Why Casting Coco’s Miguel Was Such A Challenge

Miguel Coco Pixar

As the most musically-driven Pixar film to date, Coco is packed with some amazing vocal performances. However, those weren't easy to come by. In fact, I recently sat down with the Coco team during the film's recent press junket in Los Angeles, and they explained that casting Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel was a distinct challenge because they needed to find a child performer who met all of the requirements of the part and also wouldn't age out of the role. Director Lee Unkrich explained:

Anthony was the result of a huge casting search. We saw hundreds and hundreds of kids all over the United States and Mexico. We couldn't start searching for a kid too early because he was supposed to be 12 years old and our movies take a long time to make so we had to make sure we found someone whose voice wasn't going to change in the middle of making the movie. Anthony was actually 10 when we first started working with him. He's 13 now. We had a tall order finding a kid to play Miguel because Miguel carries the entire movie. He's in every single scene of the film. We wanted to find a kid who had Latino heritage. Who could act. Who had the maturity to be able to do something like this, to show up and take direction, and also who could sing. It was like finding a needle in a hundred haystacks. All it takes is one and then walked into our lives one day and we never looked back. We realized pretty quickly that he was the perfect kid and he just got better and better over time as he started to grow up a little bit. Because we worked with him for probably three years.

Casting Miguel seems like a difficult process by pretty much any metric. Not only did it require a child actor with the emotional maturity to sell Coco's more dramatic scenes, but he also needed to be able to sing and share Miguel's Latino background. Those demands narrowed the field of viable candidates by a considerable margin, but then the team also needed to make sure that whoever they cast wouldn't age out of the role because Coco had one of the longest development and production processes of any Pixar film to date. As Unkrich said: "a needle in a hundred haystacks."

While Anthony Gonzalez did end up being the perfect Miguel for Coco's team, there were a few issues that occurred with his voice over the course of production. However, Lee Unkrich noted in our conversation that they managed to solver those minor problems in post-production. Unkrich elaborated:

His voice did change a little over time just because of his body changing, but we have some old tricks we can do here and there so nobody will ever notice.

From top to bottom, Coco is Miguel's story. Focusing on the young boy and his family's refusal to let him pursue a life of music, the film follows Miguel as he journeys to The Land of the Dead on Dia de Los Muertos to meet his deceased ancestors and get their blessing. Coco is making a big impression on critics, and it's already crushing at the box office, so all eyes are on it to become yet another Pixar winner.

Coco will make its theatrical debut tomorrow, November 22. If you want to know what CinemaBlend thinks of the film, then check out our in-depth review. As for the next year of silver screen releases, you can check out our 2017 movie premiere guide and our 2018 movie premiere guide to see what else Hollywood has in store!

Conner Schwerdtfeger

Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.