How the Filmmakers Brought Skeletons to Life in Pixar's 'Coco'

When creating and developing the skeletal characters of Coco, the team at Pixar was presented with quite a unique challenge — how do you make the characters appealing to the audience? How does a skeleton move? How do you make each skeleton different from the next? All these questions and more had to be tackled by the artists and filmmakers behind Coco.

Starting with development, the character department began their research for the skeletal figures by diving head-first into Anatomy 101, learning everything about the skeletal system. Once the research phase was complete, the team was tasked with sketching and using creative exploration to find which features would (and would not) work for the skeletons. With approximately 80 skeletal characters in the Land of the Dead (including Miguel's family), the character department had their work cut out for them. The team did numerous creative passes with various skeletal body types, including animation tests to decide whether the characters would have teeth (compared to no teeth), or wear wigs made of yarn rather than actual hair — and that's just scratching the surface on their artistic concepts of the skeletal figures.

The human characters in Coco wear face-paint during the Dia de los Muertos celebration, the filmmakers wanted to stay true to that tradition within the Land of the Dead for the skeletons. This challenged the team to create looks — especially around the mouth, that would not distract the audience with the characters movement and dialogue.

The animation behind bringing the skeletons to life in Coco broke a few rules and traditional guidelines. Starting with a 'walk cycle' animation test the team figured out how a skeleton, like Hector (pictured above), would propel himself — given that skeletons are much lighter than the human characters within the film.

Once the animation department determined how Hector and the various skeletal characters would move they requested additional controls to be added to the character rigs. These additional controls enabled the animators to add personality to each skeletal figure — such as Hector's hobble, which was inspired by the character Ratso in the film, Midnight Cowboy. After the team perfected Hector's hobble, they continued to add movement to the characters by using their controls to jiggle the ribs as well as various other movements.

The animation department had to break their rule of "staying true to the materials" to produce what they needed on-screen. The team decided early on that the skeletons should have eyeballs and eyelids — as the characters thought process is often seen through the eyes. The shape of the eyesocket, however, was adjusted and controls were added to work them as eyebrows to enhance the eye expressions. As the team continued to push boundaries, the filmmakers agreed to keep the lower jawbone attached to the skull and add lips to each skeleton. This allowed the animators to give each character clear mouth shapes for dialogue. Though the mouth may move, the team adjusted "just enough" to keep hard corners and angles so that it would visually appear rigid and not malleable.

Once the animation was underway, dressing the skeletons was a whole new task in itself. Technically speaking, the team at Pixar did not have the ability to dress skeletal figures and the math was much too difficult to solve, so the team began working on a new collision detection system (which took years to create and is still ongoing). This new system allows the artists to dress the skeletons without the clothing getting stuck in-between the bones or falling through holes (such as the pelvis). Emron Grover, Simulation Technical Director noted "Lee (Unkrich) and Adrian (Molina) had this mantra when we were building all the clothes called, 'Embrace the Skeletons' and what that meant was they wanted to see as much as the skeletons as possible, and if it was covered by cloth they wanted to feel the bones underneath."

For Hector, the team sealed his rib cage into one piece, leaving the indentations on each rib so the clothing would still move against and fall slightly into the crevices to create a textured movement without getting stuck or lost. The same technique was also used to close the gaps in the arm, such as the radius on the ulna and the lower legs. However, the team chose to keep the patella (knee cap) separated due to the acting movements of the characters. Unfortunately, the clothing of the characters would get stuck in-between the patella and leg bones, this made the filmmakers create a solution that involved wrapping an invisible-like cloth around the joints fusing them together.

This brilliant problem solving didn't stop there, in the character Mama Imelda, the team used a type of spherical forcefield that would blow wind upwards so her clothing wouldn't fall inward and get stuck in her skeletal frame. For characters with a larger frame, such as Rosita, the team used pillows (cloth filled bubbles with air) and placed them into the pelvis this allowed the clothing to sit atop nicely.

After the clothing is fitted onto each character, the Shading Department steps in to add depth to bone, skin, hair, eyes, as well as the way the garments look and feel — the team is responsible for making sure that all the materials fit within the feel of the film. The three fields the team primarily focuses on are color, texture (whether something is smooth or bumpy), and how it responds to light (whether it's matte or shiny). Using two broad approaches to the shading of the characters, the team is tasked to use a digital paint process or write their own custom software — in Coco, they did both.

