Pixar's Coco: Storyform Analysis

Hey guys,

So I was blown away by this film. Absolutely terrific What they can do now with animation is unbelievable: skin texture, freckles, wet clothes, arm flab, fur, and see-through skin!? I’m sure there’s more, but I’ll have to watch it again to really take it all in.
So if there’s anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet PLEASE GO SEE IT before looking at my choices for the Storyform and my half-beat analysis. Go see it! If you have kids, a wife, a friend who has a wife, go take them. Bring the whole family, especially your grandma! Omg, really bring your grandparents. This is a family film like no other Pixar has captured before. They really pushed themselves here in terms of Drama. I mean, the film feels closer to a Drama, then your typical laugh-out-loud Pixar Comedy; from the likes of Monster’s Inc and Finding Nemo (my personal favorites).

Okay here goes:

Now originally I thought Miguel was a changed character as I’ll state below but, actually; his goal for playing music is accepted in the end would make him steadfast, thus having changed those around him to finally accept music into the family. This is further expressed when he meets the artist (Frida Kahlo) whereby upon asking him what he thinks of her art, she adopts his suggestions to make her piece better. I would think that the problem of him forsaking his immediate family isn’t so much a mind-set since he is actually searching for a family (member) to accept him; but as a means of challenging those around him in the process.

Main Character

Resolve: Steadfast (Although Miguel forsakes his family by following his dream to become a world-famous musician; he holds true to his passion for music till the end, changing the world around him, as seen by his family’s acceptance of music into their lives; opening up truth of his real great grandfather Hector’s past, changing the town’s history and appreciation for family and music (together).
Growth: Start (Hole in his heart, holding out Steadfast until something begins in his environment, he is waiting for something to Start, his family’s acceptance of music)
Approach: Do-er (Miguel changes his environment to suite his needs; runs around asking for a guitar, he hides the dog under the table, he breaks into the mausoleum and steals the guitar, and chases after the dog constantly; he performs music to win a contest along with playing to get the attention of his Ernesto)
PS-Style: Female (surprising, I know…)

I’m a male myself, so forgive me if the words I use here aren’t the right vocabulary for why I think Miguel solves problems holistically more so than linearly, I’m working this out myself. Because after thinking about it… there were some decisions the film made that I didn’t agree with, specifically how Miguel always seemed to be chasing after the dog in the introduction into the second act. At first I thought it was a cheap way to move the story along and get the character where he needed to be, but his problem-solving style to keep things together and seeking fulfillment, rather than seeking satisfaction works nicely with remaining with the dog.
To further demonstrate by example:just like in Jane Eyre how she can seemingly find herself across the country being a Do-er/Holistic in the beginning of that film as explained in Dramatica’s analysis, we find Miguel without a guitar seeing the statue and he connects that with the guitar in the mausoleum which was totally not what I was thinking, so he goes there; to a place we only saw in the beginning (without knowing the guitar was in there if my memory serves correct). And further, after bailing from the contest in the spirit realm, he solves that problem being without a ticket to ask for the band who won to sneak him on. Linearly he could have kept approaching his fake grandfather in the party scene but he chose to play the music. Music may be a big part of being holistic I think. Not to mention the ending where he decides to play for Coco (albeit I saw that coming) is totally holistic in nature, he did it more based on feeling and seeing the whole; not necessary as a way to make her remember; again probably not the best vocabulary to describe this argument but having him as a male p/s doesn’t feel right to me.

