Victoria says that Miguel's shoe is pronated, which is when one of the feet roll inward. Someone else walks just like that, especially without any shoes. Miguel's real great-great-grandfather, Héctor.
The sun being a Celestial Deadline seems fairly typical stuff, but in Aztec Mythology the god Tlalocnote Who was once the god of the sun, before his era ended with him bringing a rain of fire demanded child sacrifices... for the purpose of admitting them to his paradisiacal afterlife. What's happening in this movie again?
One of the first lyric couplets of "Un Poco Loco" is "Where should I put my shoes, ay mi amor, ay mi amor/You say 'put them on your head!' ay mi amor, ay mi amor." When listening to the song with the knowledge that it was actually written by Héctor, that sure sounds a lot like an exchange between him and Imelda, doesnt it?
There's also the way it uses the word "Poqui-ti-ti-ti-to Loco". Again, this connotes how Imelda can be intimidating at times.
On his way to Mariachi Plaza, Miguel plays percussion on a stall full of model Alebrijes. The last thing he hits? A dustbin, out of which falls Dante who later turns out to be a real life Alebrije.
Coco is the title of the film, not just because of its supernatural connections ("Coco" refers to a ghost who comes from the land of the dead), but because Mama Coco is the only one who can preserve Hectors afterlife. She is also a character beloved by Miguel and Héctor, who hail from both lands, so she serves as a bridge to them.
Coco is also an affectionate nickname for women named "Socorro" ("Help"). The Junior Novel reveals that Coco's real name is Socorro. And it's such a fitting name, because Coco is the only one who can help save Héctor.
In addition, it is also kind of worth noting that the epilogue shows that Mama Coco has now passed away. The title then can be viewed as a way to both preserve her, and by extension her family's, memory and afterlife.
The whole movie is about Coco's life: it begins with her earliest memory, and it ends with her death one year later.
Also, Coco is notably the only Rivera who neither hates Héctor (like the rest of her family) nor is won over by Ernesto's lies (like her great-grandson Miguel).
Another possible interpretation of the title: Coco was the name the native people gave to smallpox (cocolitzin, "coco" used by the native babysitters to scare children)——a disease that surely left lots of people without anyone to be remembered, since it decimated the native's population after the introduction of this disease by Spaniard conquerors.
Ernesto may have taken everything from Héctor, his songs, his guitar, his family, his picture, even Miguel's affection (while he still thought Ernesto was his great-great-grandfather). But Coco's love was the only thing Héctor had to himself that Ernesto could not take from him. Talk about your Fridge-Heartwarming.
The Land of the Dead is constructed on the foundations of the memories of the living. The dead can only exist there as long as they are remembered by their living family/friends/etc, and once they are forgotten they no longer reside there. (They possibly move on though, to heaven or hell or another life).
Another thing to note is that in the climax, Miguel and Coco are the two people who recall Héctor and his deeds in land of the living. However, Miguel only remembers Hector from personally meeting him as a ghost, while Coco remembers him when he was still alive. To exist in the Land of the Dead, people in the living world have to remember you from when you were alive. A reflection/shadow of something cant exist by itself, it has to be formed from an actual tangible presence.
However, lots of Ernesto's fans nowadays aren't the same who met him when he was still alive (since it's been 75 years since he died) and he's still doing fine. Hector specifically states that the memories need to be "passed down" by those who knew them in life. That's also why Hector persisted after Coco died: she'd passed his memory onto others.
Ernesto says he is the music. Which is true: its all that matters to him because of the fame it gave him and without it hes nobody. At least Héctor was able to look beyond the music, to what inspired it.
Furthermore, that is probably what inspired Héctor's original desire to leave Ernesto and their partnership. He coldly told Ernesto that being a "star" was his dream, not Hector's, and in the end that was not worth leaving his family behind. To Héctor, music wasn't a vehicle to stardom, it was an expression of love. As he himself remarks: "I didn't write 'Remember Me' for the world, I wrote it for Coco."
Another thing, Héctor is understandably angry when he confronts Ernesto about stealing his music, but he doesn't dwell on it. Instead he focuses on asking Miguel to take his photo back to the Land of the Living so he can see Coco again, placing his love for his daughter above his love of music.
Miguel's love of Ernesto's music is what connects him with Ernesto. However, once he learns that Ernesto didn't write the music (and murdered Hector for it), he becomes uneasy in his presence, as though he's become a total stranger in his eyes. The fact is that Ernesto was a stranger to Miguel ― Miguel had "known" Ernesto through his music, but since it was Hector's songs all along, it was Hector he'd really connected with, not Ernesto.
When Coco reveals she's been keeping Héctor's picture fragment and all of his letters, it comes across as sweet. And it is, but holding on to those was probably much, much more troublesome than it appears at first. Think about it: Imelda was so furious at Héctor that she banned music in her family (please note: not just one kind of music, all music) forever. If she went that far, she sure as hell wouldn't allow anything related to him in her household. This means a young, grief-stricken Coco probably had to go to great lengths to hide her valued mementos of her father from her mother. Picture a kid Coco fishing Héctor's torn photo out of the trash in the dead of night after her mom ripped it off in a fit of rage. Picture her hiding that stash of letters more carefully than any booze, cigarettes, or dirty mags you've ever hidden from anyone since her mom would probably burn them if she found them, destroying the one thing from her father she still has. Suddenly, those letters feel all the more special and valuable.
If you look closely, you can see that Héctor has a different fibula taped to his tibia, hence why he limps while all the other skeletons walk straight.
The alebrijes tend to be related to the person that they obey. Pepita/Lupita is big and scary with a hidden tender and helpful side, just like Mama Imelda herself. Frida Kahlo's alebrije is a bit mischievous and eccentric as she is with her art, but also very keen as she believed Dante was an alebrije when she first saw him. Dante's form is more funny and less powerful than Lupita, since it's Miguel's dog and a child like Miguel isn't as capable as an adult like Imelda; while his overenthusiastic nature often leads him to mess things up in the short term, he proves to have better insight about the big issues than anyone else. Which somewhat says something of De La Cruz himself having a lot of chihuahuas, a breed of dog that behaves as if were bigger than it really is but when threatened, runs away.
Frida's alebrije is a spider monkey, not because they're her favorite animals, but because her particular alebrije is just as eccentric and theatrical as she is (as demonstrated when it changes colors and breathes fire to show the extent of alebrije powers).
Another thing that makes Dante comparable to Miguel: Dante was caught eating food off the ofrenda, but continued eating it anyway. Miguel revealed to his family he wanted to be a musician, and even though his family still banned music, the boy still pursued his dream to be a musician.
Héctor spends most of the film without shoes. This might seem to be just a design choice... right up until you find his ex-wife is the founder of a family of shoemakers. And in the final scene, a shot is focused on his new black shoes as he walks back with her and her kin.
Another bit of Foreshadowing from Héctors wardrobe: Héctors outfit (specifically the vest) hint that hes a musician because what he's wearing is a torn mariachi outfit.
Speaking of costume designs, Héctor is missing one sleeve from his jacket, whilst his other sleeve is torn at the shoulder. The missing sleeve symbolizes that Héctor has experienced the "first" death (physical death), and his other torn sleeve represents he's on the verge of the "second" death (everyone who ever knew him in life dies) because Coco, the only person who remembers him, is going to die soon).
Later, Héctor's jacket has been restored into a vest with no sleeves. This rightly represents that now Héctor has experienced the first two deaths, now that his daughter Coco has joined him in the after life.
A bit more to it than that. Ripped sleeves in military usually come from Cashiering. When the epaulettes ripped out they would tear at the seams at the same places they did with Héctor's jacket. A common cause for a Cashiering to happen? Desertion. His half ripped sleeve serves a foreshadowing visual clue.
On the same subject as wardrobes, Miguel often wears a sleeveless shirt. Although the white symbolizes his innocence as a child, its overall sketchy style represents how he has a tendency to be dishonest. A year after the events of the movie, you can see Miguel wears a white decent button-up shirt (a guayabera, to be specific), symbolizing that not only has Miguel retained his innocence (given he's still a child), but he's learned to 'clean up' his act.
Ernesto presumably spent seventy plus years in the land of the dead. Wouldn't he have crossed over sooner at some point? He died unmarried and presumably childless - so he never had his photograph placed up. He has another reason to be ecstatic over presumably having a legacy: Because now he can cross over and see his descendants.
Presumably, he DID have his picture put up. Not by family, but by his fans. Think of figures like Elvis or Prince, who still have legions of fans coming to place offerings at their "shrines". In fact, Miguel built such a shrine for Ernesto in the attic.
A scene shows a skeleton with braces bring allowed into the Land of the Living because his dentist has his picture put up.
That actually might be a clue to Ernesto's ultimately selfish nature. To cross over, you need to actively want to cross over and visit your family. Ernesto could do that...or he could stay in the Land of the Dead and be the Life of the Party for all eternity. For most people, you'd want to see your family again. But Ernesto? It's a different story.
Similarly, if he did have children before, why wouldn't he mention it, especially in his life? Since he died unmarried, any children he would have had would have been born out of wedlock. Mexico is predominantly Catholic - and he lived in the twenties and thirties. This would have easily sank his career if he even so much as mentioned having a drunken fling or a one-night stand with a woman - fornication is a BIG no-no in this timeframe. But since people learn differently in the land of the dead, of course times change.
Mexican men Really Gets Around even if it's such a Catholic country and EVEN MORE on that times, mostly because of the fact that girls and women had to cross miles of crops all alone (talk about Adult Fear). In fact just listen to a lot of Mariachi songs, which are mostly boasts about how much women they can have -and if you can translate them, they're really hot songs that can make even the most dirty rapper to turn red on shame-. Also check biographies and scandals of any of the figures that inspired Ernesto -Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete and Vicente Fernández-. Especially Negrete who made traffic a nightmare wherever he was for the afluency -and faints- of his female fans. Along with that all, in Mexican culture there's the concept of the "casa grande" (the legally married wife and the legally recognized sons) and the "casa chica" (a mistress and the possible bastards) and it's not condemned socially. In fact it's celebrated and, differently from the United States in the same period, those kind of scandals would made him even MORE wanted. So of course Ernesto believed that Miguel was his family. He must had really gotten around back when he was alive. Mexico can be Catholic but for sure it's not a prudish country when you look behind the appearances.
Why didn't Miguel realize earlier that Ernesto de la Cruz was his forgotten ancestor when he was the only famous musician from this particular town? It was because the stories implied that the unknown ancestor failed to become famous, thus making the warnings against music much more meaningful.
Or rather, because the stories say he took his guitar and never came back ever again. Miguel probably presumed that the father in the story found his fame elsewhere.
The Land of the Dead is shown to use a lot of distinctly outdated machines, like an old 1980s Macintosh computer and walkie-talkies that look straight out of World War II. They use dead technology!
Miguel and Héctor are not so different when you think about it. Héctor tries to trick his way to cross the flower bridge, and fails. Miguel tries to take advantage of Imelda's family blessing and return to the Land of the Living. But it backfires when he breaks his promise and grabs a guitar.
This makes it more brilliant when you remember what Héctor said about helping each other—"I could help you, you could help me, we can help each other. But most importantly, you can help me." As it turns out, that's exactly what happens in the end. By forgoing what they wanted and helping each other unconditionally as families are supposed to, each got what they wanted. Miguel wants to be a musician, but was willing to accept his family's blessings—meaning no music—to make sure Héctor was remembered. Héctor wants to see Coco one last time. But instead of keeping Miguel in the Land of the Dead just a little longer, he allows the boy to go home. So once Héctor selflessly sends Miguel home, the boy repays him by helping Mama Coco remember her Papa. Afterwards, Héctor eventually sees Coco in one year's time, and Miguel's family becomes supportive of his dream to be a musician.
