Composer Germaine Franco Helps Give Disney Pixar's Coco Mexican Sound

Chandler Dalton
November 8, 2017
Film composer Germaine Franco
Image courtesy of the artist

Film composer Germaine Franco came to Berklee November 3 to give students a first look at the upcoming Disney Pixar film Coco, whose soundtrack includes songs she composed, arranged, and orchestrated, as well as to talk about how she built an authentically Mexican musical landscape for the movie.  

Coco is about a young boy named Miguel who loves music and is willing to overcome challenges to pursue it—a theme already familiar to many Berklee students. Franco helped build Miguel's vibrant world by pulling inspiration from her personal upbringing and her trailblazing accomplishments. In speaking to students about her creative process for Coco, she detailed the brilliant ways she made sure the film's music included a “mosaic of sounds” that would make anyone feel as though they were dropped into Miguel’s hometown. Here's how Franco made that happen:

Drawing on Personal Experience

Germaine Franco was the first Latina composer invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences music branch. As such, she helped pave the way for Latina women who are passionate about music in film. Franco says she understands and appreciates the culture being represented in Coco more than any non-Latina composer could, and her personal experience as an aspiring artist parallels Miguel’s story. She drew on and incorporated her music and language into her process as music producer, additional composer, arranger, and orchestrator for the four-year project. 

Writing and Recording in Mexico

In order to immerse herself into the world that inspired the movie, Franco visited many cities in Mexico. She knew that the music would be in its purest form if it were played by native street and professional musicians there. Franco worked with instrumentalists who were raised listening to the traditional Mexican music they now play, and who learned entirely through sound instead of the classical instruction. She also got help from the Mexican Institute of Sound's Camilo Lara, who consulted on the project. 

Building a Soundscape with Video and Audio

Since many of the scenes in Coco take place in city streets and depict live musical performances, Franco talked about wanting to create “sonic texture” using the wide variety of genres in the background with the street musicians. And knowing that the beauty of Pixar films is in the attention to detail, the musicians were filmed from multiple different angles so the animators could see each tiny movement and create extremely realistic street musicians playing in the background of many scenes. Adding this attention to detail makes the vibrant world of Coco more immersive, and the incredibly talented artists that recorded the music are accurately portrayed in the scenes.