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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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