Released September 13th, this longer trailer for Disney Pixar’s Thanksgiving season animated film, Coco, takes a fairly comedic tack throughout, albeit not without some morbid undertones. The animated feature explores the music and culture of Mexico and the Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) mythology.
At the outset, we are greeted from the very first moment with a clear acoustic guitar sound, strumming a major chord. We find a boy, Miguel, snooping around in what looks like his family’s attic. In a moment of sync between the nondiegetic guitar and the visual, when his dog, Dante, interrupts him, Miguel gets startled – clearly, he knows he isn’t meant to be there. At 0:12 it is revealed Miguel does in fact have a guitar, and we hear him tuning it up. The sound of the guitar moved fluidly between the sound world of the film and outside of it, and a chord pattern begins at 0:17. At this point, it’s reasonable to say that very few people would be able to readily identify what song is being played. A member of his family asserts “no music,” in juxtaposition against the steady stream of guitar chords in the soundtrack, effectively emphasizing this major plot point in the movie.
At 0:28, after a small pause, strings swell into the foreground and it is possible that the audioviewer could identify the cover song in this trailer. At 0:35, it’s undeniable – the strings play that instantly recognizable melody from The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.” Does the tune fit the movie’s Dia de Muertos theme? Not particularly. Does it matter? That’s up for debate, at least. Granted, the cover is adorned with many flourishes of Spanish style guitar in acknowledgement of this issue, such as the trill of a nylon string guitar at 0:39.
At 0:49, roughly a third of the way through the trailer, we hear a bass-driven sound effect that signals a key moment in the film, plot-wise. At 1;00 we get the title card and the complete arrangement of the song enters, tubular bells, grooving drums and all. Notably, the Spanish guitar often leads the re-entry of the music after it cuts out for stints of dramatic and comedic dialogue, such as at 1:49. Subtle additions of accordion and hand drums further add to the sense of the track as more of a melange of styles, if anything, compared to the firmly 90s Brit pop original.
Near the end of the trailer, perhaps its most comedic moment follows its most dramatic. After Miguel falls from a great height into a pool of water, his hands turned skeletal as a side effect of residing in the world of the dead, we see a clerk hand-waving the fact that he can sneeze despite not having a nose. At 2:17 we are pulled from the repeated chord structure into an energetic, well-differentiated original coda for a short but sweet four seconds.
Rather than assiduously following a firm template for a comedy trailer or an action trailer, this Coco trailer focuses on spectacle, with a soaring soundtrack to complement Pixar's exquisitely advanced, beautiful animation. The music’s repetitiveness is ameliorated through the use of a variety of instrumental additions and adornments. Whether “Bittersweet Symphony” was the best choice for a film about Mexican culture remains a question, but it was used very creatively, weaving its guitar sounds into the plot and introduced very gradually, not unlike the reveal of the world of the dead itself midway through the trailer.