Day of the Dead is everywhere these days; calaveras have been adopted by everyone from punks to Pixar. But for The Book of Life director Jorge Gutierrez, the holiday isn't just about the cool visuals; it's also intensely personal.
During the Book of Life panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Gutierrez and Book of Life producer Guillermo del Toro showed off a trailer for their upcoming animated film cut specifically for the Comic-Con audience. We were impressed by the first trailer when we watched it on our laptops, but seeing it on the big screens during the panel was something else entirely. All of the celebratory madness of the afterlife is jaw-dropping in its detail and beauty. The puppet-like quality of the main characters, the candy colors of the Land of the Remembered, the larger-than-life gods — it all looks glorious.
"My grandfather said to me, 'Jorgito, never let the truth get in the way of a good story,'" Gutierrez told the crowd. He says that The Book of Life is a collection of all the stories of his family. "It's sort of a recipe book of all the stories I heard growing up."
Del Toro said that he became involved after Gutierrez stopped by his home with a bottle of tequila. "He showed up with all the art and a pitch for the movie," said del Toro. "We had great chemistry." He wanted to produce the film himself because he felt it was something special. "We have to protect this baby so that it can make it to the end of the line as beautiful and as pure as it could be."
For Gutierrez, The Book of Life is an intensely personal film, meshing everything that he loves — videogames, opera, the English-language music he grew up listening to, even churros. But Day of the Dead is the key. Gutierrez notes that a lot of people adopt the trappings of Day of the Dead (and he doesn't appear to take issue with folks who simply enjoy the images associated with the holiday), but they often ignore the spirit of the holiday, which is particularly close to his heart. "I got married on day of the dead because I wanted my best friend who passed away to be my best man and I wanted my family to be there."
He wants the movie to capture that idea that makes the Day of the Dead so powerful. "My favorite thing about it is the core belief of the holiday: as long as we tell the stories of these people, sing their songs, cook their food, and tell their stories they are with us."