Disney is keeping its enemies close. In an era marked both by highly visible social scrutiny and a growing Latino/Hispanic population, the company has pulled in revered political cartoonist and “La Cucaracha” comic artist Lalo Alcaraz to work on Pixar’s upcoming Coco.
The Lee Unkrich-led film is inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead and was previously called Dia de Los Muertos. When Disney moved to trademark the title (which is also, of course, the name of the holiday celebrated by millions), Alcaraz was one of the company’s fiercest critics, drawing this awesome calavera Mickey/Godzilla hybrid:
Flashforward two years, and Alcaraz is now on Team Muerto Mouse:
ESPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I am on the team creating the new Pixar Day of the Dead movie titled “Coco”. pic.twitter.com/tQ5MzOisbq
— Lalo Alcaraz (@laloalcaraz) August 16, 2015
This is a smart move on Disney/Pixar’s part. Alcaraz can (if you’re cynical) become a human symbol of acceptability or (if you trust Pixar’s machinations) add greatly to the authenticity of the film while warding off any offensive red flags.
The criticisms of the move are obvious and not without merit. It could be a shrewd business move meant solely to placate a group that would otherwise vocalize their dissent leading up to the release of the movie in 2017. It gives Disney a chance to point to Alcaraz and shrug its shoulders in response to any outcry.
Although, I wonder if Alcaraz wouldn’t be outspoken about the way he’s treated within the production if his views are being ignored. If his employment really is a Machiavellian tactic to squash criticism, he may not hesitate to draw something that lambastes Disney even worse, and that’s not a gamble the studio would want to make.
Plus, I choose to recognize the internal history of Pixar beating a story to death until it’s ready to work on screen. They are used to criticism, and having Alcaraz there will most likely be seen as a storytelling safeguard more than anything else. I also optimistically hope that it’s a sign of a studio willing to listen to outside observers. After all, if they’re going to tackle a story set in Mexico, featuring an important familial holiday, it will serve everyone well if they get it right.
So, there’s a cynical perspective on this, and then there’s the view borne from George Miller bringing “Vagina Monologues” author Eve Ensler into the Fury Road production. It’s easy to say she improved the film and that Miller was right not only to hire here as a consultant but to, gasp, listen to her. The bottom line: cultural consultants aren’t always set dressing (ahem, Adam Sandler and The Ridiculous Six).
Disney and Alcaraz have an opportunity similar to Fury Road’s here. Let’s hope the Mouse takes it. After all, it’s not like they’ll be hiring Banksy any time soon.
Related Topics: Disney