The employees of the Celestial Bureaucracy are quite unhelpful to Héctor, though not by choice. During the epilogue, after the Time Skip, they are genuinely happy to allow Héctor to visit his family.
  • Oh, Crap!: There are quite a few characters realizing that they're in serious trouble.
    • The mariachi at the plaza when Elena chases him away from Miguel.
    • The musicians near the Riveras' house when they see Elena.
    • Miguel when Elena destroys his shrine and his guitar.
    • Elena when she realizes that her actions made Miguel run off.
    • Miguel after becoming a spirit of the Land of the Dead for the first time.
    • Héctor when he's unable to cross the marigold bridge.
    • The dancers at Frida Kahlo's practice when she suggests that the cactus be on fire.
    • Miguel when he realizes that Ernesto's not what he seems to be.
  • "Oh, Crap!" Smile: Ernesto when the whole family shows up to kick his ass.
    • Pretty much standard procedure for Miguel. It's most prominent whenever he's around Elena.
  • Opening Monologue: Miguel gives one in the beginning, explaining the exile of music in the Rivera family.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different:
    • All the dead in Land of the Dead are skeletons with... Well... expressive skulls that show their emotions as well as their flesh and blood faces would have.
    • Any offering placed on an ofrenda for a dead person creates a ghost of itself that the dead can pick up without removing the tangible item and carry it with them to the Land of the Dead. Several ghosts pick up items from their ofrendas and Héctor picks the ghost of his own guitar from the real one Miguel is playing during the Dance Party Ending.
    • The skeletons in the Land of the dead just look like animated skeletons. They only look ghostly once they cross the marigold bridge to the land of the living.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: The very last shot of the movie pans up from Miguel to a shot of the banner from the beginning framed against fireworks lighting up the sky.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • Héctor tries to dress as Frida Kahlo, of all people, to try and trick his way into the world of the living. It doesn't work out. The same disguise does work the second time he tries it, when he uses it to sneak into Ernesto's tower looking for Miguel.
    • Miguel disguises himself as a skeleton with face paint and shoe polish in order to fit in with the dead, but is revealed once he falls into Ernesto's pool and he saves him.
  • Parents as People: Rather than portray the parents/grandparents as generic authority figures, the story explores the human side of the adults and shows that parents like every human being make mistakes, all while their ultimate interest is to support and protect their family. Mistakes can be rigidity in beliefs, holding grudges, and even trusting the wrong people.
  • Parting Words Regret:
    • Miguel has this when he tells his family he doesn't care if they put his picture on the ofrenda. And soon after Elena destroys his guitar, he tells his family "I don't want to be in this family." Later, in the cenote, he laments how he may never see his family again, because he told his family he doesn't want his picture on the ofrenda. Thankfully, he returns to his family and apologizes to them.
    • Averted with Héctor, who sang "Remember Me" to his daughter before he left, unaware they would be his last words to her.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Ernesto didn't hesitate to rescue Miguel when he fell into his pool, even though Ernesto should think that, as a skeleton, Miguel shouldn't have been able to drown. While there's a possibility he only did this because he's surrounded by guests and needed to maintain his reputation, his private interactions with Miguel are very paternal and he even almost legitimately gives him his blessing to return to life. Then Héctor shows up and the truth is revealed.
    • When Miguel is thrown into the cenote, Héctor immediately comforts the boy, who is crying over being betrayed by Ernesto. What makes Héctor's act truly kind is that this is before they both realize they're related. As such, Héctor still believes that Miguel is the great-great grandson of his murderer. This is coupled with the fact that, earlier on, Miguel called off their deal because Héctor was about to take him back to his other family members. Despite all of this, Héctor gives genuine comfort and soothing words to the distressed Miguel.
    • Miguel to the very same people he performed a Kick the Dog moment to earlier — First, Héctor, who is in despair, states that he feels bad for Miguel for having a great-great grandfather like him, Miguel immediately states that he's proud that they are related. Second, after being rescued by Imelda, Pepita, and Dante, Miguel enthusiastically calls Dante his Alebrije. Thirdly, he gives a genuine apology to Imelda for his earlier actions with the promise to respect her wishes, even willingly giving up his musical ambitions to make amends.
