Lights, Camera, Movie Influences

The Land of the Dead is lit by 7 million pin lights from candles, gondolas, windows, and more, to provide texture and bring out the detail in the buildings and structures. The glowing fluorescence and neon reminded me of Spirited Away and the steampunk structures even gave shades of Howl’s Moving Castle. The surreal, otherworldly quality reminiscent of Studio Ghibli films is something that the Coco team must have intentionally put forward, right? Jessup responded:

We looked at Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle at the very beginning. I don’t think we lifted anything specific from that, but the spiritual feelings in those Miyazaki films was something we loved, and we tried to get an element of that in our film.

A number of intense lights and colors that Coco‘s Land of the Dead boasts doesn’t — and indeed can’t — come solely from the team’s experience in Mexico. Feinberg elaborated that the movie was influenced by multiple movies that flagrantly use “crazy colors” and lights, including the action movie John Wick. Feinberg said:

Lee sent me some movies that had some crazy colors in it and I used some of my own. It was a collaboration of sending pictures and incorporating into film. And then we just cranked it to 11.

This isn’t a stylized assassin movie, however. Feinberg said they broke up the barrage of intense, bright colors with quiet moments infused with more blue and purple, as well as spotlights of blue from the moon and green light or paint because of the lack of vegetation.

The result is a breathtaking portrait of the afterlife that you won’t soon forget.

Coco hits theaters November 22, 2017.

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