Adding onto that, it's very likely that further chasing what they wanted would've resulted in them further losing what they wanted. Hector wanted Miguel to find a family member who would send both the boy and his photo to the living. If he had brought Miguel back to his family (granted they were good intentions), he would've found too late Miguel was related to Imelda and she would've refused his request to send the photo home. Miguel wanted to meet his idol and (supposed) great-great grandfather Ernesto so he could be sent home with a musician's blessing. If Ernesto had gone through with the blessing, it wouldn't have worked, Ernesto would suspect they weren't related. ...And he'd have sent Miguel to be thrown in the cenote for tying to pass himself off as a blood relative. In the end, it was selflessness and unconditional love that saved each of their lives.
Another brilliance: Helping each other out with love and unconditionally also fit the Mexican/Catholic theme. This kind of love is known as charity, the highest form of love in Catholicism. Also, the living helping the dead and the dead helping the living can be summed up by ninth line of Apostle Creed, "communion of saints", which is best effected when it's done with charity.
It's also quite literally "unconditional," since Imelda ultimately gives Miguel a blessing with "no conditions."
Hector's photo acts as good misdirection for who he is as a character. He may really be a good father, but the photo gives the audience a first impression that he's a con artist, and by giving Miguel his photo, he's trying to sell himself.
How Imelda and Coco's family photo is folded acts as a Rule of Symbolism. The side of the photo that has the guitar is folded back because the rest of Miguel's family is only interested in Imelda and Coco. Later, in the Land of the Dead, Miguel has the side with Imelda and Coco folded back because he's interested in his musician great-great-grandfather. By the end, the entire photo is unfolded and made whole, representing that Miguel has accepted his family, and in turn, his family has accepted Hector and music back into their lives.
Miguel figures that in order to return to the Land of the Living, he needs a musician's blessing. Earlier, he figures that musician has to be Ernesto. But the truth is, he's neither a true musician or Miguel's blood relative. Imelda and Hector on the other hand are both real musicians, as well as Miguel's family. As it turns out, it's both their blessings that send the boy back home.
Miguel's papa said that his family would guide him. Later, after recognizing de la Cruz's guitar in the family photo, Miguel reasons that Ernesto's is family, and he'll guide him on his path to be a musician. At first, it seems like de la Cruz's advice (his motto "Seize your moment") is guiding Miguel. But it's a Red Herring: it's guided him into trouble, where he ended up in the Land of the Dead.
What's more, as foreshadowing, it's Héctor's advice that came to guide Miguel to where he wanted to go. He showed him how to shake off nerves for a performance, he taught him how to let out a grito, and he pointed out it's not a good idea to choose a popular song everyone's going to pick. Later, a TV clip of Ernesto encourages Miguel how to get his attention ("Then I will make him listen. ...WITH MUSIC!"). But what helps Miguel get Ernesto's attention? Héctor's advice.
Every time Miguel's followed Ernesto's advice, it's gotten him in trouble. When he tries to "seize the moment" twice, it leads to Elena destroying his hand-made guitar and ending up in the Land of the Dead. When he tries to catch Ernesto's attention by making him "listen with music", he falls into a pool and almost drowns. The one time he doesn't get in trouble after following someone's advice is with Héctor before he played at the Sunrise Spectacular.
Miguel has managed to keep his love of music (and his Ernesto shrine) a secret from his family for so long because he always played his guitar softly and gently, like Héctor. His family only knew about it because he chose to share his secret to get their attention, like Ernesto.
At first, it's verysobering when you recall what Elena warned about becoming forgotten like Miguel's great-great-grandfather... only to learn she was right! Héctor did become (nearly) forgotten, all because he left his family behind. He's a Shadow Archetype of what Miguel would be if he tried to follow his dream without his family by his side. But later, it becomes Fridge-heartwarming when Miguel tells Héctor he does prefer the obscure musician over the Fraud Ernesto. So yes, he does want to become like the musician in the photo, the real musical genius who wrote "Remember Me".
It becomes very poetic that Ernesto was killed when a bell fell on top of him because it's Played for Laughs. According to the other musicians, Hector supposedly died from choking on a chorizo (sausauge). If Ernesto was the one who claimed his friend died a humiliating death, it's somewhat fitting he too died a humiliating death himself.
Speaking of bells, notice the difference in appearance between the first bell that crushed Ernesto and the second. The first one was bright and shiny to reflect Ernesto's status as a celebrity and a national hero at the time of his death. The second bell was darker and more rusted out. Similarly, after the truth about Ernesto was revealed, his reputation had been tarnished.
That moment when one realizes: Ernesto is Héctor's Shadow Archetype! How? Héctor is a trickster who tries to use dishonest means to get what he wants (and has failed thus far). And Ernesto used a dirty trick (poisoning his best friend) to get what he wanted (and it worked).
A foreshadowing that Miguel's great-great-grandfather is Héctor is that they share the same hairstyle bangs, as opposed to Ernesto's curly bang.
Which ties in with how Coco remembered Héctor all these years: Miguel resembled Héctor and reminded her of him.
This is Played for Laughs, but when Miguel tries to get by the bouncer by claiming he's Ernesto's great-grandson, the boy tries to give a smile like De La Cruz's. Naturally, the bouncer kicks him out anyway. But then your realize, it's because there was no resemblance, since they're not related.
Even better, if you compare their grins, Miguel actually looks more like Héctorespecially when he's being especially shmoozy.
It seems a mystery how Ernesto's guitar sent Miguel to the Land of the Dead. But later, you learn family curses occur when you steal something from the dead. Ernesto stole Héctor's songs and guitar after the latter died, thus cursing the guitar.
In a sense, maybe Miguel getting sent to the Land of the Dead wasn't entirely a curse, but a blessing in itself. It meant for Miguel to visit the Land of the Dead so he could first-hand set things straight.
To elaborate more on this: Ernesto didn't just steal the guitar and the songs from Héctor. As it turns out, the guitar was a gift from Imelda, according to this tweet from Lee Unkrich. So Ernesto even stole from Héctor's family, metaphorically and literally: the curse was that the Riveras would find out the truth about Héctor.
Miguel did steal the guitar. He made sure to ask permission beforehand, making it more of a "borrow" than a "steal" but he asks permission of Ernesto. Since Ernesto wasn't the actual owner of the guitar, it didn't count.
The significant contrast between how Ernesto and how Héctor embrace Miguel as their great-grandson. Ernesto only made a show of how Miguel was his grandson in front of others, in public. As long as it catapulted his fame, he just told the whole (Land of the Dead) world this boy was his grandson. At some point, it begins to border on ridiculous. But Héctor and Miguel declare how proud they are to be related when they are in the privacy of the cenote, giving their bond integrity—which is defined as doing the right thing when nobody is watching.
The reason why Miguel and Ernesto call themselves family is because they can both benefit from it. Miguel can go back home without needing to give up his music and Ernesto uses Miguel to increase his fame. When Héctor and Miguel proudly declare themselves family, neither of them benefit from it. Héctor doesnt have any marigold petals so he cant send Miguel back home, which means Miguel's (seemingly) doomed to remain in the Land of the Dead (much less able to go home without giving up music), and Miguel doesnt have Héctors photo anymore so he cant put it on the familys ofrenda. But they still proudly declare themselves family simply because they are.
In addition, Miguel asks Ernesto if the fame was worth leaving his family behind. The hemming and hawing response that Ernesto gives should be a major clue that de la Cruz is not Miguel's great-great grandfather. You would think that the thought of leaving behind his family and now witnessing what is (supposedly) proof of what he left behind should be enough to get Ernesto to express some degree of remorse or even tears or even emotion. But then again, he had no qualms about poisoning Hector to death, so why should we expect him to legitimately care about the well-being of a little boy?
In contrast, Héctor later gives a more realistic answer to Miguel's question: yes, he did regret leaving his family behind. And he never "got over" his homesickness for his family; he still misses Coco every waking moment of his afterlife. This cements The Reveal that Hector is Miguel's true ancestor.
Ernesto seems to accept Miguel pretty easily. A celebrity's party is crashed by a complete stranger who claims to be a relative? At the very least, you'd think he'd ask some follow-up questions (like, y'know, his family name). But Ernesto didn't really care about Miguel as an individual, so much as what it meant for his reputation. Watch his reactions during the scene where they first meet. When Miguel introduces himself, he's pensive for a moment, considering how to play this, before smiling and encouraging him. Then, when Miguel hugs him, he's clearly hesitant, even standoffish, for just a split second. Then he realizes how good this could make him look, lifts Miguel onto his shoulders, and proudly announces, with a paternal smile, that he has a great-great grandson. In retrospect, it's obvious he's playing to the crowd the entire time.
Ernesto claims that for him, "the world is [his] family". But when you think about it, the only part of the world he associates with are those who are famous or upper-class. Whereas Héctor is more connected to the world through his lower class "cousins", befriending and associating with them even when they have so little to give.
Ernesto hoards all the surplus offerings his fans ever gave him, even though he doesn't quite know what to do with it all. Héctor, on the other hand, is implied to give what little he has to his "cousins" during Dia de los Muertos, since they can't go to the Land of the Living to retrieve their offerings.
Look at their hats. It's a brilliant representation of their egos. Ernesto's sombrero is large, just like his ego and pride for himself. Now, look at Héctor's straw hat. It symbolizes that he may have pride too, but it's relatively small and worn out, representing that he's been humbled by his ordeal.
The way each first reacts to Miguel upon first meeting. Héctor is shocked and uncomfortable, given he's concerned that a living child is in a place where only the Dead go. Ernesto on the other hand is rather amazed to meet "that boy, the one who came from the Land of the Living". He's interested in Miguel, but only as an overnight celebrity come to his party.
Also regarding their first meeting: Héctor and Miguel's first meeting takes place inside a phone booth. The lighting in that phone booth is warm and well-lit, reflecting Héctor's true nature as a Nice Guy and a loving father. Later, when Ernesto meets Miguel (via a Villainous Rescue), take a good look at the lighting. The room may be vibrantly lit, but there's a hint of Sickly Green Glow from the pool, reflected onto Ernesto. This hints that although he may seem like a cool, charming, brave hero, he's really a cold, cruel scoundrel.
Building on that Fridge, there's a Rule of Symbolism concerning the space of their respective meeting places. Miguel meets Hector inside a cramped phone booth. Its claustrophobic space could represent how Hector has so little to his name, but it also represents how closely they're related. Miguel finally meets Ernesto in a big, spacious mansion, symbolizing how Ernesto has so much. But it could also be read that when it comes to being related to Miguel, they are worlds apart.
Another layer of Fridge: Hardly anyone remembers the days when phone booths were one of the most reliable means of communication available, just as hardly anyone remembers Héctor. Contrariwise, lavish mansions are among the first things people think about when they think of famous people like Ernesto.
Each of their approach to being a parental figure to Miguel hints who's the real great-great-grandfather and who is a great-great-fraud. Héctor may not be a role model (given his trickster tendencies), but he makes an effort to be more upstanding in front of Miguel (such as when he replaced a lyric in "Juanita" because otherwise, it would've been inappropriate). And although there was the ulterior motive of sending his photo to the world of the living, he wanted to take Miguel back to his other family like any well-meaning adult would return a lost child. Ernesto on the other hand, having no experience with children what-so-ever, lets Miguel to do whatever he wants at his party. At one point, he allows Miguel to watch a rather violent scene in one of his movies.
The difference between how Miguel hugs Ernesto and Héctor. Both hugs are genuine, coming from Miguel. But when he hugs Ernesto, it's only under the false belief that he's his great-great-grandfather and a famous musician. Not to mention, it's during a happy part of the movie. On the other hand, Miguel hugs Héctor (who is supposedly a complete stranger) when they are in the cenote because he's already familiar with him at this point. He also hugs him because this is his Darkest Hour, and instinctively, Hector was the only one Miguel could turn to comfort.
