The Book of Life is a charming new film with a fresh look and feel that many reviewers are calling one of the best animated films of the year. Perfectly suited for ages five and older, this vibrant fantasy-adventure story deals with the topic of life and death by exploring the rich folklore of Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. The filmmakers have created whimsical characters who look like they’re carved from wood but are irreverant silly in the tradition of the best animated tales. Director Jorge R. Gutierrez is a Mexican director who has long dreamt of sharing the folklore of this traditional holiday and he has succeeded beyond measure. His depiction of the afterworld is that of a festive, even joyous, place and there are plenty of colorful sugar skulls in evidence, along with a myriad of other surprising sights and sounds. The magical colors and symbolism of this beautiful universe are like nothing we’ve seen before.
Best of all, this fabulous storyline offers a perfect opportunity to teach kids about the rich tradition of Dia de los Muertos. Here is a link to help you teach your kids all they need to know about the holiday, which takes place this year on November 1.
How about exploring the rich traditions of this holiday around LA this year? Here are our choices for how and where to do just that.
The holiday will be celebrated this weekend and next at El Pueblo de Los Angeles (Olvera Street)
El Dia de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever Cemetery will be celebrated on Saturday, November 1, but families are encouraged to come by Friday evening and early on Saturday.
The Bowers Museum has a Family Art Workshop for the Day of Dead on Sunday, October 26 from 1:00 – 4:00 PM
More on The Book of Life
The story spans three fantastic worlds: the present, the Land of the Remembered, and the Land of the Forgotten through a love triangle between a matador, his childhood friend, and the girl they both love. Manolo (Diego Luna) is a young matador who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart. Joaquin, his dashing, childhood friend (Channing Tatum) is not as soulful as the young Manolo, and the story plays out their love for a beautiful girl called Maria (Zoe Saldana), whom they have loved all their lives. Just before Maria is sent away for school, the honest ruler of the Land of the Remembered and the evil ruler of Land of the Forgotten make a bet regarding who will win the heart of the lovely Maria. The winner will be allowed to rule over the Land of the Remembered. During Maria’s time away, Manolo’s family is set on him being the most skilled matador in the town, which he does. Joaquin goes on to become the town hero through deceit and trickery he keeps to himself only until Maria returns and he is forced to save his town from the evil Chakal and his army.
Though there are some scary characters, most of the animation stays safely on the cute side, and the pace of the story telling is lively and fun — in part due to the mariachi-style musical covers of current pop songs (which will make the film fun for older kids, too).. The humor is definitely for a family-friendly audience and the time spent in the Land of the Remembered is filled with vibrant and joyous festivities so as not to make the immediate afterworld so scary for the little ones. Common Sense Media has this to say about what elements may be scary for younger viewers, but recently awarded the film it’s second Seal of Approval.
Director Jorge R. Gutierrez is a Mexican animator, painter, writer, who along with his wife, created the multiple Emmy winning animated television series El Tigre:The Adventures of Manny Rivera for Nickelodeon. Producer Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer, and novelist. In his filmmaking career, del Toro has alternated between Spanish-language dark-fantasy pieces and more mainstream American action movies. His producing works have included such animated films as Puss in Boots and Kung Fu Panda:2.