OS Plot Dynamics

Driver: Decision (In beginning, it’s decided that music is bad, his family decides not to support him which only makes him act out, they decide to make him a shoe-maker, which he rebels, and he decides to break into the mausoleum and steal the guitar only to then be warped into the spirit realm. His family has to decide to give him the blessing, it cannot be a forced action).
Limit: Optionlock (only so many people to get the blessing from, before running out of choices; although there are time devices such as his body slowly changing to skeletal body and not seeing Coco again, but these are just the stakes)
Outcome: Good (he finds who his father is, gets his family’s blessing and returns home safe with the memory of his true grandfather restored)
Judgement: Good (everyone is happy, alive and well, and Miguel’s passion for music is accepted into the family)


OS: Mind (Fixed Attitude) - stuck, music is bad, there’s no music in this family.
MC: Physics (Activity) - plays guitar, seeks his grandfather’s blessing to continue this process.
IC: Psychology (Manner of Thinking) - Could be his assumed manner of thinking by his family that music was more important than family, but it couldn’t be the opposite, Hector needs to fix this inequity by reconnecting with his wife and child (which he does at the end; when the truth is told that Hector is the amazing song-writer).
RS: Universe (Situation) - They are stuck in the spirit world together as they both agree to help each-other from a problematic situation.

Why I chose what I did:

At first I thought Influence Character Hector was in a problematic situation, I mean; the guy is LITERALLY stuck in this afterlife seeking to get out. But that would put Miguel into Mind which seemed right at first, having forsaken his family over music, but after concluding that the overall characters change from their ATTITUDE of music is bad to music is good, I realized that Miguel could better be suited as a steadfast, drawing his through line as a problematic Activity; which is totally true. All his problems stem from his passion to play the guitar. He could think about it all he likes, it’s the activity itself, of merely holding a guitar that gets him into trouble and causes his grandmother to react irrationally by breaking it (as reinforced by Signpost 1’s Impulsive Responses). His own reluctance to return home without being able to play causes further problems to arise when he actively ventures throughout the spirit realm, causing his deceased family to chase after him. His problems stem from his activities; causing problems for everyone else.

Which puts IC Hector into Psychology (manner of thinking). Which is pretty clear. Family is important and he’ll stop at nothing to get back to his daughter Coco before she forgets him, but if he is to change (since MC is steadfast as I proposed) then Hector would need to change his way of thinking. Since Activity and Psychology are both a process; if Miguel stopped doing what he’s doing there would be no more problems, and if Hector didn’t care and stopped thinking about his daughter, there wouldn’t be a problem for him either. I think he does change his process of thinking when he FINALLY apologies to his deceased wife (whom he hasn’t spoken to) and this comes closely at the end when they are singing together. He was reluctant to sing his songs, as he made them only for his family; when he is taken on stage with Miguel, he tap dances and sings (slightly; opening up to his inner truth)… it only concludes at the end where he’s reunited with his family (if anyone has a better way of explaining this by all means; I know I’m not explaining this right).

Concerns & Benchmarks:

MC CONCERN: Doing (wants to play the guitar)
MC BENCHMARK: Understanding (measures his concern of doing; growing his resolve of the important of music in the family – as expressed at the end by saving Coco with a song; we understand it’s importance, and so does the family).

IC CONCERN: Being (wants to be remembered, wants to be with his daughter Coco)
IC BENCHMARK: Conceptualizing (planning his escape measures his degree of being with his daughter)

RS CONCERN: Progress (how far they have come to reach their agreed goal of escaping and reuniting with family)
RS BENCHMARK: The Past (learning about the past measures their GROWTH as Great-great-grandfather/grandson)

OS CONCERN: The Preconscious (immediate response to get Miguel home; he is not one of the dead)
OS BENCHMARK: Memory (measures the impulsive responses through Ernesto throwing Miguel into the hole; the deceased mother singling impulsively on stage, and memory of Hector/Ernesto relationship as the singer/song-writer in the memories of everyone involved to be not true)

Anyways, that’s all I can post for now, I had a lot of fun doing this and giving it a try. What do you guys think? Did I nail it? or Am I way Off?! What do you feel about my analysis? Do you have any suggestions? Did I miss something? Do you feel something should be changed? Do you have a better way of telling everyone why my choices fit? lol. Please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

(and I would totally like to keep thinking of examples of why Dramatica chose what it did in RED, but I wanted to post this first to see what you guys think; because I honestly feel I hit pretty close to home here with one or two minor exceptions (maybe!)


