When the movie Coco came out in 2017, it became one of the first from Pixar to centrally explore more somber topics like death. Yes, animated films often use death as a plot device — you probably don’t need to be reminded of the first time you saw Scar murder Mufasa in The Lion King or when you realized Bambi’s mother had died. In Coco, though, death is the center of the story as most of it takes place during the Hispanic holiday Día de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead.” And yet, it isn’t dark or depressing. What makes Coco so beautiful and binge-worthy (your kids have watched it, what, 100 times by now, right?) is how vibrantly it captures this tradition of simultaneously honoring and mourning our loved ones who have passed away. Of course, it can’t hurt to add other movies like Coco to the rotation. It’s always good to introduce our kids to different life perspectives, and, um, you might need a break after the 105th screening.
Of course, Coco is also deeply rooted in traditional folk songs. The main character, a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who lives in Saint Cecilia, loves music. Unfortunately, his family has forbidden it ever since his great-great-grandfather abandoned his family to pursue music years prior. So, hoping to change this, Miguel sets off to compete in a musical talent show by stealing a guitar from a famous musician’s mausoleum. In doing so, though, he (accidentally) travels to the Land of the Dead.
As far as Pixar films go, Coco is a bit deep. But it’s also an important reminder to talk to children about death in a way that doesn’t scare them. After all, it’s a big part of life, and they’ll eventually experience grief, as much as we may try to shield them from it. Plus, because the film portrays Mexican traditions and history in such an authentic way, Coco also gives you a great opportunity to start a conversation with your kid about other cultures.
While it’s one of a kind, there are plenty of movies like Coco that can help your family explore deeper topics — including the uncertainty of life after death. Here are a few favorites.
Touching, Atmospheric Animated Films Like Coco
1. Onward (2020)
Onward is often forgotten about since it happened to be released right around the time theaters were shutting down in 2020 — on March 6, to be exact. While the timing was unfortunate, it’s gaining more popularity through streaming. The movie focuses on teen elves Ian and Barley, who lost their father and are aiming to do what they can to spend one more day with him. When their mom realizes what’s happening, the adventure unfolds even more.
2. ParaNorman (2012)
ParaNorman is a fascinating movie about a boy named Norman who doesn’t necessarily have a lot of love and support at school but can identify and connect with ghosts and spirits from the past. The hitch? Only one person believes him — a new friend named Neil. Of course, Norman has to be a hero as he’s one of the only people who may be able to prevent the undead from taking over. Movies like Coco don’t necessarily need to address the deceased, but this one does, making it a great film to watch afterward.
3. Soul (2020)
Soul is a powerful movie and also an important one for kids. It shows the importance of life and how you should appreciate it every day. Featuring the talented voices of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey as the two leads, it focuses on a man named Joe who — after getting the musical gig that would be a complete game-changer for him — gets into an accident where he’s somewhere between Earth and the afterlife. In this stage, he starts learning more about himself.
4. Inside Out (2015)
It’s hard not to like Inside Out. Similar to Soul and Coco, this movie might make you think a bit about your life and how you process things. The story dives deep into mental health in a way that not many films have before. It reassures you that, sometimes, it’s OK to be sad. Often, happiness and joy may be hard to come by. But like many kids’ movies, Inside Out delivers these messages in a way that’s also quite funny and charming.
5. Coraline (2009)
Coraline is a dark and deep movie that might be better suited for older kids, as there are some slightly unnerving parts. Like, ahem, the button eyes. But as far as movies like Coco go, this one happens to include an alternate universe. That universe is similar to Coraline’s own, but better in a way — with parents that seem a bit more attentive and more fulfilling life. However, soon she realizes that her “Other Mother” (voiced by Teri Hatcher) is trying to trap her there. This movie may remind you to be happy for what you have, even if it’s not perfect.
6. The Book of Life (2014)
You can’t get much closer to Coco than this stunning 2014 film — it was produced by Guillermo del Toro, if that gives you any indication of the visual style! Like Coco, the story also centers on the Day of the Dead. But this story takes place in San Angel, Mexico, and follows three childhood best friends: María Posada, Joaquín Mondragon Jr., and Manolo Sánchez. We don’t want to spoil it for you, so just trust that this is an absolute must-watch (with plenty of music).
More Movies Like Coco Your Kids Will Love
- Frankenweenie (2012)
- Moana (2016)
- Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
- The Lion King (1994)
- Ferdinand (2017)
- Sing (2016)
- The Legend of the Nahuala (2007)
- Corpse Bride (2005)
- Spirited Away (2001)
- Wall-E (2008)
- The Land Before Time (1988)
- All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
- The Iron Giant (1999)
- Up (2009)
- Brother Bear (2003)
- The Boxtrolls (2014)
- Rise of the Guardians (2012)
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