The human characters in the film are predominately shaded using digital paint while all of the skeletons had to use a custom software approach (i.e., details added automatically). With over 10,000 individual bones, the custom software proved to be the best option as hand painting would take much too long. However, additional digital paint was added to the skeletons to create individual features such as face paint.

One of the challenges when creating the software was for the skeletal bones not to appear 'too' realistic. While staying true to the materials the team took photos of a rodent skull, cow horn, and whale vertebrae to build up a photo library of details and textures to overlay onto the characters. This technique worked flawlessly to create newer skeletons as well as ones that were a bit older, which proved to be valuable when addressing the numerous background skeletal figures of the Land of the Dead.

Be sure to watch the skeletons come to life (and look for all the small details) when Coco hits theaters on October 27 in Mexico and November 22 in the United States.

Related Posts
- Get a Peek Into Michael Giacchino's Scoring Process for Pixar's 'Coco' - Courtesy of Director, Lee Unkrich
- Coco's New Trailer Has Been Released (First Easter Eggs Spotted) - Join us for a YouTube Live Event at 10 PM ET to Discuss 
- Miguel's Skeletal Transformation Seen in the Latest Latin American 'Coco' Trailer (with Translation)

Pixar Post - Julie



22,1,4K Ultra HD,7,A Bug's Life,6,A113,3,Aaron Hartline,4,Adam Burke,1,Adrian Molina,27,Alan Barillaro,12,Albert Lozano,1,Alex Mandel,1,Alex Marino,1,Allison Rutland,1,Alonso Martinez,1,Ana Lacaze,1,Andrea Warren,5,Andrew Gordon,3,Andrew Jimenez,1,Andrew Stanton,55,Angelique Reisch,3,Angus MacLane,32,Animation Podcast,7,Annie Awards,1,App Review,7,Apple Watch,1,Armie Hammer,2,Art,37,Art of Animation Resort,5,Artists Help Japan,6,Austin Madison,4,Awards,96,Axel Geddes,1,Bao,12,Barney Jones,1,Beth Sullivan,1,Bill Hader,1,Bill Watral,1,BIlly Crystal,2,Bing Bong,2,Blu-Ray,57,Bo Peep,21,Bob Pauley,1,Bob Peterson,22,Bob Whitehill,2,Bobby Podesta,4,Bobby Rubio,4,Book,8,Book Review,54,Boundin,1,Box Office,3,Brad Bird,57,Brave,144,Breaking,6,BREAKING News,56,Brian Fee,26,Brian Larsen,4,Bryn Imagire,2,Bud Luckey,1,Buzz Lightyear,30,Buzz Lightyear of Star Command,1,Car Toons,2,Cars,76,Cars 2,19,Cars 3,94,Cars Land,37,Cars Toons,12,Chris Chua,1,Chris Sasaki,1,Christina Faraj,1,Christine Freeman,1,Clip,4,Coco,106,Contest,11,Craig Foster,2,Cristela Alonzo,2,Cruz Ramirez,13,Custom Pixar Gear,6,Cynthia Slavens,1,D23,36,D23 Expo,9,Dan Scanlon,106,Dana Murray,8,Daniel Arriaga,4,Danielle Feinberg,6,Darla Anderson,27,Dave Mullins,14,David Lally,9,David Munier,2,Dean Kelly,4,Deleted Scene,6,Denise Ream,5,Detroit Auto Show,1,Dia de los Muertos,7,Dice Tsutsumi,8,Die Cast Cars,23,Digital,2,Director's Commentary,9,Dirk Van Gelder,1,Disney California Adventure,43,Disney Cruise,3,Disney Infinity,43,Disney