coco_alcaraz coco_alcaraz
Ideas/CommentaryPixar

Disney Critic Lalo Alcaraz Hired to Work on Pixar’s ‘Coco’

Lalo Alcaraz.
Lalo Alcaraz.

Mexican-American political cartoonist and La Cucaracha comic creator Lalo Alcaraz made an announcement on Twitter yesterday: he’s been hired to work on Pixar’s just-announced Day of the Dead feature Coco.

Alcaraz did not make clear whether he will work on the upcoming Lee Unkrich-directed film as an outside consultant or in-house artist. However, his role as a consulting producer on Seth MacFarlane’s upcoming series Bordertown offers some clues as to what role he may have on this new Pixar gig.

Some of his Twitter followers initially assumed that Alcaraz, a respected voice on political and cultural issues related to Mexican-Americans, was joking — and for good reason. A couple years ago, when the Walt Disney Company tried to trademark the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, there was mass outrage from the Latino community, and Alcaraz was at the forefront, creating this iconic image that lambasted the Disney Company:

muertomouse_alcaraz

Alcaraz hinted that Disney/Pixar hired him on Coco as something akin to a cultural watchdog, to ensure that the studio gets it right when dealing with Mexican culture:

laloalcaraz_tweet_a

He also claims that the way to have more Latino directors and producers working in animation is for people like himself to work on such films, a perhaps debatable claim considering that countless Mexican-American artists have worked in animation since the 1920s:

The news of Alcaraz’s involvement was greeted with a largely positive reception on Twitter with dozens of his fans congratulating him on the new gig. And to those who criticized him, Alcaraz prepared a sharply worded tweet:

Nevertheless, questions will inevitably be raised now that an independent political cartoonist who has made the Walt Disney Company the target of some of his harshest critiques has gone on Disney’s payroll. One of Alcaraz’s fans, who congratulated him on his new job, couldn’t help but make the observation that Alcaraz’s new job was a curious role for the outspoken artist:

Alcaraz, after all, is not just a casual Disney critic. He titled a compilation of his political cartoons Migra Mouse after a 1994 cartoon he drew that he once called “perhaps my most well-known cartoon, at least on the immigration topic.”

Of the comic which featured Mickey in Border Patrol uniform, Alcaraz wrote, “Migra Mouse represents the corporate interests of the Walt Disney Company, which donated money to then-California Governor Pete Wilson’s re-election campaign. Wilson was exploiting the illegal immigration issue in the most divisive way, so I felt it was necessary to point out that wholesome Disney was affiliating itself with Wilson and Proposition 187, a xenophobic state ballot initiative.”

Over 10,000 posters of the image were printed and used in protests throughout North and South America, as well as during a picket at Disneyland Paris.

migramouse_alcaraz

In 2012, Alcaraz drew a spot illustration depicting an Anaheim, California police officer in mouse ears pointing a gun at a child. The illustration accompanied an OC Weekly story about, “[A]n easy story to tell: Chaos in the land of Disney. Racist cops. Oppressed Latinos.”

laloalcaraz_apdcomic

For now, Alcaraz has softened his tone toward the Disney corporation. Yesterday, when one Twitter user said Disney “just want [sic] money not to teach culture,” Alcaraz defended the Disney company. He explained that Disney, which generated nearly $50 billion in revenue last year, had learned their lesson about cultural appropriation from his Muerto Mouse comic.

laloalcaraz_tweet_b
  • Paul M

    The Mexican day of the dead beckons to animation for adaptation more than any other holiday except perhaps Xmas. I’m glad this guy is on board to keep them honest, but I’ll be very surprised if they manage to top The Book of Life, which was awesome.

    • RCooke

      Book of life was hardly “great.” As a cartoon, it was a very so-so affair, with extremely weak character motivation and storytelling. The visuals were more interesting in stills than in motion, as the overall effect was more distracting than illuminating. I’m not suggesting the Pixar film will be better or worse, just that Book of Life wasn’t much on it’s own. Considering Coco has apparently been in the works for a number of years (3 or 4 or more so far based on mentions on the internet?), it’s odd they hired someone like this so late in the game–fairly obvious why though.

      • Paul M

        The Book of Life: IMDB 7.3 R.T. 82%. Not bad numbers, definitely better than ‘so-so’. Well I for one thought it was great. I wish I had seen it in 3d at a theatre.

    • L_Ron_Hoover

      Yes, because “Day of the Dead” hasn’t been animated countless times already. The only thing people like/know/care about it is the aesthetic of the painted skulls.

      I have no idea why people make such a fuss over a company making a piece of art off of a holiday. Is it that shocking? Or is it because it’s popular to properly train “ignorant white people” via the spokesperson of an entire race?

      Hey, at least Pixar is doing their movie. The best thing that Jews have is “Eight Crazy Nights.”

      Anyways, I’m just glad that Disney has a “cultural critic” to save themselves from lawsuits. Glad to see Alcaraz has softened his touch now that he’s being paid by them. I wonder how important he feels about himself now…After all, he speaks for all Latinos.

      • Paul M

        Aren’t you forgetting Prince of Egypt?

        • L_Ron_Hoover

          Ah, I did forget Prince of Egypt, but I think most people forgot Prince of Egypt…It isn’t a terrible movie though.

  • jerrybrice

    Satire moves the culture forward,and as a leading voice in political cartoons and social commentary as a writer championing the border and latino causes, Disney is making a smart creative and wise business move by having Lalo’s unique talent and voice present in the creative mix on this cartoon.
    This is business, and it’s never been personal.

