The Magic and Mystery of Alebrijes: Pepita and Dante
Ever heard of Alebrijes? If not, don’t fret, you’re not alone. I too was in the dark until a fascinating press event I attended. This is where I was introduced to two intriguing characters, Pepita and Dante, from Disney’s animated film, COCO. The journey I took to discover these characters and the legends that inspired them was truly enlightening.
Unraveling the Legend of Alebrijes
Alebrijes are a fascinating part of Mexican culture, but what are they exactly? To answer this, we must delve into the dreams of Pedro Linares. Known for his brightly colored imaginary creatures, Pedro combined different animal body parts and colors, giving birth to the art form known as Alebrijes. His creations eventually became iconic Mexican folk art sculptures. Fun fact – Alebrijes are exclusively a product of Pedro’s imagination!
Introducing Alebrijes: Pepita and Dante
In Disney•Pixar’s COCO, Alebrijes take center stage as spirit guides in The Land of the Dead. One notable Alebrije is Pepita, a vibrant creature that is a fusion of various animals such as an eagle, lizard, ram, and tiger.
Another Alebrije that you’ll meet early on in COCO is Dante, Miguel’s faithful canine companion. Dante’s look was inspired by the Xoloitzcuintli, a Mexican Hairless Dog, one of the world’s oldest and rarest breeds. The Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo, originated in Mexico during the Aztec Empire. A fun fact about Xolo’s is that they are known for their ‘healing powers’ due to the warmth of their skin.
The Making of Alebrijes: A Behind-The-Scenes Look
While at the Pixar Coco Press Event in San Francisco, I was given a first-hand look at how these animated movies come to life. The Pixar team does extensive research to understand their characters’ behaviors, movements, and legends that inspire them. It was fascinating to see how previous animated movies were used in their designs. For instance, Dante’s tongue designs were influenced by the dogs in Up and Hank’s tentacles from Finding Dory.
Alonso Martinez, while teaching us about Alebrijes, shared his personal collection of these vibrant creatures. We were then given an opportunity to paint our very own Pepita Alebrije! Another fun fact – these Alebrijes were made exclusively for our group!
About Disney•Pixar’s COCO
Disney•Pixar’s COCO tells the story of Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy who dreams of becoming a musician despite his family’s generations-old ban on music. Desperate to| Fun Fact | Detail |
| Alebrije | An art form created by Pedro Linares through his dreams. These brightly colored imaginary creatures, that later on became part of Mexican folk art sculptures, are created by combining different animal body parts and colors. |
| Alebrije’s role in COCO | Although Alebrijes are part of Mexican culture, they are not necessarily associated with Dia de Los Muertos. Pixar wanted to include the Alebrijes in COCO to be spirit guides for The Land of the Dead. Pepita is an Alebrije in the film and is a mixture of various animals such as an eagle, lizard, ram, & tiger. |
| Dante, Miguel’s faithful companion | Dante’s look was inspired by the Mexican Hairless Dog, or Xoloitzcuintli. One of the world’s oldest and rarest dogs, Xoloitzcuintli (Xolo) originated in Mexico during the Aztec Empire. Their name is derived from the name of the Aztec Indian god, Xolotl, and itzcuintli, the Aztec word for “dog.” Xolo’s are known for “healing powers”. |
| Pixar’s animation reuse | Pixar has the privilege of using previous animated movies in their designs. In Coco, they used characters such as the dogs in Up and even Hanks tentacles from Finding Dory to create Dante’s tongue designs. |
| Alebrije’s created for Pixar group | The Alebrije’s were made just for the Pixar group attending the event. Many others at Pixar wanted one for themselves but were turned down. |
| About Disney•Pixar’s COCO | The film follows the story of Miguel who, despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. He finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events to unlock the real story behind his family history. |
The Deep Cultural Significance of Alebrijes
Alebrijes are not just whimsical pieces of art; they hold deep cultural significance in Mexico. They are often used as a means of expressing the rich tapestry of Mexican folklore and mythology. Each Alebrije is unique, reflecting the artist’s creativity and imagination. Through their vibrant colors and fantastical designs, Alebrijes embody the spirit of Mexican culture – a mix of reality and fantasy, tradition and innovation, beauty and mystery.
