The Book of Life

If you have not seen the animated movie The Book of Life I would highly recommend it. This movie came to theaters November of last year, which makes sense because it deals a lot with the Day of the Dead. The story could come across a little bit typical with two boys (Joaquin and Manolo) fighting over the love of a girl (Maria). What is great is that there are elements that they added to the story to make it more than just a love triangle.

For one thing the animation is computer generated, but they chose to make all the characters look like wooden figurines. This just creates a different look than I have seen before in an animated movie like this. Another element is the use of music throughout the story, which is a mix of popular songs and original music. Music is a big part of the story overall as well, so the use of music is very important. The final thing that I actually really like about this movie is the character of Maria herself. She has her own story and personality, even though others try to use her or tame her she has her own mind.

Animation Style

The animation style is interesting and fairly unique from other movies I have seen. I really like the fact that they made them look like wooden figures, it adds a whimsical element to the story. The other piece is that it fits in well with the overall aesthetic of the story being around the idea of the Day of the Dead with the land of the remembered, the land of the forgotten, and of course the land of the living.

The other piece is that the use of color and texture plays out incredibly well on screen. With the land of the living looking about as you would expect, but then when you enter the land of the remembered the colors are more vibrant and alive. At the same time in the land of the forgotten it is drab and dark. It just creates something a bit different than I have seen before.


Now the way they use music in the story is really interesting. Part of the reason that music is so important is because it is looked down on by some of the characters. It is okay to have songs written about you, but not to sing the songs yourself. Throughout the story music is used to lend to some of the emotion and because Manolo wants to be singer, but is forced by his father to be a bull fighter. Through out the story they use a mix of both modern popular songs and original songs to help progress the story forward. I think the weirdest moment is when Manolo starts singing Radiohead’s “Creep,” it just ends up a kind of surreal moment to me, but also works in a weird way.


The part that is most exciting to me is the character of Maria. She could have been a non-entity in the story, but she had her own character and personality. The story is about all three of the children trying to overcome their parents, either a parent dying in battle, a parent wanting you to follow in your footsteps, or, in Maria’s case, a general disapproval. Maria is a wild child who wants to have adventures and not be saved, but save others herself.

My favorite moment is when Maria is sitting down to dinner with Joaquin and everyone in town at her father’s request. Maria is talking about art and books and Joaquin is acting like she would be a perfect little housewife. Maria ends up disgusted and decides to spend the evening with her pet pig to spend time with someone who is civilized.


The big conclusion is that I highly recommend The Book of Life as a fun and entertaining animated movie. They mixed some interesting new elements to tell a different story than the ones that have been seen before. This is not to mention the fact that the voice actors are fantastic. My favorite being Ron Perlman because he  just has such a great voice. The story is engaging and visually appealing – with more to the story than might be thought at first.

5 responses to “The Book of Life

  1. I enjoyed it because it for all the reasons you stated but also because it is one of very, very few pictures that focus on Latino customs, beliefs, and culture. Even though it dealt with death and the afterlife, it was not creepy. It remained very positive and gave a general “up feeling”. I took my grandson to see it. He was 4 at the time. He enjoyed it but there was a little too much story in it for him to follow. However, I ordered it for him on amazon instant view when it became available and now he streams it at least once a week, enjoying it each time. Although it was billed as being Halloweeenish and being released on October 12 to coincide with Halloween (McDonalds made their Halloween happy meal buckets Book of Life themed), it isn’t Halloween themed at all. I think it was an important movie as one of the first to be centered on Latino culture. I hope there are many more.


  2. While I was a bit ‘meh’ on the music, I still think it’s a shame that this movie didn’t get the notice it deserved.


  3. I really want to see this. Bizarre, though, I could hear the sound in that movie but saw nothing but a blank screen. Thanks for reminding me about this one. I forgot about it!


  4. Adore this movie — it got a lot of press before it came out but not a lot afterward, which is surprising.


  5. Such an awesome movie that hopefully will get its due years down the road when more people discover it.


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