This Adorable Grandma Was the Inspiration for Abuelita in 'Coco'

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Who knew the facial expressions and physical movements of Abuelita in Pixar’s Coco were inspired by someone’s real-life grandmother?

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Coco, Pixar’s latest hit, follows Miguel, a young musician who travels to the Land of the Dead during Dia de Los Muertos. Remezcla talked to Pueblito Guzmán, 88, who’s a mother of 10 and grandmother to tons of kids about her experience being inspo for the film. She lives in Northern California, not too far from the movie magic of Pixar’s studios.

And Guzmán and Abuelita have a lot in common—including using a chancla to get kids to fall in line and loving up on her grandkids—which is pretty much how Guzman got the job. According to Remezecla, Nick Rosario, who Coco’s directing animator, is married to Pueblito’s granddaughter. So he spent a lot of time getting to Guzmán in action. For years, Rosario has been enchanted by the way Pueblito can be super sweet and super stern in a matter of minutes.

Rosario told Remezecla: “I’d always felt that she was really interesting and when I came on to Coco I had seen the design of the character of Abuelita, and all the storyboard reels and I felt that she was very similar in character. When we were building the actual model, I was kind of taking references from my grandma-in-law at a party.”

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Guzmán was excited to be part of the movie as an artistic reference, but there was one small hitch. Rosario doesn’t speak Spanish. Rosario asked Alonso Martinez, his Mexican-born articulator colleague at the studio to serve as a translator during this process. Articulators an important piece of the design process. They model the character in 3D and put in all the controls for the animation.

Everyone knows that animation is a complicated process, but the most difficult part for Rosario and Martinez was asking Guzmán to wave arms so they could capture the movement of loose skin—affectionately known as Bingo wings—under her arms.

Thankfully, Guzmán was a good sport about this and even showed them how to pop someone with a chancla!