    • While Imelda is understandably angry at Héctor for abandoning their family to pursue music, she decides to rescue him from the Final Death.
    • When Miguel sings to Coco, Enrique has Elena listen to him for once.
  • Phone Booth: When they first meet, Miguel pulls Héctor into a phone booth to ask him about Ernesto.
  • Playing the Heart Strings: A couple of emotional moments are underscored with a violin track.
  • Plot-Based Photograph Obfuscation: There is a lot of emphasis on the torn part of the picture showing the head of Miguel's Un Personned great-great grandfather. Of course the missing part is integral.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Despite a successful performance at the contest, Miguel and Héctor have a falling-out after the rest of Miguel's family comes searching for him, so Miguel goes to find Ernesto alone.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If Héctor had mentioned his family member's names, especially that of Coco or Imelda or even his last name in passing earlier in the film, or if any of Miguel's family members (living or dead) had told him who his great-great-grandfather actually was (or at the very least, who he wasn't), much of the plot would have been avoided.
    • Though the living relatives (aside from Coco) probably didn’t even know his name, Imelda seems like the sort to ban the mention of her husband’s name.
  • Posthumous Narration: Parodied, given the nature of the setting:
    • Imelda explains to Miguel that she doesn't really hate music; she just forced it out of her life after her husband left her to make the task of raising Coco easier for her.
    • Héctor recounts his last day alive when he realizes how similar it was to a scene from one of Ernesto's movies.
  • P.O.V. Cam:
    • While Miguel is singing to get Ernesto’s attention, we get a few shots of his point of view squeezing through the crowd.
    • In Héctor’s flashback of him singing “Remember Me” to young Coco, they press each other’s faces against one another and we get a shot of Héctor’s warm smile from Coco’s perspective.
  • Power Glows:
    • While the skeletons are visiting the living world, they are glowing and semitransparent.
    • When Imelda is preparing her blessing to send Miguel home, the marigold petal in her hand glows brightly, with the glow becoming brighter when conditions are added. Ernesto’s does not however, either because he isn’t related to Miguel in the first place or because he didn't finish saying the word "blessing" before being interrupted.
    • Skeletons flash red and yellow and feel pain when they’re in danger of being forgotten.
  • Produce Pelting: When the audience discovers Ernesto is a murdering, thieving fraud they begin throwing vegetables. Justified because many of them had returned from the Land of the Living with food from the ofrenda... And there was a snack bar in the stadium selling food.
  • Production Foreshadowing: While Miguel and Dante are on the streets, at one point a poster of The Incredibles can be seen in the background hinting at Pixar's next film Incredibles 2.
  • Pushed in Front of the Audience:
    • Héctor is dragged by Dante on stage and, at first reluctantly, joins Miguel in his performance at the battle of the bands.
    • Imelda accidentally winds up on stage at Ernesto's concert and decides to sing "La Llorona".
  • Race Against the Clock: Miguel has until the next sunrise to return to his own world or he’ll be trapped in the Land of the Dead forever as a skeleton and Héctor will become Deader Than Dead. The countdown timer isn’t a clock; it’s Miguel’s transformation and Héctor’s bones changing color from white to deep faded yellow.
  • Raster Vision: Raster lines can be seen on the TV screen when Miguel watches old video tapes of Ernesto in the attic.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Even though Miguel is a plucky, street-smart Kid Hero, he needs a lot of help from the adults in order to make it out of the Land of the Dead.
    • Imelda is understandably upset with her husband for many years because he never returned to Santa Cecilia when Héctor went on a short two month tour with his childhood friend Ernesto, seemingly leaving her and Coco behind. Even after Miguel reveals the truth that Héctor attempted to return out of homesickness, but Ernesto murdered him before he could do so, Imelda doesn't forgive Héctor right away (saying that it wasn't his fault not coming back, yes, but he was the one to leave in the first place), but agrees to help him anyway. Imelda and Héctor do eventually reconcile by the end of the film.
      • It’s worth noting the fact that when Imelda confronts Ernesto, she refers to Héctor being "The love of my life" and during La Llorona she’s looking right at Héctor as she sings the lines 'Y aunque la vida me cueste (Even if it costs me my life)', then she grips harder on the photo, and sings (almost like she's making a promise) 'No dejaré de quererte (I won’t stop loving you)', shows her true feelings towards him.