In the flashback concerning Ernesto's death, he had lots of people witness his death. It's also bright and colorful, because Miguel is remembering it through a Nostalgia Filter (namely because he wasn't there to witness the death). But Hector remembers his death in sepia tones because it reflects the antiquity of his times (like it were an old photograph). Hector also didn't have any one besides Ernesto to witness his death, virtually Dying Alone. Most notably, it looks dim and dark because he remembers it as being the fateful nighthe missed his chance to return to his family.
Building on that, each man's demise is a representation of death. Ernesto's is a representation of how people (and Hollywood) view death: that it's supposed to be colorful, exciting, thrilling, quick and painless, going out on a high note. Whereas Hector's death portrays what death's truly like in reality: somber, pointless, unfair, tragic, sometimes slow and painful, and happening at the most inconvenient time.
Another comparison, not between Hector and Ernesto, but between Miguel and Ernesto. Miguel genuinely treasures music as a passion, and believes it can be used to convey a meaningful message to others (for instance, when he sang "For this music is my language and the world is my familia.") But Ernesto only sees good music as a gold mine for fame and fortune. And admittedly, he's not bright enough to recognize the context of the songs he sings (he used "Remember Me", a tender lullaby, as a power ballad).
Ernesto represents the romance of being a famous musician. Hector represents the reality of being a talented musician. He even has a rather realistic view on people who perform for fame's sake.
As a Rule of Symbolism, water can represent baptism and rebirth. The first time Miguel falls into the water in Ernesto's pool, it represents his "rebirth" as a "member" of Ernesto's "family". But later, when Ernesto has the boy thrown in a cenote with Hector, falling into the water represents Miguel's "rebirth" as someone with a better appreciation for his family (and a less savory viewpoint of de la Cruz).
"Un Poco Loco" becomes a brilliant hint that Miguel is related to Héctor. Instead of using an old classic song just like everyone else, he tried a new one on the spot. Just like Hector, he's creative.
Lee Unkrich confirmed on Twitter that this song was made actually in honor of Imelda, Héctor's wife. So it adds a layer for why Héctor liked the idea of singing that song better than Remember Me.
Another reason why Héctor would prefer Un Poco Loco? Remember Me touches a sore spot with Héctor, as it's about the daughter he abandoned who's now slowly forgetting him. Un Poco Loco, in contrast, is about his loving exasperation with Imelda and likely reminds him of happier times with his wife and daughter.
The song "Remember Me" is a great song in and of itself, but it also serves as a fantastic example of the differences between Miguel's potential great-great grandfathers. The man Miguel thought was his great-great grandfather, Ernesto de la Cruz, took the song and turned it into a cheesy and bombastic showtune: there are folkloric dancers, an ostentatious setpiece, and he's shown performing it at a black tie event. And yet the audience members are all enraptured because the correct way to sing it is actually how Miguel's actual great-great grandfather, Héctor, sung it: as a sweet and tender lullaby to his daughter. It's not a power ballad, the way Ernesto performed it. It's a love song.
Furthermore, consider how Ernesto de la Cruz approached the songs he performed: as vehicles for him to star in cheesy movies and to acquire fame, almost to the point where he can be considered a parody of similar film careers in Mexiconote For example, the famed masked wrestler El Santo appeared in over fifty movies where he was as himself, regardless of how silly it was to have a lucha libre wrestler as the star role It's nice and it certainly made him a lot of money, but it's implied that he isn't really sure what to do with all of the empty praise and "love" he receives from the world. Contrast that with Héctor, who actually wrote all the damn songs that Ernesto performed. He wasn't writing his songs for the world, he was writing them for his daughter Coco. Thus, he has a higher appreciation for the actual music itself, and explains his expressed disdain for "musicians" who are only in it for the fame.
The song Miguel plays to get Ernesto's attention is brilliant when you consider one of the lyrics: "And the world is my familia". Turn it the other way around, and you have the true meaning that Héctor intended: "My family is my world".
On the same subject of "Remember Me", there's a reason Ernesto played only a few songs: they were the only songs Héctor ever wrote before he was killed. Ernesto could play those songs, use them one at a time to figuratively throw the dog a bone, but nothing more. And when he ran out of songs, he resorted to dressing up those songs to be new and thrilling each time, to the point where they became overblown show tunes.
Related... The YMMV page points out how the many upbeat covers of "Remember Me" seem to be Misaimed Marketing after watching the movie... but before that, it can be used to disguise the spoiler that it isn't supposed to be sung that way.
Also on the subject of "Remember Me", the song itself is a mnemonic, and Hector said that he and Coco would sing it "together" every night at the same time even if he was touring. Likely even after Imelda forbade music, when the hour came around, the song would echo in Coco's memory. Hèctor's love for his daughter and their loving ritual made it possible for her to remember him even into her twilight years.
"Remember Me" was written to reach out to someone separated by space, but it ultimately ends up becoming a song about being separated by life and death, with the dead Héctor's one desire being to see his daughter Coco again on Dia de los Muertos, and his only hope of not disappearing forever being for her to pass down his memory. Thanks to Miguel meeting Héctor and learning why and how he sang the song, it fills this very purpose: Héctor finally reaches out to his daughter Coco through Miguel's performance of the song in the correct style sparking memories of him again, and he is thus saved from being forgotten, able to see her again in the afterlife, and can return to the world of the living on Dia de los Muertos.
Why doesn't the family photo of Imelda, Coco and Héctor ever get wet? Especially after the two times Miguel fell in the water (first in Ernesto's pool and second in the cenote). Because it's from the Land of the Living. It couldn't be soaked by what is essentially "ghost" water. Hector's picture got soaked, but only because it was an item from the Land of the Dead. So thankfully, despite what Miguel goes through, the picture remains in one piece.
Something else as well: In the Land of the Dead, everything is powered by memories. What does the photo associate with? Memory, of course. The difference between Miguel's photo and the photo of Hector is, while Miguel's photo is still held together by his family's memories of Coco and Imelda, Hector's photo soaks because there's only one person left in the world who still remembers him.
A very subtle hint of foreshadowing that Héctor is actually the brilliant songwriter and not Ernesto is during the song "Juanita", in which he quickly has to substitute a much more... adult lyric with something child-appropriate on the fly. Héctor only pauses for a second before an appropriate replacement lyric comes to him, while someone less adept at writing songs might have had a much tougher time.
The fact that he bothers to substitute lyrics at all is a small foreshadowing that he's not only a good guy for real (which some were uncertain of at first, given his conman nature), but that he's a father. Having had a small child, even for a short time, he's more conscious of children.
Furthermore, not only does he substitute the lyric, he substitutes it with a lyric that is perfect for the song and does not take anything away. It's only because Chicharron views "Juanita" as his favorite song that he even spots the change. Miguel had no idea; that's how well the line fit. It's not just a good songwriter, but a brilliant one at that, that can pull that off.
The family trait shows for Miguel in the same way. We've only seen him ape the notes from TV until he crosses over. When he suggests music to Frida to go with her dancers, he's composing off the top of his head, and with enough clarity that her band can pick it up and play what he describes.
Speaking of not using bad words, there's a Bilingual Bonus where, after his latest attempt to cross the bridge is foiled, Hector curses "dumb flower bridge". One would think the default word for mildly cursing something lousy would be "stupid". However, in Hispanic language, "stupid" is frowned upon as a very strong word. So in this case, "dumb" is the default mild cursing word. Again, this could hint that Héctor is a father who watches his language.
Earlier, Miguel had said "I don't care if you put my picture on a stupid ofrenda." No wonder Elena was provoked to break Miguel's guitar, he had used a Precision F-Strike.
There's notably only one time Héctor uses the word "stupid": when he's calling out Miguel on his dream. This reflects how strongly he feels about leaving one's family: he's made that mistake before.
In the beginning of the movie, Elena emphasizes that Dia de los Muertos is about being there with your family. True to the movie's message about family, what saves Héctor from being forgotten? Being there with Coco, and spending time with her, via playing "Remember Me" on Héctor's guitar.
Another thing that's seamless is how "Remember Me" is used by each of Coco's potential 'fathers'. Even before the reveal, one can tell it was somehow meant for Coco ("Though I have to say goodbye..." "I sing a secret song to you each night we are apart"). Coming from Ernesto, it would look like he meant it to be an encrypted way of keeping touch with his family but, true to form, also used it as a means to catapult himself to fame. But coming from Hector, it's suiting that he would never share his personal lullaby. He didn't need an encrypted message to keep in touch with Coco: he planned to come home.
In the beginning, Miguel narrates to the audience "It's not my fault I love music. It's his: Ernesto de la Cruz." This is meant to foreshadow that, yes, Ernesto is at fault, but not just for Miguel's passion for music. As it turns out, he's primarily at fault for the reason Miguel's family has banned music. If it wasn't for him, Hector would've been alive to return home and reconcile with Coco and Imelda. And music would've remained a part of the Rivera family's life. But instead, Ernesto murdered Hector before the latter could return home. Imelda, under the belief her husband abandoned them, banned music forever. And the consequences came to a head when Miguel, a music lover, was born into a family of music haters.
Early in the movie, Miguel's father points out that the Rivera family knows nothing about Miguel's great-great-grandfather, except that he abandoned his family. Seems pretty obvious, given what the narration told us. However, it becomes brilliant once you know the truth: Hector didn't mean to abandon his family (he was murdered before he could return home). That would explain why Hector was in danger of being Deader Than Dead, even though the entire Rivera Family knew him in the stories: because all they know about him (or think they know) is nothing but misinformation. That's just as bad as forgetting someone. Coco was the last person who held the memory of what Hector was reallylike in life.
While it does border on Fridge Horror, this also counts as Fridge-Heartwarming: why did Imelda keep sending Hector away in the Land of the Dead? Because deep down, she was still very much in love with him. As much as she wanted her family to forget Hector, she didn't really want to watch him suffer, or even witness him vanishing.
Another Fridge-Heartwarming: Hector never lies to Miguel, not even once. (His lie about having tickets for meeting Ernesto backstage doesn't count, because he told the lie to someone else.) Now think, what kind of man is always honest to children? A father.
Even concerning the lie about getting backstage to meet Ernesto, when Miguel calls him out on it, Hector admits outright that it was a lie and apologizes for doing it where Miguel could hear him. Which is another very parental thing to do, being honest when you've made a bad example of yourself so that your charge doesn't think it's OK to replicate the behavior.
Juanita is said to have bicolored eyes, and when Dante gets his Alebrije form, he has one green and one purple eye.
Just like how the singer likes Juanita despite her appearance, Miguel also comes to value Dante as a special friend before he learned he was an alebrije.
When disowning and leaving them, how did Miguel outrun his family, even when they meant to come looking for him? Because it's implied in his conversation with his Mama Coco that he's learned to run faster than he normally does. It must've caught his family by surprise when he left them in the dust so quickly.
Hector seems awfully accustomed at utilizing his skeleton abilities (reassembling himself every time he falls apart, detaching his arm for useful purposes, etc.) Of course he has! He's been dead for nearly 100 years by now. Between the years and his schemes to return to Coco somehow, he must've come up with so many creative perks of being a skeleton.
There's a Rule of Symbolism concerning the times Miguel sees his family before and after he travels to the Land of the Dead. The last time he sees them before he runs away, it's twilight, reflecting that the Rivera's music ban will be coming to an end in the very-near future. The next time Miguel sees them, it is dawn when he plays "Remember me" for Coco. In other words, it is the dawn of a new era for the Riveras, one where music is a part of their lives again.
There's also a symbolism between the two guitars Miguel uses, if you imagine they each represent Ernesto and Hector. Miguel's replica of "Ernesto's" guitar represents De la Cruz: a fake impersonator who couldn't hold a candle to the real talent behind his songs. When Miguel attempted to show his family music could be good by playing a cheery tune on it (only for it to lead to Elena smashing it), it signifies that not only is Ernesto's lust for fame the very thing the Riveras fear and shun, but his flashy approach to music would not have been welcomed among them. Meanwhile, Hector's custom guitar represents Hector himself for who he is: the genuine article whose fate crossed with Miguel's. When Miguel played "Remember me" to Coco gently (and inspired the family to lift the music ban), it signifies that the Riveras have second-hand found kinship with Hector for being a kindly father.
