By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?
In "Coco," Disney-Pixar's colorful animated adventure into the land of the dead, a story of family, memory and legacy is hoping to not only celebrate Mexican culture but to bridge the political gap between the United States and Mexico.
"Coco," out in U.S. theaters on Wednesday, follows a boy named Miguel who accidentally finds himself in the land of the dead during the Mexican celebrations for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
As Miguel, voiced by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez, is reunited with his ancestors, he learns how the memories of the living help keep the legacies of the dead alive.
Tensions between the United States and Mexico have been high after U.S. President Donald Trump promised during his election campaign to build a wall along the border of the two countries to curb illegal immigration.
"There's a lot of divisive rhetoric that aims to make us (Latino people) less than," said Benjamin Bratt, who voices Miguel's musical idol and late great-great-grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz.
"It's unintended but by demonstrating what really exists, (this film) goes a long way to showing that we're all in fact in this together and are more alike than we are different," Bratt added.
"Coco" traces Miguel's journey to get blessings from his ancestors and his return to the land of the living, but he faces obstacles when his dead family refuse to support his musical ambitions.
Miguel finds an unlikely guide through the Land of the Dead in Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), whose legacy is about to be forgotten once his last living relative, his daughter Coco, dies.
The film is co-directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, who said they were careful to reflect Mexican culture and beliefs "in a story free of cliche and stereotype," and drew on the experiences of their Latino and Mexican colleagues.
"I'm Mexican-American myself so I had a vested interest in being able to see a family on screen that was representative of what I experienced growing up," said Molina.
Bratt said he never grew up seeing Latino people reflected on screen.
"That my own children, who are brown-skinned and brown-eyed, can happily see an image of themselves on a big screen that's being sent out globally, it affirms something that for a long time has been denied, which is that we're all the same ultimately. We're all human beings and we all are equal," he said.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by James Dalgleish)