    • Ernesto learns the hard way that when your fans discover that you're a fraud who murdered your own best friend to steal his songs and was willing to attempt to kill a 12-year-old kid to keep that covered up, everybody will instantly turn against you, even if you were beloved before.
  • Real Time: Backstage at the Sunrise Spectacular, the stagehand tells Ernesto he’s on in 30 seconds. Exactly 30 seconds later, the announcer is announcing Ernesto’s entrance while Imelda is rising to the stage.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Héctor gives one to Ernesto upon confronting him in his tower and revealing the truth. Miguel later gives him one outside the tower just before Ernesto makes him fall to his death, not knowing he's being recorded.
    • Also one in the read-along book regarding Ernesto: "Music is supposed to bring people together. You tore my family apart!"
    • Miguel also gives one to Imelda for banning music from their family and therefore, not supporting his dream of being a musician.
  • Recycled Premise: Up in Mexico! Distant journeys, remembering dead family, intelligent dogs, a worshiped idol who's revealed to be a murderer,... it's got it all.
  • Remember the Dead: The dead characters become Deader Than Dead after being forgotten by all living people.
  • Removed from the Picture: Miguel's great-great grandfather does not have a place in the ofrenda. His face has been torn out of the picture, though his body and trademark guitar are still visible. Coco has the missing piece of the photo, of Héctor.
  • The Rest Shall Pass: Played with. When the family enters the stadium for the big confrontation with the bad guy. They start out together and find them almost instantly. The villain recognizes the family and runs, calling for help from the security team as the family gives chase.
    • Papa Julio takes on the first of them,
    • Twin uncles Oscar and Felipe take on the next, so Imelda, Miguel, Hector and the aunts can continue pursuit.
    • Imelda then gets separated from the rest of the family and faces off against Ernesto alone, leaving the rest of the family to watch supportively from the wings.
  • The Reveal: The second and third acts are bridged by two of these. First, Ernesto de la Cruz is a fraud; Héctor wrote the songs that made him famous... And Ernesto stole them (and his guitar) after murdering him. Second, Héctor is Miguel's great-great-grandfather, not Ernesto.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • Everything about both Ernesto and Hector takes on a new significance when you know their backstory and true motivations.
    • Also, watch Miguel's cousins during the very last shot of the movie. They're accompanying him on violin and accordion - and and it makes sense, seeing as they're great-great grandchildren of a great musician.
  • Rule of Three:
    • During Miguel’s narration of Elena denying any source of music, she first catches Miguel blowing into a bottle like a flute; the second time, she hears music coming from a passing truck's radio and shuts the window; the third time, she shooes away a trio of street performers passing the family shoe shop.
    • In the same narrated intro, Miguel gushes about his idol Ernesto de la Cruz, listing three things he loves best about him: 1) he starred in movies, 2) he had the coolest guitar, and 3) he could fly!
    • Once Miguel is in the Land of the Dead, Imelda tries to send him home with a blessed marigold petal three times. The first time, she does so on the condition that he never play music again. Not two seconds later, he disobeys and is returned. The second time, she does so on the condition that he never forget his family loves him, but Ernesto interferes right before she can touch Miguel with it. The third time, right as the sun is rising and Héctor is dying, she offers her blessing with no conditions, and Miguel is returned to the Land of the Living for good.
    • Frida Kahlo has been used as a disguise three times — First, when Héctor attempts to cross the bridge, in which both his said attempt and disguise were unsuccessful. Second, used again by Héctor to get into Ernesto's party, which is successful. And thirdly, the whole Rivera family are disguised as her back-up dancers to get into the festival and get back Héctor's photo.
    • "Remember Me" is sung three times — First, by Ernesto in the beginning which also when he died. Second, by Héctor, the true writer of the song, which was his personal lullaby to his daughter, Coco. And thirdly, by Miguel in attempt to have Coco remember her father.
    • "La Llorona" is also sung three times, though only completely at the climax: first by the carousing musicians Abuelita scares away, second by Imelda to convince Miguel to talk, and third, when Imelda sings it in full at the Sunrise Spectacular.

    S-Y 
  • Scenery Porn: The city is displayed in vivid, colorful detail, as visible here.
