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We Bring You Disney’s Pepita from Pixar’s “Coco”

We Bring You Disney’s Pepita from Pixar’s “Coco”

The lights went down, stars appeared on the ceiling, and the sound of crickets could be heard. Immediately, I was transported back home to the Caribbean, where as soon as night had fallen, the sounds of night began to play, and for Pixar’s newest film Coco from Disney, those sounds were traditional Mariachi music.

As the test footage progressed, I grew more and more in love with Miguel, his family, and Dante – his clumsy, dorky-looking dog. I kept saying to myself “Pixar has done it again.” Director Lee Unkrich, co-director Adrian Molina, and the entire animation team have another winner on their hands. The visuals are unlike anything I have ever seen, not only from Pixar, but any other studio. Disney provides us stunning visuals of the Land of the Dead itself and Miguel’s home in the living world, there was one character—or creature I should say—that made me literally sit up in my seat. That creature is one named Pepita, she’s a chimera: a hybrid creature of lion, eagle, and a few others you’ll have to see in theaters. While the word chimera is Greek in origin, it does not necessarily apply to Pepita in the classical Greek definition.

COCO – Pepita concept art by Greg Dykstra. ©2017            Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

This is because she is actually based on a Mexican mythical creature called an alebrijes. Alebrijes were first envisioned by Mexican piñata maker, Pedro Linares, who, while suffering from a severe fever, had a dream during which he saw visions of creatures made up of various parts of different animals. After his recovery, Pedro began to make the creatures he saw in his vision, soon his work became widely known all over Mexico, and now decades after his death Pedro’s creations are still being made in their traditional wood or paper mache form.


Alonso Martinez working on “Coco” on July 25, 2017 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

For Coco, animator Alonso Martinez became Pixar’s own Lineras. Martinez has worked on other Pixar films from Disney, such as UP and Inside Out. Alonso, Nicholas Rosario (Directing Animator), and the 3D animation team were tasked with designing Pepita, who acts as the spiritual guide and protector for Miguel’s great-great-grandmother Mama Imelda, in the Land of the Dead. I was intrigued with Pepita because we have never seen anything like her in modern animation – not only is she a hybrid animal, she is covered in a multitude of bright of colors, usually seen on tropical fish or exotic birds. The animators had the unique challenge of rendering a character that’s believable not only in her setting but also to us as viewers, and for the little bit I saw, I’m sold.

Because Pepita is inspired by alebrijes, there were no hard and fast rules for how she behaves, sounds and most importantly looks. Each iteration of an alebreijes is based solely on the creator’s imagination, so anything is possible. One thing that makes Pepita even more unique is her fur; not only is she multi-colored, she is covered in spots that actually produce fluorescent light, similar to that of bioluminescent squids. Just imagine sitting in a darkened theatre and the only light present is coming from Pepita herself.

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A Bajan nerd living in Toronto, Jane Austen fan who enjoys speculating on plot theories for my favorite TV shows, such as The Walking Dead, The Expanse, and blackish. I will do karaoke anytime, anywhere.

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