Day of the Dead: Did Hollywood get it right this time?
With past titles like ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua’ and Dora the Explorer as the ultimate Latina kids character, I cringed at the idea of having one of the most beloved and ancient Mexican traditions at the hands of Hollywood.
The new animated feature “The Book of Life” is set in a scenario full of imagery from Mexican folklore that includes a story line inspired on the Day of the Dead tradition, along with Day of the Dead-inspired skeletons, skulls, dolls and mariachi outfits.
20th Century Fox is promoting the film as an animated comedy with a “unique” visual style. The story unfolds with the bet between two spirits, Xibalba (voiced by Ron Perlman), and La Muerte, (Kate del Castillo) over who will win Maria’s hand (Zoe Saldana); the sensitive Manolo (Diego Luna), or the charming Joaquin (Channing Tatum).
A promising factor is that the film is directed by Mexican animator Jorge Gutierrez, known for creating animated television series “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera” for Nickelodeon.
In a press conference at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 31, Gutierrez said that the emphasis in development of the project was both authenticity and originality.
“All the things that I didn’t see growing up, I wanted to put out there. The thing with the movie was, we don’t want to look like the other movies, we don’t want to sound like the other movies,” Guiterrez said. “We don’t want to feel like the other movies. We didn’t want to be [everyday fare]…we wanted to make some really authentic tacos.”
Guillermo Del Toro, producer of the project, has also talked about the aims of creating an original film that stays true to its roots.
“It is about a celebration of Mexico. We can go to its roots, we can go to its essence, but one essence that we wanted to celebrate was the international essence of Mexico. We are Mexicans, and we are shaped by world music, or Bruce Lee movies, or Santo movies, as much as we are by the things that are folkloric,” Del Toro said.
At least in terms of voice casting the project has a 50-50 balance between Latino and non-Latino personalities, an improvement on the average Hollywood project. In addition to Saldana, Luna, de Castillo, Perlman and Tatum, the voice talent includes Danny Trejo, Christina Applegate and Ice Cube.
‘The Book of Life’ is set to hit the theaters Oct. 17 and only then will we know whether this really is "an authentic taco."