The Role of Alebrijes in Disney’s COCO
In Disney•Pixar’s COCO, Alebrijes are not just decorative elements. They play a significant role in the narrative, serving as spirit guides that help the souls in The Land of the Dead. They are a unique blend of the real and the surreal, the familiar and the strange, reflecting the film’s theme of celebrating life in the face of death.
Pepita: The Mighty Spirit Guide
Pepita is more than just a vibrant Alebrije; she is a powerful spirit guide who helps Miguel on his journey in The Land of the Dead. Her design is a testament to the creative genius of Pedro Linares, featuring a mix of different animals that symbolize various aspects of Mexican culture. For instance, her eagle features represent strength and freedom, while her tiger stripes symbolize bravery and power. Pepita embodies the essence of Alebrijes – a mix of different elements that come together to form a unique, beautiful creature.
Dante: The Loyal Companion
Dante, on the other hand, is the loyal companion who sticks with Miguel through thick and thin. His design is inspired by the Xoloitzcuintli, a breed of dog revered in Mexican culture for its healing powers. Dante’s role in the film is significant, as he helps Miguel navigate the Land of the Dead and ultimately find his way back home. Dante’s character serves as a reminder of the importance of loyalty and friendship, themes that are central to the narrative of COCO.
The Art of Creating Alebrijes
The creation of Alebrijes is a painstaking process that requires a blend of creativity, skill, and patience. Each Alebrije is handcrafted, painted with vibrant colors, and adorned with intricate designs. It’s a labor of love that often takes weeks or even months to complete. The artists who create these pieces are not just artisans; they are storytellers who bring to life the rich folklore and mythology of Mexican culture.
FAQs about Alebrijes, Pepita, and Dante
What are Alebrijes made of?
Alebrijes are usually made from a type of paper mache called “cartonería,” a traditional Mexican craft technique. However, some are also made from wood, especially copal wood, which is considered sacred by many indigenous cultures in Mexico.
What do the different animals in Alebrijes symbolize?
The animals in Alebrijes often symbolize different aspects of Mexican culture. For instance, eagles represent strength and freedom, tigers symbolize bravery and power, and dogs are associated with loyalty and friendship.
Are Pepita and Dante based on real Alebrijes?
Yes, both Pepita and Dante are inspired by real Alebrijes. However, their designs were modified to fit the narrative and aesthetic of the film COCO.
Can I create my own Alebrije?
Absolutely! Creating your own Alebrije can be a fun and rewarding experience. It’s a great way to express your creativity and learn about Mexican culture.
FAQs about Alebrijes, Pepita, and Dante
Q1: What are Alebrijes?
A1: Alebrijes are a form of Mexican folk art that depict brightly colored, fantastical creatures. They were created by Pedro Linares, and are a product of his imagination, combining different animal body parts and colors.
Q2: Who are Pepita and Dante?
A2: Pepita and Dante are characters from Disney•Pixar’s animated film, COCO. They are both Alebrijes, and serve as spirit guides in The Land of the Dead. Pepita is a vibrant fusion of various animals, while Dante is a canine Alebrije inspired by the Xoloitzcuintli, a Mexican Hairless Dog.
Q3: How were the Alebrijes in COCO designed?
A3: The Pixar team conducted extensive research to understand the behaviors, movements, and legends of the creatures they were animating. Previous animated movies were also used as inspiration in their designs.
Q4: What is the story of Disney•Pixar’s COCO?
A4: The film tells the story of Miguel, a young boy who dreams of becoming a musician despite his family’s ban on music. He ends up in The Land of the Dead, where he meets Pepita and Dante, among others.
Q5: What is a Xoloitzcuintli?
A5: A Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo, is a Mexican Hairless Dog, one of the world’s oldest and rarest breeds. They are known for their ‘healing powers’ due to the warmth of their skin.
Q6: Are Alebrijes real creatures?
A6: No, Alebrijes are purely imaginative creatures that were created by Pedro Linares. They are not based on any real animals, but instead combine different animal body parts and colors in unique ways.
Q7: Can I make my own Alebrije?
A7: Yes, creating your own Alebrije can be a fun art project. There are many resources available online to help you get started with your own Alebrije design.