Director Jorge Gutierrez and producer Guillermo del Toro showed off some gorgeous-looking footage from The Book of Life (Oct. 17) at Fox on Monday. It boasts a distinct design and a wonderfully tactile quality, revealing that Reel FX (Free Birds) has come of age as an animated indie. And it looks like fun, family entertainment that certainly breaks the CG norm, which del Toro emphasized.
“It represents Mexico not just as a folkloric memory but as a place that has been influenced by punk, ska, rock’n’roll, borders, modernity,” added del Toro, who was wooed by Gutierrez’ special passion and baroque sensibility. “You need to also protect the universe…that is unique visually, that is of a piece, that doesn’t feel fragmented.”
Del Toro promised Gutierrez that they could get the handmade feel of the concept art and marionettes in CG animation because it “hypertexturizes” the world and makes it fascinating in a new way.”
Hence the importance of marionettes, which is why the characters were designed to highlight the craftsmanship of the wood. Ultimately, it’s a movie about culture and family and writing your own book of life, inspired by Orpheus, among other live-action animated works.
Family expectations come into conflict with heart’s desire for Manolo (Diego Luna), who would rather play guitar than be a bullfighter like his father (Hector Elizondo). Meanwhile, a rivalry with best friend Joaquin (Channing Tatum) to marry Maria (Zoe Saldana) complicates matters. And there’s a bet between two spirits, La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and Xibalba (Ron Perlman), concerning who will marry Maria.
This fantastical journey takes Manolo from the Land of the Living to the Land of the Remembered to the Land of the Forgotten, and each offers its own iconic look and color palette. Tatum really shined in the footage as the narcissistic war hero but Luna held his own as the winsome protagonist.
Not surprisingly, both Gutierrez and del Toro were unabashed about the movie’s emotionalism and sentimentality. In fact, del Toro proclaimed that emotion is the “new punk” as an antidote to the prevailing cynicism of today.