Doing (playing the guitar, concert, running away, breaking in),
Learning (about spirit realm, playing the guitar and where Ernesto is)
Obtaining (blessing from Ernesto)
Understanding (who his father is, importance of family)

I just saw Coco and although I didn’t try a full analysis, I envisioned a throughline / domain placement for the story.

MC Miguel in Universe, The Past - Miguel is part of a family that hates music, he’s the only one who wants to defy his fate of becoming shoemaker by becoming musician. That’s what brings him troubles. He’s mainly identified by his positions in the story : the boy who loved music, the living boy in the land of the dead, De La Cruz’s / Hector’s gret-great-grandson, etc.
IC Hector in Mind, Memory - Hector’s main concern is being remembered by Coco and the rest of his family, he doesn’t want to be forgotten. Contrasts with Miguel who clearly stated at the beginning that he didn’t care about being remembered and would rather realize his dream than being part of a family like his. Hector’s the most fit to influence him.
OS in Psychology, Conceptualizing - Everyone is concerned with the reintegration of music (and, later on, Hector) in the Rivera family. Some are for it, like Miguel, Hector and Coco ; and others are against it, like the rest of the Rivera family and Ernesto De La Cruz.
RS in Physics, Understanding - Miguel and Hector eventually understand that they are part of the same family, and both of them realize the importance of their loved ones.

MC Resolve of Changed - Sure, Miguel still wanted to become musician, but at first he was ready to leave his family behind to live his dream, much like De La Cruz and Hector at the beginning. He eventually realizes the importance of family (“Family comes first”) and adopt’s Hector point of view by helping him being remembered, which successfully brings back music and a family member into the Rivera family. Ergo Success, Good.
MC Growth of Start - There’s a hole in Miguel’s heart. The audience is waiting for him to start realize the importance of his family.

(I’m not sure about the whole storyform but this was my gut thoughts on the throughline parts)

MC Resolve: Change
Miguel decides to put the needs of his family above his desire to pursue music. He rejects the seize your moment mantra, he’s willing to accept Imelda’s condition to not play anymore. At the beginning he doubted the dead were even there, or that their history really even mattered, by the end he’s doing everything in his power to prevent Hector from being forgotten. The climax scene where he’s playing to Coco especially isn’t about him proving himself as a musician. It’s all about restoring his family. The family then accepts music into their lives because music was so much a part of who Hector and Miguel are, having the family complete means music will be there too.

Growth: Not 100% on this one, but I got a stop vibe… Like stop ignoring your family, stop keeping secrets about music, stop running away from the people trying to help you. He never didn’t care about his family in general he just needed his priorities switched.

Approach: Do-er
steals a guitar to replace his makeshift one, wants to win the contest by playing for himself, has trouble at first learning to “grito” to psyche himself up to perform

PS style: not sure? But I think linear
The only thing I thought was a nonlinear thinking was Miguel putting together that Ernesto murdered Hector, but after watching it again that’s actually something Hector realizes, Miguel just noticed the dialogue matched. But he needs the visual of the guitar in the photo before thinking Ernesto is his missing great grandfather (though he feels they’re connected? so?) Playing to Coco makes sense, he knows she’s the last person who remembered Hector alive, he needs her to remember things connected to him. He has Hector’s guitar-- does she remember that? no? The photo? no? What about the song?

Driver: Decision
The family decides to banish music, Miguel decides he wants to perform, he decides to steal the guitar, he decides to go back for Hector’s photo instead of going straight home

Limit: Optionlock
There are only so many family members that can send Miguel home, the number of living humans that can remember Hector are down to Coco

Outcome: Success
Miguel is sent home, Coco passes down Hector’s stories, the family is restored

Judgement: Good
Miguel is happy playing guitar with his family participating

OS: Situation
There is a living boy in the land of the dead. Everyone is concerned with sending -or preventing sending him home. (The Rivera family, living and dead,the crowd at the music contest, Ernesto, etc.)

MC: Activity
Miguel wants to play the guitar. His family wants him to make shoes.

IC: Psychology
Hector needs someone in the living world to remember him in order to exist. The reason it’s down to one person is because he hurt his family when he left, changed his mind about leaving, and then got murdered as a result. Which influences Miguel because he’s been putting his dream of playing music above his family. He learns to understand why Hector changed his mind about his priorities and how much it sucks that he was never able to fix things.

RS: Mind
Both Hector and Miguel are musicians at their core, but have very different attitudes about it. Miguel loves everything to do with music, Hector’s experiences have made him more down on it.

OS Concern: Past
Everyone is preoccupied with what happened in the past. The Riveras won’t let Miguel play music because of their family history. Miguel is obsessed with de la Cruz’s legacy and chases after him for a “better deal” when he hears Imelda’s conditions.

OS Benchmark: Future
The Riveras are concerned about Miguel’s future if he pursues music. He’s gradually turning skeletal, reminding that he could be stuck in the land of the dead his entire future if he doesn’t get home.

MC Concern: Understanding
Miguel seeks to understand his passion for music, which he believes comes from his forsaken great great grandfather. He learns to appreciate his ancestors by meeting them as people and understanding what sacrificing everything for your dreams actually means.

MC Benchmark: Obtaining
Getting validation as a musician, from Frida, from Hector, from Ernesto, finally from his whole family. Getting his family’s blessing without conditions.

IC Concern: Developing a Plan
Gotta get across that bridge!

IC Benchmark: Becoming
He goes from nearly being forgotten forever to being properly credited as the writer for Ernesto’s popular songs and honored by his family’s ofrenda.

RS Concern: Memories
A ton of Miguel and Hector scenes are focused on memory. How they work in life vs. death, what Hector remembers about his life as a musician, what he remembers about how he died, culminating in Hector sharing the memory of singing Remember Me to his daughter.

RS Benchmark: Innermost Desire
They need each other to get what they want. Miguel is Hector’s last hope to see Coco again. Hector is Miguel’s link to see Ernesto. They both enjoy performing together. They grow to be proud to be the other’s family.

That’s all I got for now!


Welcome to the forum. I’m going to toss a few questions out to you, to steer your thinking about Coco.

• If there were one thing that defines Miguel at the beginning of the movie, that distinguishes him from the rest of his family, what would that be?

• In the first half of the movie, what is the biggest change that occurs? How does it come about?

• What is the climax of the movie? What are the events that happen during the climax?

Hey thanks,

  1. I would say that he wants to pursue music while everyone else thinks it’s a curse.

  2. Miguel steals the guitar, gets himself cursed.

  3. I was thinking the scene where Miguel comes home and sings Remember Me to Coco was the climax.

When in the movie does he stop pursuing music? At the end of the movie, what does his family do to remind us that music is a curse?

Now think about Drivers.

I see your point on this one (and you may be right), but I see this as happening after the climax, which I think is in the afterworld, at the concert. At any rate, that’s the scene I think you should focus on in order to find which things go into the Optionlock.

Kinda towards the end before the concert. At the end Abuleita tries to stop him playing.

Ah, see I was thinking of it like he decides to steal the guitar which caused the cursing, not the curse as an action on it’s own.

Yeah the concert definitely feels climax-ish to me too, but it also felt like the movie wasn’t over after he got sent back, if that makes sense.

Yes… but it all resolves when he plays the music and Coco reacts to it and sings the song. For a brief moment, they all get her back, and after that music becomes a part of their world.

It can be tough to get the hang of separating decisions from action drivers, because frequently both are present. I mean, actions are present and decisions are present, so it’s hard to see which is the driver. I’m forgetting the details of the movie, but I’m fairly certain in this case that actions drive changes: getting the guitar, discovering the murder, etc.

As for the climax, I think the reason that the movie doesn’t feel over is that the throughlines don’t wrap up at the same time. But without seeing it again, I can’t disagree with where you see the climax (with Coco). If the movie really is about Miguel being allowed to play music again, that only happens with Coco at the end.