Infinity 2.0,6,Disney Infinity 3.0,15,Disney Infinity Next,1,Disney Interactive,1,Disney Movie Club,1,Disney Movies Anywhere,4,Disney on Ice,1,Disney World,67,Disney+,23,Disneyland,32,Disneyland Paris,8,DisneyPlus,16,Domee Shi,12,Dominique Louis,1,Ducky and Bunny,4,Duke Caboom,5,Dylan Sisson,1,Easter Eggs,40,Ed Catmull,28,Edna Mode,1,Edwin Chang,4,Emilie Goulet,1,Emron Grover,1,Enrico Casarosa,20,Erica Milsom,6,Erik Smitt,1,Everett Downing,1,Exclusive,15,Fan Art,34,Farhez Rayani,2,Featured,1,Finding Dory,101,Finding Nemo,24,Float,4,Forky,19,Forky Asks A Question,6,Forum,3,Fran Kalal,1,Fun Facts,8,Gabby Gabby,1,Galyn Susman,7,Garrett Taylor,1,Giggle McDimples,2,Giveaway,5,Google Hangout,5,Hawaiian Vacation,2,Hidden Items,3,Imagineering,3,Incredibles 2,106,Inside Out,152,Interview,39,Jack-Jack,1,Jackson Storm,10,Jake Monaco,4,James Ford Murphy,13,Jamie Roe,1,Jason Deamer,1,Jason Johnston,3,Jay Shuster,3,Jay Ward,10,Jeff Danna,4,Jeff Pidgeon,1,Jeremie Talbot,1,Jerome Ranft,1,Jessie,3,Jesus Martinez,2,Jim Capobianco,4,Jim Morris,7,Joe Ranft,2,John Goodman,1,John Lasseter,69,John Ratzenberger,2,John Walker,4,Jon Reisch,3,Jonas Rivera,31,Jonathan Pytko,2,Josh Cooley,52,Jude Brownbill,2,Juliet Roth,1,Katherine Sarafian,1,Katy Wu,1,Kelly Bonbright,1,Kelsey Mann,14,Kemp Powers,5,Kerry Washington,2,Kevin O'Hara,1,Kevin Reher,3,Kitbull,6,Knick Knack,2,Kori Rae,25,Krissy Cababa,3,Kristen Lester,8,La Luna,18,Lamp Life,6,Laura Meyer,2,Lava,21,Lee Unkrich,77,Lighting McQueen,39,Lightning McQueen,1,Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy,2,Lindsey Collins,6,Ling Tu,1,Loop,6,Lou,17,Lou Hamou-Lhadi,1,Louise Smythe,1,Luca,1,Luxo Jr.,3,Mahyar Abousaeedi,1,Manticore,1,Marc Greenberg,1,Marc Sondheimer,5,Mark Andrews,39,Mark Nielsen,7,Mark Orton,1,Mark Walsh,35,Matt Jones,3,Matt Nolte,1,Matthew Luhn,2,Merida,15,Michael B. Johnson,2,Michael Blackmon,1,Michael Comet,2,Michael Fong,3,Michael Frederickson,1,Michael Giacchino,27,Michael Warch,1,Michal Makarewicz,6,Mike Venturini,1,Mike Wazowski,2,Mike Wu,1,Miss Fritter,1,Monsters At Work,6,Monsters Inc,50,Monsters University,177,MotoExpo,1,Motorama,3,Movie,1,Movie Review,19,Municiberg,1,Mychael Danna,6,Natalie Certain,3,Nathan Farris,2,Nathan Fillion,2,Newt,1,Nick Pitera,1,Nicole Paradis Grindle,4,Onward,46,OUT!,5,Owen Wilson,2,Party Central,12,Partysaurus Rex,50,Patrick Lin,2,Paul Abadilla,8,Pete Docter,121,Peter Sohn,33,Philip Metschan,2,Piper,16,Pixar Animation Studios,173,Pixar Archives,2,Pixar Artist Showcase,2,Pixar Canada,14,Pixar Concept Art,33,Pixar Fest,4,Pixar In A Box,2,Pixar in Concert,1,Pixar In Real Life,3,Pixar Internships,2,Pixar Minute,4,Pixar Pier,9,Pixar Pipeline Project,8,Pixar Place,1,Pixar Post Book Club,12,Pixar Post Record,1,Pixar Putt,1,Pixar Shorts,140,Pixar Studio Story,2,Pixar Toys,66,Pizza Planet Truck,2,Podcast,74,Poster,11,Presto,4,Products,274,Products - A Bug's Life,9,Products - Brave,29,Products - Cars,38,Products - Cars 2,9,Products - Cars 3,20,Products - