We anticipated it, we watched it, and now we just can’t stop raving about it! There are so many things we can say about “The Book of Life” because we’re so fascinated by the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration and its magical portrayal of the underworld.
But “The Book of Life” isn’t just about the Day of the Dead celebration as there are a lot of messages that director Jorge R. Gutierrez wanted to tell us through the film.
Though Hollywood had its fair share of horror films this year, “The Book of Life” could be one such film that was specifically made to view death in a positive way during the Halloween month. It’s a fairy tale that is written for both adults and kids to understand death from another perspective.
As such, we’ve decided to compile a list of fun facts that you never knew about the film! From its song choices to the character’s designs to the film’s inspiration, take a look at the behind-the-scenes of “The Book of Life”:
1. Day of the Dead is about Carpe Diem
Although the film revolves around the Day of the Dead celebration, producer Guillermo del Toro mentioned in an interview that the important thing about the festival is life itself. He described that the whole message of movie focuses more on life instead of its opposite. He said:
It’s Carpe Diem, seize the day with mariachis. The guys that came before telling us, “You have to live”. It’s an emotional connection to the people that came before you.
2. Del Toro said Gutierrez’s pitch was a “terrible pitch”
During the film’s pre-production stage, Gutierrez recalled a time when he pitched the film’s idea to Del Toro. “This will go down in the history of cinema as the worst pitch of all time,” said Gutiérrez. He described that he had to yell all the ideas he had to Del Toro as there were about 10 gardening guys doing their job in the house next door, causing loud and horrible noise. In fact, he was drenched in sweat and almost fell into the pool at Del Toro’s art house 3 times (yup, 3 times) during the pitch.
The result? Del Toro told him it was a terrible pitch but he agreed to produce the film on the spot. He said, “Yeah, my daughters and I used to watch El Tigre on TV, and we loved it. Jorge has a very distinctive style and a uniquely Mexican style. And when he came in, I was already a fan.”
3. Inspired by Mexican folk art and Latin American folklore
Both Gutierrez and del Toro are passionate fans of Mexican folklore, which is why del Toro agreed to be involved in Gutierrez’s project.
As previously mentioned, Del Toro used to watch El Tigre on TV with his daughter and already became a fan when Gutierrez pitched his idea. Thus, he agreed to produce the film and said, “I love Mexican folk art because so much of it is handmade and it’s art by the people, for the people, about the people. It’s really accessible and a reflection of who we are.”
4. Family and friends as the film’s inspirations
While the film takes its inspiration from the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration, both producer and director mentioned that the film was also inspired by their memories with their family and friends. For example, Xibalba was actually inspired by Gutierrez’s grandfather, who was very much of a trickster as well.
Del Toro also said that the film reminded him of his time as a kid with his grandmother when they cleaned the grave of their grandfather during the Day of the Dead celebration. He admitted that he felt connected to Gutierrez’s script because it was very personal to him as well.
5. It took almost 14 years to produce the film
— Jorge R. Gutierrez (@mexopolis) October 12, 2014
It’s always easier said than done but “The Book of Life” turned out to be one such example of a fine quality film with a good script that took almost 14 years to complete.
During an interview with JoBlo, Gutierrez described that he was overwhelmed and his heart was ready to “burst” when the film is made. “I could not be more proud to be able to show it to my son,” said Guiterrez.
6. Gutierrez designed the characters with his wife, Sandra
The main characters of the film were designed to look like they were made of wood, causing it to be one of the biggest design challenges for Gutierrez and the film’s visual effects team. Augusto Schillaci, the film’s visual effects supervisor said they’ve avoided the characters from being “super-photorealistic” and focused on creating the characters in square form. Most of the objects also had an underlying visual language that even Manolo’s guitar also bear evidence of his constant playing:
When you get close-ups of the characters, you’ll see the carvings on the wood and the general wear and tear.
On top of that, the characters were all designed by Gutierrex and his wife Sandra – he designed the male characters while his wife designed the female characters. However, both of them joined forces to design La Muerte, queen of the Land of the Remembered. “We had a lot of fun – and fights – designing her, and our marriage survived,” he says with a laugh.
8. Pop music reference
Music played a big part of “The Book of Life” as the production managed to get the two-time Oscar® winning composer, Gustavo Santaolalla to put a fresh twist on the pop songs. From Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait” to Radiohead’s “Creep” to Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, the filmmakers managed to land rights to put a Latin twist on the pop songs in the film.
Written by Santaolalla and the award-winning Paul Williams, ” I Love You Too Much” is an original love song created by them for Diego Luna’s character, Manolo. Zoe Saldana and Diego Luna also managed to perform”No Matter Where You Are”, a song by a real-life married couple known as Us the Duo.
“The Book of Life” is showing in a cinema near you so don’t miss it!