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4K, Academy Awards, Adrian Molina, Coco, Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, Disney, Lee Unkrich, Oscar nominated, Pixar, UHD

4K UHD/Blu-ray Review: Disney/Pixar’s Enchanting ‘Coco’

2017 was a year of two Pixars. Cars 3 showed that the franchise is running on fumes, but thankfully, they also treated us to Coco. Set in Mexico and revolving around Dia de los Muertos, director Lee Unkrich proves that Toy Story 3 was no fluke. Together with co-director/co-writer Adrian Molina, Coco made a moving love letter to our Mexican neighbors and showed that emotion runs deep no matter which side of the border you’re on. Coco was a critical/box office smash and is being released on 4K UHD and Blu-ray with its evident Best Animated Feature win right around the corner.

Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) is living in Mexico, dealing with a family “curse.” His great-great-grandmother has forbidden the Riveras from indulging in music after her husband left the family with dreams of becoming a huge star. Now shoemakers, Miguel just wants to sing. He’s convinced his great-great-grandfather is the sensational Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt) and steals his guitar during the Day of the Dead festivities. When he’s whisked away to the Land of the Dead, he must earn his past family’s blessing in order to return to the land of the living. He’s joined by Hector (voiced by Gael García Bernal) who also wants to take a trip to the living before he’s forgotten forever and suffers the “final death.”

Disney/Pixar delivers Coco in a 4K/Blu-ray combo pack, framed in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio on respective BD-66 (4K) and BD-50 (Blu-ray) discs. While the 1080p presentation certainly shines as much as you’d hope, the 4K disc really gives Coco the extra pop you’d expect. Upscaled from a 2K Digital Intermediate — Unkrich says that they can’t see a significant difference to finish their films in native 4K — anyone who can’t see the jump in resolution may need to check their settings. Coco in 4K almost looks 3D — something Disney seems to be wishy-washy on these days — and offers a marked improvement, even more so than their Cars 3 UHD debut. It’s definitely photo realistic. I can only imagine how spectacular The Good Dinosaur could benefit from a 4K upgrade. Unfortunately, the HDR enhancement doesn’t deliver too much of a difference, but the uptick in resolution sure makes up for it. On the bright side, blacks are expectedly deeper, shadows more revealing, colors better balanced, and contrast still super toasty without feeling blown out.

On the audio front, the Blu-ray comes armed with a decent 7.1 Dolby TrueHD track which forces viewers to pump up the volume well above reference settings. The 4K disc comes with an upgraded Dolby Atmos track that feels like a completely different mix. Surround heights provide the spacious soundscape you’d expect whether it’s Dia de los Muertos family activities, the bustling Land of the Dead city streets, or the De la Cruz concert finale. Dialogue is always clean and clear. Directionality is improved to pinpoint precision, but the most obvious improvement is during the end credits. The DTS track blares the vocals from the rear speakers, something I found odd and wondered if it would be handled better on the Dolby Atmos, and I was completely right. Dialogue is front and center as it should be.

As engaging as most of the track is, it’s surprisingly front heavy, rears themselves are rarely engaged. Additional audio tracks include English and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 and English Dolby Digital 5.1/2.0 tracks. Subtitles include English, Spanish, and French.

If you’re looking for special features, don’t worry, Coco has you covered! The 4K disc doesn’t have any, so you’ll have to start with the Blu-ray. Disc One contains the film and the following extras: “Audio Commentary” featuring co-directors Unkrich and Molina, and producer Darla Anderson who sort through a collection of stories discussing the plot, characters, visual effects, voice work, and research. “Welcome to the Fiesta” (2:16) is a short and sweet “proof of concept” short with optional audio commentary. “Mi Familia” (10:00) features the filmmakers discussing the rules enforced upon them growing up and what they think about them as adults. “Dante” (6:14) examines the Xoloitzcuintli and its influence as Miguel’s trusty companion in the Land of the Dead. “How to Draw a Skeleton” (3:18) a quick, self-explanatory tutorial.

Disc Two features: “A Thousand Pictures a Day” (20:03) is a trip to Mexico with the crew to get up close and personal with the people and locations for optimum authenticity. “The Music of Coco” (13:12) covers the different genres and styles composer Michael Giacchino worked into the score to help tell the story. “Land of Our Ancestors” (6:19) feels like an expansion of “A Thousand Pictures” but focuses on the land of the dead. “Fashion Through the Ages” (8:39) explores the various costumes from different time periods. “The Real Guitar” (3:08) shows how they created De la Cruz’s guitar in real life before animating it.

“Paths to Pixar: Coco” (11:44) is a fantastic look at the Latino crew who worked on the project and how they came to work for the animation giant. “How to Make Papel Picado” (2:19) is another short tutorial showing to make the colorful decorations. “You Got the Part!” (2:12) is video footage of Unkrich delivering the best Christmas present ever to Gonzalez (Miguel). “Deleted Scenes” (33:07) features introductory scenes with Unkrich and Molina: “Dia de los Muertos” (an excised opening number when Coco was going to be a full-blown musical), “The Way of the Riveras” (another musical sequence), “Celebrity Tour,” “The Bus Escape,” “Alebrije Attack,” “The Family Fix,” and “To the Bridge.” And finally, the film’s “Trailers & Promos” include “Feeling — United States Trailer #1” (2:12), “Dante’s Lunch — Web Exclusive” (1:56), “Destiny — Mexico Trailer” (2:34), “Journey — Brazil Trailer” (2:01), “Belong — Australian Trailer” (2:13), and “Un Poco Coco” (3:05).

Coco was a true return to form for Pixar after a little bit of a slump and being overshadowed by Disney — who is on fire these days. But with a huge heart and jaw-dropping animation, Coco proves that Pixar can still deliver — not that I ever doubted them. The 4K disc provides the uptick in resolution you’d expect crafting and almost 3D appearance. Unfortunately, while the Dolby Atmos track is better mixed than the 7.1 DTS, it continues Disney’s underwhelming audio record. If only they could get their 4K discs to sound as spectacular as they look. Needless to say, the 4K UltraHD Blu-ray is the best way to watch Coco at home, but the Blu-ray disc continues to show there’s still some life in the format.

About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival and a member of the Utah Film Critics Association.

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