It’s been years since I first watched the movie Coco, but each time I watch it I am moved and it brings out new emotions from me. When my third son had just returned from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I had such an experience. The first movie he wanted to watch with the family was Coco. I think each of his family members told him how we were moved by the show in various letters. Since watching the movie we have started a new family tradition of celebrating Día de Muertos, so he wanted to make sure he was ready by the end of the month.
Most of our family was together as we filled all the seats on our basement couches all set to watch the movie he had heard so much about. As I watched with my reunited family, I couldn’t help but feel completely content and thrilled for the conversations and feelings we felt as we reminisced about family times and ancestors that had long since past. We talked about how we would celebrate Dia De los Muertos this year and felt happy together. And without fail, tender moments in the movie made me cry again, and I was reminded that in the world we have much more in common that we realize. One pretty universal truth is we all love our families.
4 Storytelling Lessons from the Coco Movie
There are many layers of truth revealed in that short two hours and some prime takeaways. They were truths I’ve always known and believed, but there’s something about a story being told through the eyes of a young child that captures you and makes it feel all the more strong.
These are my four beautiful take-aways from this movie that make it a must-see for all families.
1. We naturally connect with our ancestors
In the movie the young boy, Miguel, is trying to figure out how he fits into his family. He has a deep love for music, but because of things that happened in his family’s history, music is banned from the family. But he can’t resist it and sneaks off to listen, play and enjoy music. Through a series of mishaps, he discovers that his great-grandfather was a famed musical talent, revered by many. The movie focuses around Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead and his families great traditions surrounding the special day. Miguel ends up as a ghost on the other side with his dead family members. In the process he discovers much about his ancestors and himself.
This movie had my heart from the beginning as I watched this boy try to find a way to connect with his family somehow when he felt he didn’t fit in. His family had a bond that he wanted to respect even though it was difficult for him. I think this is an innate quality we all share and the reason why we work so hard to find our ancestors. I know this is true for many members of my family. And the amazing thing is, almost always we find someone either just one generation back, or several, that we have a common talent, common interest or just way of doing things where we mirror them.
Similarities from the Other Side
The other day my 8-year-old was giving me a hard time about leaving the house. She’s a homebody and didn’t want to go. I pulled out all the stops and grabbed my vast selection of lipsticks and lip glosses and told her to pick one. She of course picked the brightest, shiniest shade of the lot. I smiled. I also felt my Grandma Jackson (for whom my daughter is named after) smiling in heaven because she too never left the house without the brightest, shiniest lipstick. The thing is, my little daughter has several character traits like her Great-grandma Jackson, even though she passed away nearly two decades before she was born. I like to think the two of them swapped some stories and plans before my daughter made her appearance on earth.
This movie brings that out in a glorious way. The awesome part about this is that I can look at each of my children and see traits of their ancestors and also see them in myself and my husband. But I know this, because we know their stories!
2. Remember, remember, remember
One of my favorite lines of the movie went something like this: “If we don’t remember our ancestors who have gone before by telling their stories, they will disappear from our memories.” The first tears started rolling down my cheeks then. This is true. Coco focuses a lot on photos and hanging them up so the ancestors know to come and visit because their photos are the memories. How many of us have photos of our ancestors hanging in our homes? I know I don’t have enough, but I have some. I am determined to change that.
When I went to visit my aunt in Texas last summer she had an old black and white photo of my great-grandparents hanging up just inside her front door. What a great example for me. She remembers. We all talked about our ancestors that day because of that beautiful photo. She has others too – scattered all through her home. A priceless treasure. The power of music and memory also plays a key role, too. It’s completely sweet when it happens and there is much truth to it.
3. Family stories connect the generations
One of the most poignant takeaways for me was the relationship young Miguel had with his grandmother, great-grandmother, and really all of his family members. Although he was confused about who he was, his love for his family was fierce and at the end of the day, that is what he wanted too. But he wanted to know and understand the stories of the past to figure out who he was.
Some of the moments I cherish most in my life are the moments spent with my grandparents, hand in hand, talking about life. I long to do it again someday. Those stories they shared with me buoy me up on hard days and help us to be better, try harder. I have watched my husband and others on this journey as well – with living and dead family members. I know one day at a Trotter family reunion sweet words of spiritual promptings written in a journal helped my husband understand himself better. It also helped me see his divine potential. All because a story was written down and shared just at the right time.
4. Our ancestors are close by
I have always felt strongly that my ancestors are very aware of my life. I get those nudges in dreams when my life is particularly stressful, or even when things are smooth sailing. Coincidences happen where I feel a connection to someone who has passed, so much that it isn’t really a coincidence at all. I hear stories daily of people who are nudged to find an ancestor in their family history work and by some miracle, just stumble upon it. Those ancestors are around touching things up, I am sure. This movie also validates that thought in a spectacular way.
While this may seem like Pixar is paying me, I promise they aren’t. But some days, it’s just good to see that not everyone in Hollywood is marred by bad behavior and that sometimes they do get it right. They got it right with this one. To get you in the mood for the Dia De los Muertos, I suggest you take an evening and re-watch this movie with someone you love and then take a few minutes to share some family memories. Plus, hold dear the takeaways. They are the best stuff of life, I promise.
Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others and especially loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, Rachel has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband, Mat, have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.
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