  • Secondary Character Title: Coco is Miguel's great-grandmother, but warrants the title because she's also Héctor's daughter — the muse who inspired his songs and the last person in the Land of the Living who remembers him.
  • Serenade Your Lover: Ernesto does this in one of his movies Miguel is watching in the attic.
  • Shabby Heroes, Well-Dressed Villains: Héctor's clothes are tattered and torn, and he wears a flaking straw hat. Ernesto wears a sparkling mariachi suit complete with a silver ribbon bow tie.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The music competition that Miguel and Héctor entered in order to be invited to Ernesto's party ends up being this, as the two have a falling out after the performance when Héctor learns Miguel has a family who's trying to return him to the living world but he doesn't want to do so before he meets Ernesto, causing them both to go their separate ways without winning the invitations. Though it's not a complete disaster as the winner band who are invited to the party are so impressed by Miguel's singing that they help sneaks Miguel through the security.
  • Shoe Shine, Mister?: Miguel is introduced shining shoes in the plaza.
  • Shoe Slap: Elena will often hit people with her slipper. Imelda also hits Ernesto with her boot for murdering her husband and trying to murder her great-great-grandson.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Dante is a hairless Mexican dog, a Xoloitzcuintli, that supposedly has the ability to guide their masters' spirits to the underworld.
    • The whole movie is a great depiction of Mexican culture in general, and The Day of the Dead in particular.
    • The pit Ernesto has Miguel and Héctor thrown into resembles a ''cenote''. Cenote is the name given to water-filled sinkholes found all over the Yucatán peninsula in southern Mexico. These sinkholes had great spiritual significance to the Mayans, who often dropped offerings of gold and human sacrifices into them to please the gods, and Chaac the god of rain in particular. Cenotes are also well known for having clear, blue water, just like the one in the movie.
    • Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter, shows up in the movie. Her guardian alebrije is a spider monkey, an animal her real life counterpart was fascinated with, and which she painted numerous times. As the cherry on top, the pre-show she's designing for Ernesto is pure Frida, complete with heavy symbolism, extra dramatic and melancholic subject matter, and, most importantly, heaping doses of her likeness all over the place. The concept artists clearly took their time studying Frida's work.
    • All of the guitar fingerings shown—picking with the fingers of the right hand and fretting with the left hand—are 100% correct, with the animators watching the tapes from video cameras that were strapped onto the guitars of actual Mexican musicians to be completely on point. Even with skeleton fingers.
    • Even something as innocuous as the rabbit-frog alebrije has significance; if you listen closely, it's making the sound "alebrije" (though it sounds closer to "aluh-bruh"), just like the original alebrijes did in the dreams of the man who created them.
  • Shrine to the Fallen:
    • Miguel has a shrine to Ernesto De La Cruz on the roof behind the logo of his family's shoemaking shop. Complete with candles. At least until Elena destroys it over Miguel breaking the family taboo against music.
    • Ernesto has ofrendas from fans all over the world as we see in his giant villa.
    • Santa Cecilia has an enormous shrine to Ernesto, who came from the town, in the center of the town cemetery. Once his treachery is revealed, it is ignored and falls into disrepair as former fans decide to forget him.
  • Skeletal Musician: Well, yeah— it's a film about music that takes place largely in the afterlife, whose inhabitants are all Calacas. There are dozens (if not more!) of musicians seen onscreen in the Land of the Dead, including the talent show contestants and the orchestra at the Sunrise Spectacular, but the most plot-important are Ernesto and Héctor.
  • Sleep Cute: In a blink-and-miss scene towards the end when Miguel runs to Coco, you can see his uncle and cousin sleeping on a bench with one cuddling the other.
  • Slide Attack: Papá Julio slides under Ernesto's mooks to kick them from behind.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: It's a Pixar film, so of course it's heavily idealistic, emotional, and touching, but not without a number of dark moments in between.
  • Spexico: Deliberately averted. The development team flew to Mexico and did extensive research on everything native to it. From the architecture, to the music, to the food, and especially the local mannerisms in order to make the movie feel as authentic as possible. The vast majority of the cast is of Latino descent (as are the vast majority of the musicians that played for the soundtrack) and the characters use the Mexican dialect of Spanish rather than the typical version taught in American schools, paying particular attention to uniquely Latin American details like Elena's Weapon of Choice.
