For fans of animation, one of the most exciting names to see attached to The Book Of Life is Guillermo del Toro. The Mexican director/producer/writer has created a massive following thanks to his truly unique style. His most recent project sees him in a producing role for a fellow Mexican filmmaker and director Jorge Gutierrez. With The Book of Life, the two men have teamed up to create one of the most exciting and unconventional animated films of the yea. For those unfamiliar with del Toro or Gutierrez’s style, it’s highly advisable to check out some of their films on demand or online before heading into The Book of Life – you’ll immediately recognize their irreverent touch on this perfectly timed Halloween film. Favorites include Mad or del Toro’s famous Pan’s Labyrinth.
The film centers around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The holiday, which is actually spread between October 31st and November 2nd, is a celebration and honoring by families of those members of their kin who have passed on. Altars are made both at home and in cemeteries with the favorite foods and drinks of the deceased family member, as well as traditional decorations like elaborately painted sugar skulls and marigolds. Often times people have picnics at the graves of their loved ones or sleep in the cemetery with the hundreds of others who join them in their honoring of the deceased. It’s a distinctly Mexican holiday and is truly a celebration at its core, which makes it perfect fodder for the unique content and dazzling animation we hope to see in The Book of Life.
As for the film itself, the story takes place during the Dia de los Muertos festivities and surrounds a young man named Manolo (voiced by Diego Luna). Manolo is pining for the beautiful Maria (Zoe Saldana), but he’s not alone in his affection for Maria, as the suave Joaquin (Channing Tatum) also has his eyes set on her. Two spirits, La Muerte and Xibalba, notice the love triangle and decide to bet on who will win Maria’s heart. After Manolo dazzles Maria with a romantic display, Xibalba sends a snake to kill him for fear of losing the bet. Manolo is killed by the snake, but wakes up in the Land of the Remembered. From there, he must try to find his way back to Maria before he loses her forever to Joaquim.
Needless to say, the film’s preview hints at dazzling animation on a level only del Toro and Gutierrez can create, thanks also to the help of the film’s art director and production designer Paul Sullivan, in his first directing role ever. Sullivan and Gutierrez’s art and animation from the film is also featured in The Art of The Book of Life, created in conjunction with Dark Horse Comics. For animation fanatics, it’s certainly worth a trip to your local bookstore to check out the dazzlingly quirky art you’ll see in the film. For both the book and film Gutierrez was adamant that the concept art match the final product, telling The Hollywood Reporter when discussing past films, “I saw every single one that comes out and my biggest heartbreak is that I see all this glorious art, and then the movie doesn’t look like that! The mandate of this movie was: Our ‘Art of’ book is going to look exactly like the movie. And every artist poured their heart and soul into that idea.”
If that isn’t enough for you, the studio behind the film, Reel FX Creative Studios has recently announced they’ll be testing virtual reality for the video’s home-video release in a few months. They’re hoping that it will not only encourage sales of the video but will also generate enough interest in it to make it a franchise option.
To put it simply, this isn’t a film to miss. If you haven’t yet been convinced, then the trailer surely will do the trick. Just imagine that fantastic artwork coming to life on the screen in 3D animation. The Book of Life hit theaters in the States on October 17th, just in time for your own Halloween and Dia de los Muertos festivities!