So for those worried about the rest of the skeletons like Chicharrón, maybe they're surviving on a part of the Ofrenda that's sometimes forgotten: The Anima Sola (An anima, according to Catholic tradition, is a soul that can't go to heaven because they had sinned but can't go to hell because the sins aren't that bad, so they're having a punishment helping people on Earth and after certain deeds, they can go to Heaven). This part of the ofrenda is to invite people who don't have anyone who can remember them because of Unperson or they didn't leave anyone to remember them and show them that even in death there's people who care for them even if they didn't know them in life. This could render all the conflict pointless - both in Coco and in The Book of Life - because everyone would be having an ofrenda, even as a charity (and everyone would be able to cross the marigold bridge, even without a photo on an Ofrenda). So it's understandable why they left this part of the ofrenda out.
Speaking of Chicharrón, his death scene holds a nice little bit of foreshadowing: Héctor takes a shot in toast to Chicharrón, then turns his glass over and sets it down next to the full one. The camera then lingers on the two glasses for a moment before cutting away. Later, it's revealed that Héctor was murdered by Ernesto, who offered him a toast and poisoned the alcohol in his shot glass.
This could go out for non-Mexican viewers but Dante is an xoloizcuintle, a breed of dog that's believed that helped people to cross the river that leaded souls to the afterlife. The dog was created by a god to care of humans on life and death, so better be nice to them when you're alive because they remember.
Miguel didn't name his dog "Dante" just because. If you listen carefully one of the de la Cruz movie clips, you hear Ernesto's horse is named Dante. Quite fitting that a boy would name his pet after his hero's animal sidekick.
Also the cempazuchitl/Marigolds to give the blessing. It's not only to mark the way for the ancestors, the legend says that it was made after a woman prayed to Tonatiuh (The God of Sun) to be again with her lover, after he died on war. So it's a symbol of love that endures after death.
At one point, Héctor angrily states, "This is why I hate musicians. They're all self-important jerks!" It seems like he's just angry because the musicians are teasing him, but later we learn that Héctor lost his family due to his ambition to be a famous musician. It's an excellent moment of foreshadowing that reveals how he feels about himself.
Miguel's abuelita, Elena, says this gem of a line early in the film while shooing away Dante: "Never name a street dog, they'll follow you forever" Which is pretty fitting considering Dante is one of the few animals to be shown to see spirit!Miguel, later becoming his alebrije.
A subtle moment of foreshadowing is when Miguel exclaims that he's going to play "Remember Me" in the battle of the bands, only for Héctor to immediately and uncomfortably negate the idea, saying that it's too popular- which, since that's actually true, seems like a legit concern. Then it's revealed that "Remember Me" is an extremely personal song to Héctor. A love song for his daughter Coco. In the novelization, he even disgustedly comments, "That song has been butchered enough for a lifetime" about the way Ernesto has misused it.
Also, the idea that Héctor, who is clearly shown near the end to miss his daughter desperately and regret leaving her is forced to have the song that he wrote for her butchered and crammed down his throat on a regular basis. It's a constant reminder of everything that he lost. No wonder he doesn't want Miguel to sing it.
Even before Miguel decides he'd rather give up music than let Héctor be forgotten, there's some foreshadowing when you take a look at his family. The one rule in the Rivera family is "No music". Now that seems like a high price to pay to marry into the their family. Yet, all the same, Coco, Elena and all their descendants managed to find spouses who willingly married into the family, despite their ban on music. They didn't let one rule get in the way of being with somebody they loved, but instead willingly accepted the conditions of being a Rivera. If they could learn to live with that one rule, even Miguel (who loves music) could find it in his heart to make the sacrifice.
Given the movies heavy theme on family, its fitting that what lets Héctor finally cross over to the Land of the Living isnt the photo of himself that he gave to Miguel, but the previously torn family photo of him, his wife, and his daughter.
There's also a contrast between the two pictures. The first picture of himself portrays that he's happy and care-free. The problem is, that's nothing like the Hector he is today, except maybe when he'spretending. But the torn picture of him with his family holds the one thing that's remained true about Hector, even after death: he's most happy when he's with his loved ones.
When you learn the Land of the Dead has a Sunrise Spectacular concert, one starts to wonder for a moment: wouldn't a concert take up what little time they have before Dia de los Muertos ends? They could be missing out on visiting their families. But that's before one realizes: it's the wee hours of morning! It's not likely for anyone to put off celebrating until the last minute. So there's nothing else to do during the final hours before the holiday ends. So the Sunrise Spectacular does have a purpose: filling in those last vacant hours of Dia de los Muertos.
The fact that Héctor is still in the Land of the Dead on the next Dia de los Muertos, even though Mamá Coco has passed, means that after Miguel reawakened her memories of her father, she was able to tell her living family enough about him that they "remember" him (or at least, his stories), even though none of them had met him while he was alive.
How is Coco able to remember her father even in the depths of severe dementia? And how is Miguel's singing able to trigger her memory returning? Well, studies show that music and memory are closely linked. note In fact, the original voice actress for Cinderella, Ilene Woods, suffered from Alzheimer's in her last years and eventually forgot that she'd been Cinderella. Despite this, however, "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" made her very happy for reasons she couldn't really remember People often remember music better than they remember almost anything else, and many memory aids have musical rhythms to them. So it's really not that much of a surprise that even when she can't recognize her own daughter, and her family has banned it for longer than her entire adult life, Coco still remembers the music.
Adding to this, people in the later phases of illnesses such as Alzheimers tend to forget the more recent memories, coming back to the memories they had when they were young... hence why Coco wanted to see her father again. It's also a song that marked her childhood that saves the day and lets her remember her father again.
When Ernesto tries to get rid of Miguel and Héctor, he has them thrown into a prison with only an opening at the top. AKA, an oubliette. The etymology of which is from the French oublier: "to forget".
It's a good thing for Ernesto that Imelda had nothing to do with music for the rest of her life, or else he might have been exposed a lot earlier when she recognized his songs as her husband's and began questioning why Héctor wasn't credited... or known about at all.
Or by recognizing the guitar she gave him.
Something that might be easy to miss about "Ernesto's" guitar: it has a gold tooth filled in on the skull, and Miguel colors in the same tooth with a gold marker on his homemade guitar. Ernesto has perfect teeth, but Héctor is the one who has a gold tooth in his mouth, an in-universe spoiler that Ernesto isn't the true musician.
The closing song, "Proud Corazon" not only sums up the themes of the film, but also evokes the entire film in its imagery. It opens with telling about a magical song that brought two people together despite one only seeing the other in a dream (what "Remember Me" is basically to Héctor and Coco), to the imagery of "a melody played on the strings of our souls/and a rhythm that rattled us down to the bone" ("souls" and "bone" fitting imagery for a film set in an afterlife populated by skeletons), "Ay mi familia! Oiga mi gente!" shows that it's not just a tribute to the power of family, but also a love letter to the Mexican culture and people.
At one point, Héctor derides musicians as "performing like a monkey for strangers." Miguel scoffs, "What do you know about it?" Turns out, Héctor is the great-great grandfather who left his family to share his music with the world, which led to his death and inability to be with them again. However, it might also go deeper than that: Héctor reveals to Miguel and Ernesto that even when still alive, he got homesick and decided to quit show business altogether to be with his family. At first glance, it may seem like a bit of a sacrifice to give up his dream to stay home with a wife and kid, but it could also tie back to his "performing like a monkey" comment. Being on the road for several months, Héctor probably eventually realized that audiences didn't care about him except as a spot of entertainment; they paid attention only as long as he was playing a guitar for their amusement, but otherwise couldn't care less if he lived or died. Contrast with Imelda and Coco, who may have loved his music, but loved him as a person even more. No wonder Héctor decided Celebrity Is Overrated and decided to quit even while still alive... And then became doubly bitter about it in death (since choosing to "perform like a monkey for strangers" is literally what killed him and kept him away from his family.
Even more so, there's another side to Héctor's disdain for pursuing fame. He's the real musician with the real talent, and yet the world gives Ernesto, a fraud, all the adulation and recognition. Meanwhile, these same people recognize Hector only when they want to mock him as "Chorizo". It's not just the emptiness of fame he resents, but also the stupidity of Ernesto's fans that should've been Héctor's fans.
On that same point, the movie is also a subtle commentary on the nature of art in and of itself. Ernesto achieved fame and adulation by playing to the lowest common denominator, simply bathing his songs (check that, Héctor's songs) in pomp and circumstance and glitz and glamour...and the majority of the audience just drinks it in. He might be popular, but he's no artist. On the flip side, Héctor was the performer in the Technician vs. Performer dynamic he and Ernesto no doubt played. He has a deep appreciation for music, not necessarily for the fame that comes with it. The film essentially boils it down into a question: would you rather be mega-successful and popular yet crippled with self-doubt on the knowledge that you aren't that good, or would you rather be an extremely talented musician...only no one knows it? For Héctor, it's easy to make the choice because he has his family to go back to. The music doesn't define him. For Ernesto, there is no safety net of family to go back to. So he kills Hector if only to maintain the illusion of fame as art.
In a subtle hint of foreshadowing by design, Mama Imelda wears a lot of purple, even having purple markings on her skull. Who is the only other character who noticeably wears purple? Her husband and Miguel's true great-great grandfather, Héctor.
Related slightly, Hector also wears a red ascot and Ernesto is decked out in white. Miguel wears a white shirt, and even his hoodie has white lines on it. However, his hoodie is primarily red and is worn over the white shirt. Showing that while he thinks he's Ernesto's great-great grandson on the inside. On the outside, he's Hector's great-great grandson through and through.
An interesting contrast between Héctor and Ernesto is the film's word choice in regards to how they relate to music and fame. Héctor initially left his family because he wanted to "share his music with the world." He wanted to share/give something he created with other people. Ernesto, on the other hand, often boasts about how he "seized my moment." He wanted to seize/take from other people. Ernesto is All Take and No Give in regards to music and stardom; he took Héctor's music, he took audience praise for music he didn't even write and, when it seemed like Hector wanted to quit, he took Hector's life so he could have the music (and fame) for himself.
At the movie's end, Ernesto seems to be disgraced in the living world. Héctor's letters were recovered and published and it became known that Ernesto didn't write his own songs, sure, but none of that would even suggest that Ernesto murdered him. But Ernesto puts in a gloating version of the poisoning scene into one of his movies - perhaps the stir of the letters being published made people take a closer look at his accounts and come to an unsavory conclusion.
It would actually be really easy to prove that Ernesto murdered Héctor.
The book mentions that Héctor died during their first tour and during the end scene of the movie, we briefly see the letters Héctor wrote home and if one looks hard enough, they'll notice that the letters have dates on them. Which would mean that they would prove that he wrote the letters before Ernesto was performing them solo.
Ernestos song book was written by Héctor and is possibly in a museum considering how important he was, which would mean that an analysis would prove that Ernesto did not write them. Now, no two writings are ever exactly alike, handwriting is a complex motor skill of sensory neurological and physiological impulses. After practice and repetition, writers interject their own individual characteristics into their writings which become a pattern of habitual formations that are repeated from one writing to the next. Which would mean that an analysis on the songbook and just about anything Héctor wrote would show that the songs in the book were written by Héctor, not Ernesto.
Héctor and Ernesto were in Mexico City when the latter poisoned the former, meaning that there was no possible way that Ernesto wouldve been able to perform a body dump. Police would have been involved and Ernesto wouldve been smart enough to come up with a sob story, telling the cops about how his friend mustve died from food poisoning (Remember Héctor himself believed that it was food poisoning) and they wouldve had him buried, meaning that the Riveras wouldve been able to locate Héctors grave from public burial records.