  • The Stinger: At the end of the credits just before the "Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures" and "Created and produced at Pixar Animation Studios" information are displayed, a screen reading "To the people across time who supported and inspired us" pops up, along with a mosaic of photos of family members, friends, coworkers and even pets of those who worked on the film - a digital ofrenda of sorts.
  • Stock Animal Diet: Except for the short "Dante's Lunch" (link below), surprisingly averted with Dante, who shows no interest in being surrounded by bones.
  • Stock Femur Bone: The short "Dante's Lunch" is about Dante the dog chasing after one of these, which ends up belonging to one of the visiting skeleton ancestors.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: While Elena strongly resembles Mama Coco, her sister, Victoria, takes after Mama Imelda.
  • Stylistic Suck: Ernesto's old movies that Miguel watches are all noticeably dated and low-quality, complete with melodramatic dialogue, hammy acting, and highly visible strings holding Ernesto up during his "flying" scenes. This is an early hint that Ernesto is not quite as talented as everyone thinks he is.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: At first, the movie seems like it's going to end bittersweet as Coco is dying and forgot Héctor almost completely, and Miguel has tried as hard as he could to get her to remember him. Fortunately, he remembers his guitar he brought back and uses it to play "Remember Me", which is what rejuvenates her and causes the ban on music to be lifted, Ernesto to be forgotten, and Héctor's legacy to become famous, ending the film on a wonderful note.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Miguel spends most of the movie desperate to pursue music against his family's wishes, even if it means sneaking behind their backs or running away from them. It isn't until Miguel is willing to give up music to stay with his family that they give him their blessings to become a musician.
  • Talent Double: The guitar solos played by Miguel, Ernesto, and Héctor were performed by Uruguayan guitarist Federico Ramos.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Ernesto de la Cruz secretly slipped some poison into Héctor's shotglass, which is what kills him moments later.
  • Technician Vs Performer: Ernesto and Hector (two musical role models for Miguel and great-great grandfather figures), have shades of being this. Hector is the passionate, heart-felt Performer to Ernesto's polished and pristine but emotionally vacant Technician. It's especially apparent in how they both sing "Remember Me": Ernesto turned it into a cheesy love ballad aimed at no one in particular, while Hector originally wrote it as a lullaby for his beloved daughter. And then, there's the fact that Ernesto stole Hector's songs because he knew he wasn't gifted enough to make it on his own artistic merit.
  • There Is Another: Much of the drama in the third act comes from trying to get Miguel back to the living world with Héctor's photo, the only one of him that is known to exist. When Ernesto throws Miguel off a building and the photo slips out of his hand, it seems that there is no way of saving Héctor from the Final Death. But after Miguel returns to the living world and revives Coco's memory of her papa with the song "Remember Me", she reveals that she kept another photo of Héctor—the piece of the torn ofrenda photo with his face on it, saving his (after)life.
  • Thicker Than Water: Much of the film is spent establishing the importance of family above all. But this is also deconstructed in that Miguel's passion conflicted heavily with his family's traditions, with Miguel being genuinely miserable over his inability to do what he loves due to his family ties and lamenting how his family is probably the only one in Mexico that hates music. This leads him to run away as his great-great grandfather did. However, this trope is once again reconstructed, as his adventure cleared up the misunderstanding about Héctor's inability to return home and helped remedy Mama Coco's memory loss, allowing Miguel to reconcile with his family, who wholeheartedly support his dream from then on.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Miguel's family, especially his grandmother Elena, sees his musical vocation as a deadly sin. At first.
  • Three-Point Landing: Miguel performs one when he enters Ernesto's mausoleum.
  • Thrown Down a Well: Ernesto releases Miguel and Héctor into a cenote.
  • Time Skip: The epilogue skips forward to the next Dia de los Muertos, one year later.
  • Together in Death: Héctor died when his daughter Coco was still a young girl and longs to see her one last time before he fades away. They're finally reunited in the land of the dead by the end.
