Remember Me - Our Ancestors Are With Us

Today, Disney released Pixar's Coco in digital release and I could not wait. I absolutely adored this movie, not just because the filmmakers delved deeply into Mexican culture which has never been explored before by a Disney or Pixar film, but because of the role of family in the film. While I am not Mexican American, as a Filipino American, I understand the importance of family bond. Our cousins are like brothers and sisters and our aunts and uncles are like extensions of our parents. And, whether in good times or bad, your family is your family. At the same time, there is a sense of duty and that's why we have multigenerational.

But, because of this closeness, there is also a want to find a sense of self. Who are you beyond the family?

My Lola (grandmother in Tagalog) was a driving force in my life. She knew I marched to the beat of my own drum and always tried to make me feel empowered despite family expectations. Even after her death, she is in my heart guiding me. 

And, so, I started thinking about the Disney films with characters who marched to the beat of their own drums and the ancestors who've helped guide them. Coco, Moana and Mulan are three examples of this.
Photo: Disney/Pixar

In Coco, Miguel has a love for music. The only problem is his family forbids music in their home. He looks to the famous late musician Ernesto de la Cruz, who he thinks is his great, great grandfather, for guidance. On Dia de Los Muertos, a day that honors the dead, he takes De La Cruz's guitar from his mausoleum to fulfill his dream of becoming a musician. But, on a day when the dead are honored with offerings, Miguel has taken something and is whisked to the Land of the Dead. 

It's there that he sees his long lost ancestors who, at first, dissuade Miguel's dreams. His Mama Imelda, who initiated the ban on music will not send him back with her blessings unless he gives up music. Miguel rebels against his ancestors as well with hopes that his great grandfather will understand. He enlists the help of a gifter named Hector who hopes to have his photo placed on the ofrenda in the Land of the Living because he is being forgotten. And, once you are forgotten, its death for the dead. Through their journey, Miguel discovers his true great, great grandfather is Hector and that he was murdered by De La Cruz because Hector had the true talent. And, through forgiveness, Mama Imelda finally gives Miguel her blessing. Miguel is then able to return to remind his great grandmother Mama Coco of her father Hector. And so, through the blessings of his ancestors, Miguel is able to save the day and show his family that his love of music is powerful.

Photo: Disney/Pixar

In Moana, the world beyond the was something considered dangerous to the people of Motonui, but Moana is drawn to the sea. She wants to see what is beyond. Moana tries to accept her role as the future chieftess of her people, but the call of the ocean is too strong. Her grandmother Tala understands Moana's connection to the sea. She shows Moana that her people were actually great voyagers, but began to fear the ocean after the demigod Maui stole the heart of Te Fiti. Because of this, the islands have been dying and, soon, Motonui could die, too. Her grandmother, on her death bed, tells her to find Maui to save her people and Moana goes. 

Photo: Disney
Even though she is inexperienced, she manages to get Maui to go with her and teach her how to wayfind like her people once did. Through the journey, she is met with great adversity and Moana starts to despair. She begins to doubt that she's the one to save her people. Its then that her grandmother appears to her to remind her of who she is. Moana is then able to carry on and it is she, and not Maui, to restore the heart of Te Fiti. In doing so, her people are saved. And, now, she can accept her role as the future chieftess by reconnecting her people to the art of wayfinding.

Photo: Disney

And, finally, we have Mulan. Mulan's family expects Mulan to be the perfect bride so that she can bring honor to her family. But, Mulan just marches to the beat of her own drum. She wants to uphold her family's honor, but not in the way they want her to. When the Emperor calls for men to enroll in the army after the Huns attack, Mulan takes her father's place. Her ancestors summons the Great Stone Dragon to bring her back, but, it ends up being the demoted dragon Mushu to go after her.

Photo: Disney
Mushu, as representative of Mulan's ancestors, helps her, albeit in a comedic way, to become a soldier. While Mulan is not the best soldier at first, Mushu supports her the entire way. Her becoming a great soldier is not so much about her brawn than it is about using her brains. Her disguise is discovered after saving her squad and is thrown out. But, Mulan heads to the Imperial City as her intuition is that the Huns will attack there. Because of this, she manages to save the Emperor and China! She is able to return home and bring honor to her family.

Photo: Disney
Where many of the Disney films have characters who either no longer have their parents or have mothers who are either dead or evil, it is wonderful seeing these multigenerational family units that show reverence to their ancestors.




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