Ernesto poisoned him and the most effective weapon of murder from that time period was arsenic, in fact a third of all criminal cases of poisoning involved arsenic. One reason for its popularity was simply its availability. All you had to do was go into a chemists shop and say that you needed to kill rats. A child could practically obtain arsenic. If the victim is given a high enough dose so that death occurs quickly, the autopsy will find only an inflamed stomach and possibly a trace of arsenic in the digestive tract. The poisoning can also occur over a period of time as small doses are regularly given to the victim. Since arsenic is an element, it doesnt break down, but remains in the victims hair, fingernails, and urine. The most interesting thing about arsenic is the fact that it stays in a dead body for centuries. Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), 12th President of the United States was exhumed in order to re-establish his cause of death for historical reasons. In 1991, 141 years after his death, several historians and scientists petitioned the coroner of Jefferson County, Kentucky, where his remains are interred. On June 17, 1991, his body was exhumed and very sensitive tests done. Arsenic found in his remains was consistent with normal levels, so President Taylor was not murdered. Now if the Riveras knew where Héctor was buried (And let's face it, Miguel would want to search for Héctor's remains in order to bring him home), the Riveras could have him exhumed and tested for poison. If the concentration of arsenic found in the body is more than that found in the soil, it clearly indicates that arsenic could not have passively diffused from the soil to the body, meaning that the person died from poisoning. And we all know that Héctor died from poisoning!
On that note of why arsenic is the most likely choice is because the most common symptoms of arsenic poisoning (abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea) also mimic other illnesses, making it a popular choice for those who wish to escape with murder. What is one of those illnesses in question? Food poisoning...which is what Héctor and everyone else believed he died from for years!
Ironically, in a sense, the Land of the Dead is a Ghost Town.
Although it's already established Héctor is Imelda's real husband, the 'duet' (to get Héctor's photo back) between Ernesto and Imelda at the Sunrise Spectacular becomes brilliant when you realize: it cements that Ernesto couldn't have possibly been Imelda's husband because they don't have good chemistry. Ernesto loves to hog the spotlight, and Imelda does not like to have her authority upstaged (demonstrated when she deliberately stomped on his foot).
Early in the movie, we see Imelda accuse a case worker that her computer is wrong about her photo not being up on the ofrenda. As it turns out, it really wasn't on the ofrenda: Miguel had it. This may be a foreshadowing that Imelda isn't always right, especially when she doesn't have the whole story.
One clever, subtle way that the film hides the surprise that Héctor is Miguel's great great grandfather and in turn, tricks the audience into believing it's Ernesto without being disingenuous is in how the faceless torso is portrayed in the torn photograph. The man in said photo appears to be fairly well-built with broad shoulders, quite dissimilar to Héctor, who appears gangly and thin throughout much of the film and all promotional material. But then we see in his flashback that he actually was considerably more sturdy in life... because back then, he actually had muscle mass. He's a skeleton now, so of course he'd be cut down a bit. Ernesto, meanwhile, wears large and possibly padded suits, again contrasting Héctor wearing next to nothing, making him still appear quite similar to the man in the photograph despite being just as skeletal. So unless somebody in the audience is focused in on extremely small detail during their first viewing, the twist is protected almost flawlessly.
For the Kick the Dog moments — Pre-CD, in which Miguel selfishly believes that the three of them are keeping him from his musical aspirations as he doesn't fully grasp the dire situation he is in, only thinking that all of them, his family, are holding him back.
For the Pet the Dog moments — Post-CD, after learning the horrific things Ernesto would do for fame and that Héctor is his true great-great grandpa, Miguel finally understands the selfless things his family has done and will do for him.
Héctor's anger at Miguel lying to him about not having any other family besides Ernesto takes a double meaning once you learn his backstory. In his mind, Miguel was making the same mistake he did when he was alive, leaving his family for "some stupid musical fantasy".
While practicing for the concert, Frida comments that Ernesto isn't with her because he "doesn't do rehearsals." Considering she's working her ass off to do a good show, and rehearsals are vital to performances, this seems a bit inconsiderate at best, and downright rude at worst. An early hint that Ernesto is both not as nice as he seems, and not that great an artist to begin with, perhaps?
It's not only the above-mentioned interpretations, it's also a sign of how cowardly and insecure Ernesto really is. Frida Kahlo may be a bit...eccentric...but there is no denying that she is an artist. If Ernesto had ever interacted with her without an audience to perform to, she'd have been able to spot his one-trick-pony act from a mile away, and Ernesto even seems slightly fearful when he thinks Frida has shown up after his party (it's actually Héctor in disguise). Ernesto is desperate to keep up whatever illusion he can, no matter how convoluted.
There's also Héctor's disgust at Ernesto not even showing up to his own rehearsals. More foreshadowing that Héctor is the real artist, while Ernesto is a superficial performer who only cares about fame.
After Ernesto's crimes are revealed, his memorial site is boarded up with "FORGET YOU" graffitied over the door. At first this seems like a funny insult censored for a kids' movie, until you remember how important memories are to the dead; "Forget You" is the single most hurtful thing you can do to them, and far more savage than an actual F-bomb would be.
Not only that, but it's a nice bookend. The song that Ernesto was most famous for was Remember Me. What was written on the sign? The phrase's exact opposite"Forget you"!
At the end of the film, the gatekeeper woman smiles and calls Héctor by name as he is allowed to cross the bridge. Since the names of the deceased don't pop up on the screens at the gate, it can be assumed that A) Héctor gained widespread recognition in the afterlife after De la Cruz's deception came out and people learned the truth about the music, or B) Since Héctor's been trying for so many years to get across the bridge unsuccessfully, the security guards and gatekeepers know his name and face by now.
It's probably both, but the latter seems more obvious. Look at the female gatekeeper's expressions from the first time Héctor tries to cross to the last timeit's obvious that she's been through this before with him, and is thrilled to finally let him through at the end of the movie.
How fitting is it that the one whose role is to guide people through the Land of the Dead be named Dante?
Before you point this out: while Dante's own guide through Hell is Virgil, remember that, as a story, The Divine Comedy represented an attempt (so to speak) by Dante Alighieri to guide humanity through the same locations. Of course, there's also the Watsonian answer: Miguel isn't exactly book smart. It'd be a miracle if he knows that The Divine Comedy is a thing that exists, much less who wrote it. For him to know the name of a secondary character would be beyond unbelievable!
Why did Miguel's family fail to recognize him on stage when he's singing Un Poco Loco with Héctor, even though he's literally wearing the same clothes and singing with the same voice? Because they hate music so much, of course they'd make a point of not listening to or so much as looking at the guitar playing right in front of their noses!
Mama Imelda attempts to bless Miguel and send him home three times. The first time, she attaches the conditions that he 1) Go home, 2) Put her picture back on the ofrenda, and 3) Never play music again. Miguel rebels and runs away. The second time, her conditions are 1) Go home, 2) Put her and Hector's pictures back on the ofrenda, and 3) Never forget how much his family loves him. Ernesto de la Cruz takes advantage of the delay and throws Miguel off a building. In the end, Héctor (whose help has also been conditional on seeing Coco again up until Miguel nearly dies for it) simply offers a blessing from the two of them and Imelda hurriedly clarifies 'no conditions.' Even though Imelda's second round of conditions were much more favorable and kind and Hector's have always been with the best intentions, it's not until they show their great-great-grandson true and unconditional love that they can save him.
Look closely at the Guitar. On the calavera (skull), one of the teeth happens to be golden. Now compare the guitar's calavera to Hector and Ernesto. Hector has a golden tooth while Ernesto has perfect teeth. A subtle hint of the guitar's true owner.
Imelda's choice to become a cobbler says a lot about her. She could have made candy or pinatas (or wrestler underwear), as Miguel comments, but instead opted to make shoes. Think about what these items represent. Candy and pinatas represent joy that last for but a brief moment. They are nice, but don't last long. Same with wrestler underwear. Shoes on the other hand represent authority and discipline. In Mexico there is la chancla, the sandal used to discipline children. Rather than picking items that cause fleeting joy (and probably remind her too much of her late husband), Imelda choose the item that instills long lasting discipline.
Not only that, but shoes are a stable industry- they've been a part of our lives for many centuries in one form or another. That's a foundation you really can base a family business on, proving that Imelda wasn't simply looking to provide for herself and Coco, but for coming generations as well. Couple that with the fact that when Miguel asks what if he isn't all that good at making shoes, his family calms him with the fact that they'll help him practice and he will be able to learn it, and they even point out different family members at being noted for different kinds of shoes. There's plenty of shoe types to go around to find one Miguel is great at, from la chancla to high boots, whereas piñata candy and luchador clothing are pretty specific in comparison, either you got it or you don't.
Don't forget... it says Imelda taught herself shoemaking, her being the one to bring Coco, Julio, Rosita and her own twin brothers into the fray.
There's also the timing to consider. Candy is only needed from time to time as a treat. Fireworks are only needed on special occasions. And luchador underpants? Luchadors weren't even invented until the 1970s. But shoes? They're needed as often as you wear them out or scuff them or want to gift them to another or any sordid reason for needing a new pair.
While maybe a bit of a stretch, another hint that Héctor gives of his true identity is when disguising Miguel, Héctor uses white and black shoe polish. Who else has been closely tied to the shoe business, but the Riveras.
Frida Kahlo helping the Rivera family: "Rivera" was the surname of her husband Diego.
While on stage at the Sunrise Spectacular, Imelda performs a song called "La Llorona" that shares its name with a Mexican folk legend. However, the symbolism of the legend applies not to her, but Héctor. The story tells of a woman named Maria who drowned her children and then herself. At the gates of heaven, she was told that she could not enter until she found her lost children, and so wanders the earth as a spirit eternally searching for them. Like Maria, Héctor is not allowed to enter "heaven" (be with his family) because he left his daughter, and so wanders the Land of the Dead trying to get back to her. If Maria finds her children, she is allowed to enter heaven; Héctor finding his great-great-grandson Miguel is what allows him to be accepted back into his family, when Miguel tells them the truth behind Héctor's death.
La Llorona from the song is NOT La Llorona from the legend and every Mexican worth their salsa knows that. The clarification is even on Wikipedia. Imelda sings it more to give us an idea that she was alive when the song became popular (on the Revolution years) or even a nod -given that it's her go-to song and that she was also an amazing musician- that she was actually whom made it popular. Also it's one of the most recognized Mexican songs worldwide -second to Bésame mucho-
One line from La Llorona perfectly describes a character, though: Hector. Right before the hook, we have the line Y aunque la vida me cueste...no dejaré de quererte; "Even if it costs me my life, I will not stop loving you." Loving his family is exactly what killed Héctor—De la Cruz poisoned him because Héctor wanted to stop touring and go home to his wife and daughter. But even though it did cost him his life (though he didn't realize it), Héctor never stopped loving his family—he never stopped trying to get home to his Coco.
There is an element from the legend of La Llorona that is also echoed in Miguel's life. The story is often told to children to keep them inside after dark. However, it's also a warning story to young women to be on their guard against men who could destroy them and their reputations as most variations of the legend have Maria as the mistress of a wealthy man who abandoned them for another woman who wasn't only more beautiful but wealthy (Maria was originally from an impoverished family). In retaliation, she killed her children and then herself, resulting in her being cursed forever to search for her drowned children. We see this played out in Miguel's life when he is constantly warned to never pursue music out of his family's fears of him leaving them forever. Miguel does exactly that and ends up chasing after wealth and fame...but realizes almost too late that his idol was a sociopathic murderer.
Unwittingly, this movie is a Spiritual Antithesis of "The Book of Life". At first, the audience would think the big strong handsome Ernesto who "has to play [music]" would be parallel to Manolo. But it's actually the scrawny modest (but kind) Hector who is the real guitar player.