  • To Hell and Back: Sort of—Miguel does go to the afterlife, but he does so purely by accident, and it's more of a colorful fantasy world than a hellish nightmare land.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • The film makes use of this, especially the scenes where Miguel is falling into a pit following Ernesto's big reveal, followed by Pepita coming to save him. Two other larger scenes that spoil the climax show Pepita saving Miguel from falling to his death, and Imelda slapping a shoe at Ernesto before he's exposed.
    • One of the film’s posters features Miguel front and center, surrounded by his living and dead family members. Héctor is among them, giving away the fact he’s related to the Riveras.
    • Some trailers use moments from the last scene of the film, and one of the home media trailers makes use of the end finale song “Proud Corazón”.
  • Translation Convention: Zigzagged. In the original screenplay, the characters in the English version of the film spoke only English, with the understanding that they were speaking in Spanish. After speaking to real-life Mexicans and Mexican Americans, they said it would be more realistic-sounding to have a mixture of the two languages, as both Mexican and Mexican-Americans blend the two together constantly. Thus, Lee Unkrich notes that in the English language version, when briefly speak Spanish, it's meant to be understood that they're actually peppering their Spanish with a bit of English (and vice versa). Appropriately enough, the characters do speak Spanish entirely in the Mexican Spanish dub.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change:
    • The end of Ernesto's version of "Remember Me" modulates up one half-step.
    • The last verse of "Un Poco Loco" modulates up one whole step.
    • The last chorus of "La Llorona" modulates up one whole step.
    • "Proud Corazón" ends a whole note higher from when it started.
  • Un-person: Deconstructed with Miguel's great-great-grandfather. The fact that his family actively refuses to allow anyone to mention his name leads nobody to tell him that he has come to the wrong conclusion about who he is. What's more, because they also banned music from the household, they missed multiple glaring clues about the real reason why Imelda's husband never returned home, namely Ernesto de la Cruz playing the same guitar Imelda gave to Héctor as a gift and the fact that de la Cruz never once makes any mention of Héctor, or that all the songs he's singing sounds suspiciously similar to those in the letters Coco received from his father.
    • Chicharrón, the obscure, forgotten musician, ceases to be a ghost and fades out of existence since he is no longer remembered by the living.
    • After Ernesto de la Cruz poisoned Héctor and plagiarized his music, his shrine is no longer remembered as fondly by the villagers, while Héctor's reputation and legacy are resurrected and people begin to take more interest in Héctor's life and music.
  • Villain Ball: Held by Ernesto when he made the night he murdered Héctor into a scene in one of his movies, dialogue and all. If he hadn't done that, Héctor would have never realized he was murdered and the entire third act of the film wouldn't have happened.
  • Villain Song: Ernesto's version of "Remember Me" could be seen as one after it's revealed that his version is a bastardized take on a incredibly personal father-to-daughter song.
  • Vehicle Vanish: Miguel escapes a guard in the square when vanishing behind a line of people passing between them.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Ernesto de la Cruz murdered his best friend on screen to steal his songs and achieve fame. And he will go to any lengths to keep the skeleton in his closet.
  • Wham Line:
    • Héctor reveals the truth about Ernesto —namely, that Ernesto became successful by stealing Héctor's songs.
      • Another one, is when Héctor tells Ernesto that the latter would move heaven and earth for him before the former left. That exact line is from a scene in one of Ernesto's movies, where the villain say that same line to the hero Ernesto portrays before poisoning his drink. That is what lead to Héctor (and the audience) to come to the slow but horrifying realization that Ernesto murdered him by poisoning his drink.
    • But the biggest one of all has to be when Héctor reveals he's Miguel's actual great-great grandfather by telling him that he's being forgotten by his daughter, Coco.
  • Wild Take: Héctor's eyes drop out of his eye sockets and into his mouth when Miguel tells him that he is the great-great grandson of Ernesto de la Cruz.
  • Write What You Know: An incredibly dark in-universe version: Ernesto de la Cruz included a poisoning scene in one of his movies that is identical to the way he killed Hector in real life, only in his version, Ernesto is the victimized one.
  • "You!" Exclamation: Ernesto's surprise when seeing Miguel again after having him tossed into the cenote.

¡Ay mi familia! note  ¡Oiga mi gente! note 
Canten a coro note , let it be known
Our love for each other will live on forever
In every beat of my proud corazón!

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WesternAnimation/Coco