  • Stefan Ellison

    Alcaraz isn’t the first artist to be hired by Disney or one of its divisions, despite infamously satirising their imagery. Gerald Scarfe once made a short film that depicted Mickey Mouse smoking and having a drug trip. Many years later, he was a major contributor to the design of Hercules. Dan Povenmire also directed multiple episodes of Family Guy, directly poking fun at Disney (including the infamous When You Wish Upon a Star parody), yet his work on that show played a role in Phineas and Ferb getting the greenlight.

    Disney is able to recognise talent when it sees it.

  • William Bradford

    This seems a very wise move: especially given all the shade that’s been tossed around on Tumblr. I highly doubt Pixar ever wanted to be disrespectful to the culture or custom (I’m sure Disney didn’t MIND disrespecting, and i’m glad people stopped them). From what I know about the holiday, it’s about family ties and remembering your ancestors: something with perfect potential for Pixar’s trademark storytelling without having to go against the spirit of the holiday. and having the very satirist expressing concern over their handling of the holiday there to call them out on things would possibly cut out the middleman.

  • Mark Mayerson

    This is Pocahontas all over again. By hiring Russell Means to do a voice, Disney neutralized any criticism from the Native American community. Bringing Alcaraz onto Coco is a way of defusing charges of cultural appropriation, racism, etc.

  • T Stevens

    Pixar loves to work with the most established illustrators in the market so this would seem like a pretty natural fit, though an ironic one at that. It is likely that he is getting paid at a rate that would be hard to turn down. My guess is that Pixar/Disney will pay him more than he could make in a decade doing political cartoons.
    This is also an indication as to how important the Hispanic / Latino market has become for the major media conglomerates.

  • KW

    Will there ever be a movie based on Mexican culture that isn’t about the Day of the Dead? You’d think thats all Mexico has to offer.

    • guest

      I think that is because of the strong visual imagery that is evoked in that event. It becomes an easy surrogate for what supposedly defines Mexico and Mexican culture, similar to how Rio’s Carnival is constantly used to depict what is Brazilian. Even though both countries certainly have more going on culturally than a couple of yearly celebrations of life.

      • William Bradford

        One of my Mexican Canadien friends fear that the Day of the Dead is being absorbed up by Halloween to many younger people in Mexico, and feel it needs more exposure in media. AND she herself complained Book Of Life was over cramped with sooo many ideas, many of which really felt like it had too much American Christian underscoring in it’s themes (heaven, hell) and that the two headed snake wasn’t accurate to the mythology. She also felt that, despite the director being of Mexican descent, felt either felt Western OR cliché Mexican. NOW I couldn’t comment on that respect, hence why I was surprised when she said this; My personnel feelings on it is that it tried to cram toooo many story elements into it at once (love triangle, father-son-family issues, and the conflict/romance between the three gods ect).

        She was happy to hear Alcarez was involved 9n Coco, but remains circumspect. Basically, if this film is accurate and representative and respectful, they will be soooooo happy and greatful to Pixar for helping share it to a generation. If it’s not….

    • aquapyro

      Its one of the biggest problems that i see. There are alot of stories to tell outside of Day of the Dead, i would like to see a take on the Aztec Culture, its always been interesting about the way that empire was run. I also have an issue that the setting is always taken place in a desert city/border town.

  • L_Ron_Hoover

    I just hope they sign Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton before Dreamworks does.

  • Pedro Nakama

    How soon before he runs out of the studio screaming?

  • Bernadette Ramirez

    The Book of Life, in my opinion, missed the mark. Hopefully with Mr Alcaraz on board this new film Coco, will hit the bullseye. I for one, would not have a problem with hiring someone who’d disagreed with me in the past, if I felt it would make the final product better. Kudos Disney/Pixar. I can’t wait to see it.

    • Tim Tran

      watch out for negative comments, coz you just stated that a ‘white Jewish’ director would direct a better Mexican film than a Mexican director. Which apparently is taboo for some reason.

  • Me

    Keep your enemies close I guess.

  • Hello moon man

    Sounds like a smart move. I’m glad they can put aside their differences in exchange for more talented voices.

  • Lucky Jim

    Whoah, this guy’s cartoons are amazing. I’m glad someone as cool as him is working on “Coco.”

  • guest

    Disney certainly is a master at neutralizing its critics. Just hire them. Also, quite the ego to think that hiring him is somehow going to result in some sort of sea change in Disney’s hiring practices vis a vis more Latino’s in senior positions such as directing.

  • Peter Shakes

    Meanwhile, there’s probably a bunch of Mexican Pixar employees who could have advised them as well if not better who have zero chance of ever stepping up the ladder, because they wouldn’t look like much in a press release.
    These big studios would do themselves a favor if they looked inside their own walls for ideas and talent, but instead they keep hiring people that the marketing departments tells them to.

  • William Bradford

    The only “scandal” so far regarding this film and Pixar is that they thought of naming it after the actual holiday, thus copyrighting the name of it, which they changed their mind on as soon as they heard the uproar.
    I can’t see too many of Pixars usual trappings or storytelling philosophies, in themselves, being in opposition to the culture of the holiday. As I understand it, the custom is about remembering departed loved ones, and getting in touch with your routes and spending a day honoring the dead; from what little they’ve said that’s why Unrich found it a great subject for talking about lineage and family. I think mostly what Alcarez will be doing is pointing out little things early that they might otherwise not think of putting in.

  • Hankenshift

    How much you want to bet this guy does none of the actual work, and gets paid far more than any artist (even the Mexican ones) actually working on the film, and gets all the publicity and credit, too? It’s happened plenty of times before. What a shame.

  • GetAClueBucko

    Disney loves to pander, and to sell out to whoever’s got money.