Both "The Book of Life" and "Coco" may present the scenario where the hero is denied their dream to play music by their family. But while "The Book of Life" shows the hero's family disowning him for his dream, "Coco" shows Miguel disowning them first. note As a Rule of Symbolism, whichever side disowns the other is usually a sign that said-side is in the wrong. However, both reconstruct the trope by showing the family ultimately accepting and supporting the hero's dream.
Imelda may share Maria Posada's admirable quality of being spirited and independent, but she also deconstructs her flaw of being headstrong and stubborn. Not only did she ban music from the Rivera family for generations, but she came to wrongfully alienate her own husband, even though she still loved him.
In "The Book of Life", it is shown that those who are remembered go to the Land of the Remembered, where every day is a big fiesta and the denizens we meet have established characterizations, while those who have no ofrendas go to the Land of the Forgotten, a dark, cold wasteland whose denizens don't have any names, let alone characterizations. "Coco" fixes that by giving the nearly-forgotten Hector some deep characterization, as well as exploring the consequences of forgetting anyone.
Then, there's the climaxes. In "The Book of Life", Chakal is foiled when Manolo uses a giant bell to shield San Angel from the bandit king's bombs. In this movie, in a twist of cruel irony, Ernesto is last seen with a giant bell falling on him, marking him as an antagonist no different than Chakal.
A bit of fridge cynicism on Ernesto's part: Remember the movie where he reenacts the murder of Héctor, casting himself as the hero that realises in time he's being poisoned? Remember how all Héctor wanted was to go back to his family? What's the name of that movie again? El Camino a Casa (The Way Home). Talk about adding insult to injury.
Héctor's hilariously exaggerated reaction of Miguel saying he's De la Cruz's great-great-grandson may be due to the fact that he is suddenly reminded of how long he's been dead: four whole generations!
Or, he's particularly shocked because Ernesto is the last person he's expect to ever settle down and have a family in the first place.
What's more, he's awestruck by the unfairness that not only is Ernesto showered with fame and fortune, but also has a family and legacy; whereas Hector remains stuck in the Land of the Dead, nearly forgotten and disowned by both his living and dead family.
Imelda calls the computer at customs "devil box". Considering she was born around 1900 and died in her seventies, it is very likely she never saw a PC in her life.
Not only that, but we're talking about a computer that gives you information on such non-corporeal matters as your family being cursed or whether your photo is on someone's ofrenda in a completely different plane of existence. Even if she were more familiar with computers, calling this one a "devil box" isn't too off the mark.
It's a good thing everyone else in the family was too scared to stand up to Imelda. Otherwise Miguel would have gone back to the world of the living without learning that Hector was his great-great-grandfather, and Hector would have eventually been forgotten.
The fact that Hector and Imelda both reveal themselves as Boomerang Bigots toward musicians and share a distaste for music is another piece of foreshadowing about their relationship with one another.
There is a good reason for Victoria to not be terrified of Imelda other than her being The Stoic. Oscar and Felipe are Imeldas brothers, and Rosita and Julio are her in-laws, but Victoria is Elena's sister. Unlike the other Riveras, she didnt know Imelda in her prime while they were still alive.
Or, it could be interpreted that because she's never listened to music, she has no passion and has become The Stoic. Everyone else is nervous because they once knew a life with music (either they were alive before the ban or they married into the family) and are often conflicted by it. But Victoria lived and died without music and therefore has no reason to cross Imelda.
One of the lines in Remember Me is "Remember me each time you hear a sad guitar." When does Coco finally remember her father fully? When Miguel plays a sad song (or more accurately, a song sadly) on his guitar!
It's also no wonder Coco couldn't properly remember Héctor until now: it's not like she's had many opportunities to "hear a sad guitar" since he died.
Miguel picks up Ernesto's guitar in the mausoleum and strikes a chord on it. Generally, nothing too special, except that said guitar had been hanging on that wall for some seventy years, and likely would have gone out of tune. Its age is obvious from the crazing of the varnish. How is it still in tune? Likely, the devoted fans of Ernesto who laid the carpet of marigold petals also tuned his guitar, in the hopes that his spirit might come back and play it.
It seems rather strange that Dante stayed in the form of an Earthly xolo until after Miguel and Héctor were rescued by Pepita. But think about it: something else had happened during that time. Miguel realized that he had cast aside everyone who cared for him in favor of his musical ambitions, believing them to be the only thing important in life, just as Ernesto de la Cruz had done. It was when Miguel learned his lesson and understood that his family truly loves him, even if they don't show it, that allowed Dante to take shape as his spirit guide.
It's very possible that Dante wasn't a true spirit guide yet at that point; xoloizcuintles have long been viewed as psychopomps. Their purpose is to guide mortal souls between the lands of the living and the dead. It takes more than death to make a xolo abandon its person. Dante may not have needed to secretly a magical creature the entire time in order to casually slip between worlds at Miguel's heels; in a world where the bonds of kindness and family have such real, tangible power? It may be as simple as that he is Miguel's dog.
Although she's in the wrong for banning music, perhaps it was a good thing Imelda didn't focus on looking for her husband after he left. If she had come searching for him, and ran into Ernesto, there's a chance he would've done away with her when they were alone, so there would be nobody else snooping around for his murder victim. That would've left Coco an orphan who would later struggle in life to remember both her father and mother. So it was a good thing that Imelda focused on building a family, and good business to provide for them. And later in the (after)life, her family exposed the truth about Ernesto. Or given how Ernesto isn't above hurting a child like what he did to Miguel at the climax as a desparate attempt to keep his secret from being unburied to the living world, he would have both Imelda and Coco killed if Imelda decided to search for her husband.
Besides, in the Land of the Dead, there's no way Ernesto can do anything to hurt Imelda or the Riveras: they're already dead, so there's no way he can even kill them to silence them, even if he wanted to.
At first glance, the frog/rabbit Alebrije seems like a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment. But if you listen closely to the sound it makes when it hops, it's saying "alebrije" (it kind of sounds like aleh-bruh). The man who invented the Alebrije named them after the sound they made in his dreams, making this a case of Shown Their Work.
How Ernesto and Héctor perform Remember Me is a nice touch hinting at Héctor and Ernesto's true natures and how Miguel's desires change. The first time we hear Remember Me is during Ernesto's final concert. The song is big with flourishes, fast paced and above all flashy with backup singers, dancers and a large band on a large stage. The lighting is also bright and colorful. Given how Frida and Héctor view Ernesto later on, a mediocre musician, it makes sense that the song would almost be buried in the flashy things, hiding his lack of talent and showing how he wanted to be known for being a star...and also much how like Miguel's reasons for wanting to be a musician at first are implied to be fame and glory (in other words, he wanted to be Ernesto). However, when Héctor performs the song, it's a simple, slow and sweet lullaby, played only on his guitar in his daughter's room painted in gentle sepia tones. This time, Miguel, who has learned the truth about how Ernesto is responsible for Héctor being murdered and forgotten by his family, recognizes how Héctor's music was a loving tribute to them and that his family was only trying to protect them. During the epilogue, Miguel is playing a song (Proud Corazón) for his family, thus fully embracing Héctor as his rightful ancestor and thus his family.
In the beginning, the mariachi whose shoes Miguel polishes advises that Ernesto wasn't one to hide his talent, but rather "play out loud". At first, it seems like a very true moral about sharing your talent rather than hiding one's talent, and it could be just that. But later, it becomes an indicator of how vain and narcissistic De la Cruz is: of course someone like Ernesto would choose to play music out loud, he's doing it for attention and fame. And one can't help but think that the mariachi and every other musician in Mexico have taken to heart Ernesto's philosophy that it's better to play big-and-loud than with integrity.
Ironically, when Ernesto died, he took his secret to his grave, but it wasn't enough to keep it buried from the world.
On the surface, Imelda banishing all memory of her husband from the household seems like an act of spite towards Hector, and that could be it. But bordering on Fridge Horror, there's a deeper meaning to why she wouldn't allow her daughter even one remnant of her husband. From her viewpoint, her husband up and left for his musical gig, only to "ghost" them. The last thing a mother would want is for her daughter to remember the painful memory of being callously deserted. All these decades, she was just trying to sheild her daughter from dwelling on the memory of somebody who (seemingly) didn't miss them.
When Ernesto tells Miguel he does all his own stunts, he wasn't lying - he really did play out the poisoned drink scene by himself.
Miguel was emotionally Dead All Along. And that's why he could cross into the Land of the Dead. When Tia Rosita and Victoria noticed that he's not dead, but not quite alive either, that meant he wasn't being allowed to be his true self. Being denied his music, and therefore his identity, was crushing his soul.
Hector died at the age of 21, and we see that Coco was old enough to remember him and be able to sing along to his songs, meaning that Coco was most likely the result of a teen pregnancy.
Confirmed, according to this tweet, Imelda's a year older (1899) than him, which would make them 19 (Imelda) and 18 (Hector), which would mean that Coco is was about three when Hector passed away. It should be worth noting that the age in which permanent memories can and starts to be formed is usually about three.
The first time Héctor uses the Frida Kahlo disguise, the presiding attendant sees through his trickery the second his photo search turns up negative, yet every other time he tries it, he keeps his cover with everyone else none the wiser. He knows to play the Frida card sparingly so nobody recognizes it's him beneath the dress, but when it comes to seeing Coco, all bets are off; no doubt he tried the disguise on previous occasions of Dia de los Muertos to sneak through and the security staff eventually caught on, which explains why the attendant wasn't fooled.
At Ernesto's party, Miguel climbs on the balcony and starts playing music to get Ernesto's attention. But even after he's got nearly the whole room staring at him, Ernesto is still engrossed in his conversation and it takes another minute for him to turn around. It foreshadows the fact that Ernesto does not really care that much for music itself, and is too self-absorbed to give it his attention when it's being played right behind him.
In the flashed-moment of Héctor's death, the songbook shows the way Remember Me should be performed: soft and tenderly, like the lullaby to Coco it is. Is it possible that every song of Héctor's Ernesto made famous was never performed properly? What would, for example, a slow, skilled version of The World es Mi Familia sound like? We'll never know, because Ernesto robbed the world of Hector's talent—and thus, only Remember Me is ever heard properly.
All of the things Miguel admires about Ernesto early in the film (that he starred in movies, had a cool guitar, wrote the best songs, and could fly) could also be said to be true about Héctor: he was the rightful owner of Ernesto's guitar, wrote the songs that Ernesto stole and made famous, can and does fly in the afterlife, while riding Pepita, and although he didn't necessarily star in any films, his death was used as "inspiration" for a scene in one of Ernesto's.
And for some added brilliance, all four of these things were only made possible for Héctor because of his family. The guitar was gifted to him by Imelda. He based at least two of his songs off of his love for her and Coco. Pepita seems to act as the entire Rivera family's spirit guide, and Ernesto only poisoned Héctor because Héctor wanted to abandon their tour and go home to his family.
Imelda's fear for Miguel's safety after he runs off is more than understandable not only because of the approaching sunrise, but also due to who he's gone looking for and what we later find out about Héctor - that he lives in a derelict shantytown alongside other forgotten skeletons who are without any photos on an ofrenda. Sure, the ones Miguel meets when he goes there seem nice enough, but what kind of parent wouldn't dread the thought of their child (or great-great-grandchild, in this case) running off into the slums on their own?
Ernesto de la Cruz is a Shadow Archetype not just to Miguel and Héctor, but also Imelda. They both carry out hurtful actions against those close to them in their efforts to achieve their life goals with little thought for the consequences, and they built a name for themselves out of eliminating Héctor from their lives. When Ernesto is forced to confront the consequences of murdering Héctor, he essentially tries to murder him again. Whereas when Imelda is forced to confront the consequences of purging almost all trace of her husband from the living world, she does everything in her power to undo the damage she caused. Had she not learned the error of her ways, she could've followed down the same dark path as Ernesto.
