Pixar has a well-earned reputation for making kids’ movies that have a surprisingly adult perspective, from the tear-jerking marriage in miniature that opens Up to the tear-jerking portrait of office tedium in The Incredibles. But nothing could prepare us for the trailer for their upcoming film Coco, a Day of the Dead–themed slaughterfest from director Lee Unkrich in which the dead outnumber the living. (Pixar’s movie is not to be confused with 2014 Day of the Dead–themed animated film The Book of Life or 1998 Day of the Dead–themed animated video game Grim Fandango.)
The plot is the kind of relatable situation we’ve all dealt with: A grave robber steals a guitar from a haunted mausoleum, and the vengeful ghost of the cemetery caretaker is only the first angry spirit he encounters. Before long, he’s been transported to the underworld, where he finds himself surrounded by the unnaturally animated skeletal remains of people who shuffled off their mortal coil centuries ago. Flesh picked from their bones until they positively gleam, these horrifying spectral visitors travel yearly between their world and our own. But the trailer focuses more on their Mexican-accented Abaddon than our own, showing us a Gran Hotel Ciudad de México–inspired street, a train station lobby, and even a border crossing. But the showstopper is a wide shot of bridges connecting the afterlife with the world of the living, lined with countless throngs of restless spirits that inevitably call to mind the words of the Florentine poet, facing a similar parade of the damned: “Non averei creduto/ Che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta.” Heavy stuff, but if anyone can do it justice, it’s Pixar!
For a closer look at the studio’s new, mature storytelling style, here’s Dante’s Lunch: A Short Tail, an introduction to one of the characters that will face the grim, unrelenting horror of mortality when Coco opens on Nov. 22.