``Book of Life'' is rich with imagery from Mexican folklore,
with a special emphasis on the Day of the Dead, the food-
and music-filled celebration of the annual return of the spirits
of deceased loved ones.
Del Toro said he was moved by Gutiérrez's emotional, visual and
narrative connection to Mexico.
``It was a huge nostalgia,'' del Toro said, ``a very painful and
beautiful nostalgia that made me say I'm going to protect this
project and celebrate this guy.''
It helped that Gutiérrez presented his ideas and illustrations
over ``a trunk of tequila,'' the filmmaker said.
``Book of Life'' centers on two best friends angling for the
girl of their dreams, not realizing that otherworldly powers
have a stake in the outcome. The leaders of the underworlds, the
Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten, make a
wager on which lover the girl will choose.
Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum,
and Diego Luna lead the voice cast. The film also
features ranchera interpretations of popular songs by Mumford
& Sons, Radiohead, Rod Stewart, and others. Oscar-winning
composer Gustavo Santaolalla provides the score.
The approach to music and animation is unique, del Toro said.
``It's enchanting and gorgeous in a way that is not the
cookie-cutter way,'' he said.
Colorful sugar skulls—the traditional Day of the Dead
treat—inform the fantastical look of the Land of the Remembered.
Other Mexican folk arts, like handcrafted wooden dolls, are
represented in the film's everyday world.
``I'm not supporting a movie that is going to look like every
other movie, that's going to sound like every other movie,'' del
Toro said, adding that he tries to specialize in producing
first-time filmmakers to add to the diversity of voices in
cinema. ``Every time we did something unique, I felt very proud
of him. He's like my love child without the love.''