Anthony Gonzalez, the star of the new Pixar film Coco, has spent one-third of his life working on the project.
“It was a very long process,” said the 13-year old actor. “I auditioned when I was nine years old. I actually got to go to Pixar headquarters in Oakland when I was 10.
“I started doing the scratch voice, where they put my voice under the character to see what it looks like when I was 10. Eleven is when I got cast so I started going in more often to Pixar and doing the voice. At 12 I was still doing some voices. At the end of 12 I felt my voice was changing!”
In Coco he plays Miguel, a 12-year-old aspiring musician in a family with a generations-old ban on anything musical. During his village’s Day of the Dead celebrations he breaks into the ornate crypt of Ernesto de la Cruz, the world’s greatest musician, to steal the late singer’s guitar.
Then something strange happens. Guitar in hand, he finds himself transported to the colourful world of the Land of the Dead. If he can get de la Cruz‘s blessing he can go back to the world of the living and be a musician, but first he will learn the real story behind his unusual family history.
Gonzalez worked on the project for years without knowing if he would appear in the final film. “Every time they would tell me I was going to Pixar I would get so excited because it is a paradise there,” he said. “The food there is amazing, the Pixar store is just awesome and they have a big soccer field and I love to play. Every time I went to Pixar I would also be happy because I would miss school.
“When I was 11, it was around Christmas, and I went to do scratch voices. The director, Lee Unkrich, told me they had a present for me. I was so excited and I opened it and it was this big, wonderful piece of artwork that said, ‘You got the part.’”
Gonzalez has been performing in front of people since he was four years old. “I wasn’t shy,” he said. “It’s fun singing and acting. I can be free. I can express feelings when I am singing and when I act I can be stuff I never thought I could be.”
Coco has afforded Gonzalez the chance to follow his dream. He gets to travel to promote the movie — “Today I had poutine for lunch,” he enthused in his Toronto hotel room.
“It was the best thing I ever had. Who knew that French fries, bacon and gravy and cheese was a perfect mix?” — and more importantly, he gets to do what he loves. He hopes the movie will encourage other kids to follow their dreams.
“Miguel could be a role model for kids,” Gonzalez said. “Miguel in the movie really fights for what he wants. He wants to be a musician and no obstacles will stop him. He doesn’t let anyone or anything stop him from what he wants to do. I feel many kids will look up to him; kids who want to share their talent with the world.”