The circumstances surrounding both Héctor's and Ernesto's blessings to Miguel highlight the contrast between them. Despite thinking they're related, Ernesto refuses to let Miguel return to the Land of the Living, because he's not willing to allow even the slightest risk that his secret could be exposed, threatening everything he's built up in the afterlife. Héctor is the exact opposite — even after Miguel loses his photo and he's on the verge of being forgotten, he won't risk his grandson being trapped in the Land of the Dead if he stays longer to try and recover it. That's why he gives up his only chance to be remembered again and sends Miguel home without a second thought, because that's what family is.
Fridge Tear Jerker, aside it being a joke about how Hispanic (and other non-Anglo) mothers and grandmothers overfeed kids, could it be possible Mama Elena's concern about Miguel being thin was related to the death of her sister? That maybe Victoria died young as a result of not seeming nourished enough? Especially how Victoria is very thin and looks younger than most of her fellow dead relatives, it's possible she was at the most in her 30s when she died and Elena (whether she knew the true cause of death or didn't know how) probably concluded her sister wasn't eating enough.
The Riveras live in the town of Santa Cecilia. Saint Cecilia is the Catholic patron saint of musicians.
While all of Miguel's dead family members care about him, even Rosita doesn't interact with him as much as Julio, who firmly takes Miguel's hand to guide him to Imelda, encourages Miguel to cross the petal bridge, and later props him up and gently slaps his face in order to keep him from fainting. He's the most comfortable dealing with Miguel because unlike the rest of the relatives besides Imelda he raised children of his own. It also helps that Julio is Coco's husband, who the latter is Miguel's closest to among his living relatives.
Its actually quite sweet that Miguels favorite Ernesto de la Cruz song is Remember Me once you learn that it was actually written by Héctor for Miguels Mamá Coco. In a way, he was listening to spoiler: the embodiment of Héctors love for his familywhich includes Miguel himself.
While it borders on Tear JerkerFridge Horror to know no Rivera besides Coco remembered him until it was too late, it becomes sweet when the climax concludes with Miguel helping Coco remember her Papa through the song. Miguel helped fulfill the song's wish.
It might seem odd that Imeldas posse is so small, given that there were more pictures on the ofrenda than people with her. But it seems that only Imeldas immediate family is with heranyone who married into the Riveras would naturally be off visiting their own families on Día de Muertos.
As noted several times before, Ernesto was publicly playing to the crowd before in his first interactions with Miguel but when they're alone he genuinely encourages Miguel's musical dreams and was initially willing to help him get back to the land of the living. This may seem strange given what we learn of his true nature later on, but there's a self-serving reason for this: Ernesto recognizes Miguel's talents will make him a great musician in his own right who will continually point to "his" great-great-grandfather as his biggest inspiration thus ensuring that Ernesto's legend will continue to live on.
There are several subtle allusions to Aztec Mythology. Given how the dead work in this world, it seems likely that the gods died out due to not being worshiped.
Which, if you know anything about the brutality of Aztec god worship and human sacrifice, is probably for the best.
It's not like the slavery and oppression that replaced it was much better.
But we do see buildings which architecture is clearly supposed to invoke mesoamerican civilisations and we can even spot people with similar clothing. That suggests the far more happy ending that the mesoamerican dead just went with the times and modernized like the rest of the Land of the Dead. It is also probable that there are more afterlives, something which would fit with Aztec Mythology and seems to be supported by how the movie doesn't show non-Mexicans in the Land of the Dead. Basically, all All Myths Are True and people go to whichever afterlife fits their beliefs.
It's worth noting that Dia de Muertos is a pre-Christian tradition that was given a Christian polish when the natives were conquered, much like Halloween came from Samhain, or Christmas from Yule (and others), or Easter from... well, Easter. Not as creative with that one.
Miguel had angrily told Elena he didn't care if they put his picture on the ofrenda. Had he not returned to the land of the living, his family would've believed he had run away for good. And, on top of being too heartbroken by the loss, they would've granted Miguel's wish and never put his photo up on the ofrenda. Poor Miguel would've never seen his family again.
Not only that, he still had Mama Imelda's photo, so that would've meant both he and Imelda would never cross over again.
One woman at the Agency seethes that she and her husband are not visiting his ex-wife's family's ofrenda. Assuming it's not a case of cheating, why would the husband want to visit his ex-wife's family? It's possible they were his first family and his second wife is actually his lover and the home-wrecker who seduced him away from them.
Or even sadder, perhaps his first wife died and later married the woman he is seen with at the agency. She felt like a Replacement Goldfish, and refuses to allow him to see his first wife in the afterlife and her family in the land of living, despite all parties still caring for each other.
Alternatively, the first wife is the one with him in the land of the dead, and is refusing to let him visit the ofrenda of the woman he remarried after her passing.
There's a scene where a few dead souls taunt Héctor for his cause of death: that he choked on a chorizo. Héctor adamantly insists that he died of food poisoning, which is different. It's a funny scene, but on further reflection, Héctor obviously would not cop to dying in such an embarrassing fashion, at least not willingly. Someone had to spread the word that he died from chorizos. When Héctor actually died, Ernesto feigned concern and remarked "maybe it was the chorizos?" It's entirely possible that Ernesto not only killed Héctor and stole his songs, but also slandered his old friend's reputation even beyond death. Talk about Kick the Dog!
Hector left on tour with Ernesto because he thought he could provide for his family with his songs. In a cruel twist of irony, not only does Ernesto steal his songs, but he never provides Imelda or Coco even a bit of the money that should've been Hector's. They could've been well-provided had it not been for de la Cruz's greed.
Had Miguel not proven to the Living world, through Héctor's letters that Mama Coco kept, that Ernesto was a murderer and a fraud? Imagine how devastated Ernesto fans would be when they crossed over into the Land of the Dead, only to find their greatest hero has been deemed a bad guy there. It was only averted because there was still proof Héctor wrote those songs.
Look closely in the intro: when we get a look at Ernesto's statue, there's an old couple looking at it with loving nostalgia. Imagine how hard the poor husband and wife will take it when they learn the famed musician associated with one of their romantic memories is in fact a murderous fraud.
After Ernesto is exposed as a fraud, he'll spend the rest of his life in the Afterlife shunned and alone, unable to cross to the land of the living (since it's unlikely people will still put up ofrendas for him after learning the truth). His only chance of getting out of that situation is when people will actually forget about him and he dies for good. But since he was so popular in the world of the living- and probably still will be for his performances and celebrity status, on top of being infamous after people learned he murdered Hector to gain fame- there is little chance he'll be forgotten for at least a century, as people will still tell his story for years. So he has nothing to live for in a world where everyone hates him and he can't even off himself. It goes from Asshole Victim to an And I Must Scream situation pretty quickly. Quite a grim outcome for a formerly beloved character.
Adding to the above, Ernesto's situation is likely to have happened before. There's probably several of these people walking around in the Land of the Dead, convicted in both life and death and biding their time until either plane forgets their crimes. Unless they spend the rest of that time atoning, it's going to be a long, long wait until their second death comes. One can only hope that second death leads to Heaven and not Cessation of Existence. Or Hell.
An extra layer of horror: there are likely people in the Land of the Dead with Ernesto's level of infamy, but Hector's actual innocence. Imagine having to live through that - heinous crimes you have to repent for without actually having done them - but without someone like Miguel to figure out their innocence or his accessibility to much of the evidence that could prove it.
Okay, the lack of children in the afterlife is somewhat relieving to see, but there's an actual whole family - mom, dad and some kids - on the in migrations office and a woman and her daughter see Miguel when he's crossing the Marigold bridge. After Mexico's earthquakes past September, this can be a Tear Jerker, especially after the viralization of the story of a man searching for the soldier who rescued the bodies of his wife and daughter.
Why is there no mention of the family members before Imelda? She had parents, obviously, whose pictures are not on the ofrenda, who don't appear with the deceased Riveras, and whose stories don't seem to be part of the tradition. Does this mean that the Rivera family has forgotten (or never heard about) them, meaning that they no longer exist at all? She doesn't seem to have any other connections in the afterlife outside of the other aunts and uncles and Héctor. Her husband might not have been the first family to abandon her, either on purpose or by her being orphaned... making his abandonment probably hit close to home.
There's an entire row of photos at the bottom of the ofrenda in addition to those showing who Miguel sees in the Land of the Dead. Where are all of those people?
They could be the parents and/or siblings of Julio, Rosita, Franco, and so on. The family members of those who married into the Rivera family, but who aren't actually Riveras.
On that note, Héctor's family. He had parents too, but they aren't ever seen or mentioned by him, and he seems to live in complete squalor on his own. Was he the last living person to remember them and thus they ceased to exist when he died? Or, perhaps worse, did he have siblings/family living who remembered them, but they refused to have anything to do with him because he left his wife and child? Fortunately, if it's the latter, they would welcome him back after the events of the movie.
More "Fridge Sadness" than anything else, but it is troubling to think that, even though Héctor is posthumously given the credit he deserves for the songs he wrote, while Ernesto is justly vilified, the fact remains that the only recordings of the music that Hector wrote were most likely the songs that Ernesto sang. The only audible record of his work was performed by the man who murdered him. Let's hope Miguel can record the songs that his ancestor wrote once he grows up.
If you expand this concept of the Afterlife to other countries, not just Mexico, and knowing that even notoriously evil people can live on as long as they're remembered...this can be a universe where people like Adolf Hitler still exist. At least they can still face judgment from the dead as well.
Look closely at Héctor's arms and legs. His right arm has a bone held together with rubber bands. His left leg has a bone held together with wire. We know from the Flashback that Héctor was healthy when he was murdered. This would indicate he broke those bones after his death when there was no way to mend the breaks. There's any number of ways he could have broken those bones in the afterlife. The way he's so careless with his own body, it's likely a method of staying loose to avoid more fractures that can't be fixed. Even being restored by Coco's memory and the new memories of people who now know the true story, those bones remain held together with whatever Hector had available at the time. Although Coco and Miguel saved his afterlife, he will always be a little broken beyond repair.
After Héctor figures out that Ernesto murdered him, Ernesto tries to keep up appearances with young Miguel by gently instructing his security guards to, "Make sure he's taken care of. He's sick." However, one short conversation with Miguel later convinces Ernesto to have security take him too because He Knows Too Much. Without any specific further instructions, security takes Miguel to a 100ft deep sink hole to be forgotten... where he also finds Héctor there already. One can only conclude that Héctor and Miguel are not the first two people Ernesto has had "taken care of" this way...
Fridge Horror only for anyone who believes the theory that all Pixar movies are connected: Assuming WALLE is the canon future for Pixar Universe isn't exactly a happy thought when you realize: the Land of the Dead will be deserted because nobody will remember them. The passengers on the Axiom will be too busy to look back on their ancestors. (Worse, it will happen slowly and painfully, with BNL gradually taking over the world and overwriting cultural customs.)
Just imagine how it must've been like in the Aztec underworld during the Spanish invasion, where millions of Central Americans perished, including entire family lines, which would certainly cause the "second deaths" of many spirits as well. One can imagine similar things for other cases of mass-death in the world, such as the Black Death, the Atlantic Slave Trade, the World Wars, and other atrocities.
What about the cultures who don't have things like ofrendas, or consider speaking/thinking of the dead as taboo? Are they condemning their dead to second death? It's not clarified if a culture's beliefs change the afterlife.
Mexico is actually full of members of The Cartel. That means that, unless the movie's universe is different, the afterlife is crowded with a lot of people that killed a lot of people without any mercy and smuggled drugs. And maybe military trained like the Los Zetas.
Worse yet, considering that Ernesto was still evil in death, it's likely that those Cartel members, mercenaries, and assassins are still doing horrible things even in death.
It's never explained what would have happened to Héctor when he was sinking in the bridge had the guards not stopped him, but it probably wouldn't have been pleasant. One also has to wonder how many other times someone like him has done this and if that's the reason there are officers guarding the bridge in the first place.
Just before the Riveras meet Imelda at customs, we see a family trying to solve some problem because they have to attend a dozen ofrendas... A WHOLE family, with little children, who maybe died recently all together in an accident and are sorely missed by many relatives and friends—hence their pictures appearing in so many altars.
Had Miguel not been able to go back to the Land of the Living before dawn he would have died... But his family would have been none the wiser. There would be no corpse left behind, so Miguel's family would have assumed he followed the same shameful road as their despicable ancestor (minus the wife and kid): leaving his loved ones behind in order to pursue a ridiculous musical fantasy.
I mean, he's just a kid. There's a difference between abandoning your wife and kid as a grown man and running away from home in a tantrum as a kid. They'll be more sympathetic.
Why did Ernesto already have fast-acting poison with him while he and Hector were on tour, ready for the spur of the moment decision to murder his best friend? Unless the decision to murder Hector wasnt so spur of the moment, and Ernesto had been planning to kill him once they made it big so he wouldnt have to share the glory.
Ernesto may have gotten the poison while on the tour, especially if the poison in question was arsenic, which is quite easy to obtain. He and Hector had been touring for some time, and there are indications Hector had been wanting to go back home for some time before he was poisoned. Ernesto could have convinced him to keep touring while secretly obtaining the poison if he couldnt prevent Hector from returning home.
Listen to Ernesto's speech on "how" he became famous in Miguel's video: "No one was going to hand me my dream, it was up to me to reach for it, grab it tight." Sounds inspirational at the time, until it turns out the wording sounds a lot like a metaphor for how he killed Hector, the real song writer. That is, on the night Hector decided to leave, he wasn't going to "hand" Ernesto the songs he wrote, so it was up to Ernesto to kill him in order to get the songs, "grab them tight", indeed.
Either this or Black Comedy, a young man who appears to be Skrillex performs in the Battle of the Bands. It's possible that Skrillex somehow died in the Pixar universe.
Probably black comedy.
I was just thinking this but, considering how old Elena is and how young her sister Victoria looks (to elaborate on this, Victoria looks to be in her mid-late 30s at the ver most) in the afterlife, which begs the question if she died young and exactly how she passed away. Likewise, though she looks to be in about her 40s or 50s, the same can be asked of Rosita and Imelda's brothers (especially since they died at the same time).
The dead only remain in the afterlife so long as the living remember them, meaning ordinary people fade relatively quickly while people infamous for their evil deeds stay there much longer. This article goes into detail on the horrifying repercussions of this famed-based system.
A minor one, but when Miguel tells Ernesto he's his great grandson Ernesto replies "I have a great great grandson?" and then sort of just accepts it, meaning it isn't implausible he's left more than a few pregnant women behind. Now imagine how many of those descendants decided to emulate his murderous deeds in varying ways....
There are people even worse than Ernesto De La Cruz. Historical figures who get the Historical Hero Upgrade such as Christopher Columbus (whose discovery of America resulted in the enslavement of the Taino population of Hispaniola), Vladimir Lenin (who ordered the royal family killed by his followers), Che Guevara (who oversaw a series of brutal tribunals in La Cabana) have similarly overshadowed their victims.
A minor one, but think about that poor stagehand who accidentally leaned on the lever and caused the bell to fall at Ernesto's fatal concert. Yeah, we find out later that Ernesto got what he deserved, but that man probably carried around the guilt for that simple mistake for the rest of his life. Not to mention the blame he must've have gotten from Ernesto's fans for "killing" their idol.
We are shown dead children, along with their families, in the Land of the Dead. While this is tragic enough, one has to wonder what happens to those who died in childhood, or in infancy, and have no relatives to look after them in the afterlife.
The sheer, petty cruelty of Ernesto is mind-blowing.
Instead of the simple option of paying Hector for a copy of all his songs, he murders him.
Instead of even caring for the body or informing Hector's family, he doesn't notify any of them, much less send the body home to be buried or provide any funds to the widow and orphan who definitely needed them.
Instead of mentioning Hector in the biographical interviews, he pretends to have written everything and worked solo.
He never even mentions the heartbreaking story of his guitar, which would have been great for the camera. Even if all that people knew was that the guitar was a deathbed gift from his best friend, that would have been enough to keep Hector remembered. This is a BETTER story than just having made it himself. So Ernesto actually weakened his own story just to push Hector down further.
Hector got VERY lucky Miguel was too stubborn to accept Imelda's blessing terms, preventing them from ever meeting and dooming him to being forgotten and his music never redeemed for the families both living and dead.
Can you imagine if someone else was cursed for stealing the guitar from de la Cruz's crypt? It didn't actually belong to Ernesto, but the cursed spirit would have no idea who the guitar truly belonged to. They'd have no way to undo the curse and be trapped in the Land of the Dead for as long as the living remember them, all because the guitar itself was stolen by Ernesto.
What if Hector had refused the drink offered by Ernesto? Would Ernesto have dragged Hector back inside and strangled him/forced the poison down his throat?
Imagine if you're Imelda and Coco, still heartsick from Hector's apparent abandonment and struggling to build a family business, and then Ernesto de la Cruz becomes a big star. Meaning that everywhere they went (at least everywhere that wasn't the Rivera household), they probably had to hear Hector's songs blaring on the radio, listen to customers chatter about the latest de la Cruz film, etc etc. Even though Coco forgave her father, she probably refused to let any music be played in her home because so much of the radio would bring up painful memories. Especially the bastardized version of the lullaby her father wrote just for her.
Though, it's more likely she never got a chance to hear the bastardized version of "Remember me", given her mother refused to allow her to listen to any music. In a twist of cruel irony, Imelda's music ban was just as much a blessing as well as a curse, for protecting Coco from hearing her beloved childhood lullaby be twisted into a senseless womanizing show tune.
While Ernesto probably deserved it anyway, while many people are trying to forget about him presumably resulting in Final Death; it's more likely that he won't be considering how he probably will be remembered, but more as "that guy who murdered a man and stole his music" than a beloved celebrity. Which in a way must be a Fate Worse Than Final Death in the Land of the Dead to still be remembered except everybody in the Land of the Living hates you now.
If a person's existence is preserved and perhaps molded by the stories and memories their descendants have of them and since all of the stories and memories of Coco involve either her as the daughter Imelda had to support or the family's senile matriarch does that suggest Coco is now forever trapped in her dotage as an adult child in the land of the dead?
That's basically the deal in the Land of the Dead, you go the very age you died. However, age has nothing to do with how it affects your relationship with your loved ones. Be it an old lady or a little girl, it doesn't change that Coco is Hector's beloved daughter. As for how they remember Coco, bear in mind that Coco won't simply be remembered as "Imelda's one daughter" or "the Rivera's senile matriarch": she'll be remembered as the Rivera who helped Miguel end the music ban on the family.
Considering that the audience didn't see Ernesto poison Hector's drink, that's a good indication that Ernesto had been planning to kill Hector for a while before he actually did. Think about it. Hector and Ernesto had been traveling for months. Hector was terribly homesick. The way Ernesto protested and Hector replied, "This was YOUR dream." indicates that they had had that argument more than once, each time Hector becoming more insistent that he go back home. Perhaps he only traveled so long because Ernesto kept convincing Hector that once they got success, Hector could give his family the life he wanted to give them (remember, once Imelda and Coco no longer received letters from Hector, Imelda thought they were abandoned, and that was when she started making shoes, since Hector was no longer around). So Ernesto must have had the poison already prepared so that once Hector could no longer be persuaded to keep going, Ernesto could stop him permanently.
Later in the movie, Ernesto steals Hector's picture and gets his bodyguards to prevent the latter's family from getting it back. This is practically a geyser of Fridge Horror for many reasons: Ernesto was leaving Hector to die a slow, painful death just like in the past, and judging by his determination to stop the photo from being retrieved, Ernesto WANTED Hector dead. As for the bodyguards, how would they react if they found out that the celebrity they were guarding was trying to kill someone by taking away their only saving grace from being forgotten?
Coco is still elderly when she enters the Land of the Dead, and so was Héctor's friend, presumably. Since we know Héctor died young, does this mean that Imelda, Miguel's other relatives, and the other young skeletons in the afterlife (including the children we see in crowd shots) died young too?
"Remember Me" is a ridiculously popular song, even among the deceased. In fact, it might be more popular in the Land of the Dead, since most of Ernesto's original fans have probably passed away by now. So that means Hector —particularly around Dia de los Muertos, when Ernesto has his yearly party — has to hear the bastardized version of the lullaby he wrote for the daughter he might never seen again, not to mention be constantly reminded of the fact that Ernesto never gave him credit for writing his songs, year in and year out, over and over again. Poor guy. (For that matter, it can't have been a picnic for Imelda, either.)
The afterlife in Coco seems to be very hispanic-based, judging from what we saw. What happens to non-hispanic dead people in the Coco Universe?
Just how many of those skeleton cops were murdered on duty when they were alive?
Given Imelda's perception of events leading up to the alley confrontation, one can't help but wonder if Imelda thought Miguel had been Driven to Suicide.
It seems that people cannot age in the Land of the Dead, as evidenced by the fact that Hector (who died at age 21) now appears to be physically younger than his own daughter (who died at age 100). So does that mean that the dead are permanently stuck in whatever stage of development they happened to die during? Because while that might not matter for people who died in adulthood, it's actually a huge deal for anybody who died young... including Hector himself. It's thought that the human brain only finishes developing at about age 25, which is a milestone that Hector never got to reach. If the dead have their brain development frozen in time the same way that their physical age freezes, then does Hector have a permanent cognitive disadvantage compared to people who died older than him? And how extreme does this get for people who died as very young children? Are dead kids doomed to be naive and dependent on others for all eternity, never able to truly grow or develop?
Hector mentions that being forgotten is inevitable, and it would eventually happen to everyone. People don't usually trace back their entire lineage, and ancestors would get forgotten the further down the family tree goes. However, famous people are less likely to be forgotten from the public consciousness and would last longer in the Land of the Dead. This would mean that Hector, who has now received the fame he deserved, would likely outlive the rest of his family again, as they aren't as famous and will probably fade from people's memory much faster.
The concept of the Second Death is tied to the fact that when the last person who remembers you dies, then you "fade away" because no one remembers you. Now imagine being that last person: You've just died, and you're excited to see your loved one again... only to learn that they vanished from the Land of The Dead the moment you entered it. In a way, you've caused their second death and have no way to apologize or make it right. Making it even worse is that, had Miguel not stepped in (most especially at the last minute upon his return to the living world), this exact thing would've happened to Coco. Imagine Coco, now at the Land of the Living Dead, will search for her father Hector. And providing that everyone at her dead family knows the truth about Hector but failed to rescue him at the last minute if Miguel fails to jog Coco's memory, she might realize that her father is Deader Than Dead.
Not only Ernesto is revealed to not be Miguel's lost great-great-grandfather, but he actually murdered said ancestor. When he starts offering his blessing to send back Miguel to the world of the livings, what would have happened if the petal ritual had been entirely completed, performed by a complete stranger who also killed one of his relatives? Nothing at all? Would it just work as intended? Or would it backfire and curse Miguel, worsening his condition even further?
All those people who married into the Rivera family such as Julio, Franco, Luisa and Carmen had to give up music to do so. Miguel says they're the only family in Santa Cecelia who doesn't like music. That's a recipe for stigma, especially since the ones who married in probably still have families who love music. Did they have to fight with their families and possibly have to cut them off just to marry their partners? Rosita is Julio's sister, and yet she hangs around the Riveras and never mentions seeing any other family such as her parents or other siblings, despite only being related to the Riveras because her brother married one. Did Julio's family disapprove of him wanting to marry Coco and disown him, and Rosita left in protest? Or worse, did they disown her too for standing up for his choice to marry Coco?