This was the weirdest movie. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many conveniences—gimme’s—in a single story. A family that HATES music even though clearly their youngest is so talented he could save them all from a lifetime of sweating over shoes is one thing to buy into…but that’s just the beginning.

As far as Dynamics go—


The rest is…



Does anyone want to do this one together? Online User Group style like we’ve done in the past?

I have a pretty good idea what the storyform is, but would likely get it exactly right in a group setting.

Since I know I’m the last one to probably see this, we could start right away :slight_smile:

You didn’t see Moana?


I did, but for some reason, this one bothered me more. And I know I wasn’t in a bad mood this weekend because I saw probably one of the greatest films ever, Your Name, the very next day.


君の名は or Call Me by Your Name? I’ve heard people say amazing things about both.

I think you’re overreacting to this. I’m not sure they know how talented he is, they take pride in their shoes, and the divide between the two is there to make us understand how much they hate music: it makes all the obstacles comprehensible. If they were merely dismissive of music, then the movie vanishes.

Now, if you want to talk about the gimme of Hector… let’s talk.

So this is totally not important when it comes to story structure/Dramatica, but if Grandma Coco enjoyed her dad playing for him, why didn’t she say anything about it when her daughter started to forbid music? Ehh…I don’t know, something about the logic behind that whole thing is weird.

And Hector - presumably he’s been dead for awhile. Why wouldn’t he try to contact his wife and tell her what happened? I know she’s mad, but maybe he could just yell really fast, “Hey, i was coming back!” or something LOL I don’t know.

Your Name is this movie. it’s so good I’m getting chills linking to it in this post. Nothing like it.

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I guess it will please you to know that there are tours you can go on now, based on that movie. It’s super popular – I think it’s the highest grossing anime in Japan of all time.

That pleases me greatly.

I would love to do this online style, if my connection works out :smiley: put me down.

I immensely enjoyed the film and would love to join in. (About time I finally participate in an Online User Group analysis instead of just reading it. :smile:)

Ok then…

We could start with the different Throughlines - Overall Story Throughline first - which is something about dead people, right?

Universe, Physics, Psychology, Mind.

This is so interesting because looking back up, from 3 different people we have 3 different answers, lol.

I really want to watch this again and make sure, because my initial assessment was only what I could remember from my one viewing and reading everyone else’s explanation for why they chose theirs is awfully persuading my judgement. I think initially you once wrote (several times) that we can make an argument for any throughline but the key is to seeing where each goes in relation to the other.

And I know we are just going through one at a time right now, but this helps me in determining the OS:

Where mine and Nadine’s line up is with MC in physics, and IC in Psychology.
The other two are opposite. I had stated that OS can be in MIND for reasons I’m not so sure anymore. If we are talking about just the FAMILY, then I believe I would be correct, but because the majority of the story ACT II and so on, take place in the Land of the Dead, and for reasons Nadine had put: people are concerned with sending/preventing him home then I think the OS in being a problematic situation or UNIVERSE is something is not right here (even if the majority is about the family’s attitude towards music that changes their minds about it, since everyone is dealing with their own attitudes about it rather than having an opinion about Miguel being an actual problem in the world; because half the time people don’t know it’s him, and people just hear it as a RUMOR than something that’s a necessary fact with consequences to the Story Goal.

But then looking at both our reasons for CONCERN/BENCHMARK has just made me even more confused.

I’m gonna go with option C: for I have no idea (but nudging to what Nadine’s benchmark says, I really like the innermost desires for their relationship and the past/memory is what I was digging at too with my own assessment for OS; and realize that past is what’s being dealt with, not memory as I remember the article you also wrote depicting the differences) so haha, I’m leaning toward:

OS: Universe (original was Mind)

And if we’re both wrong than I’m just gonna go stick my head in the toilet.

Is there a key way to figure this out better? (usually I also look at the signposts and journeys to make sure they line up)
What does everyone else think?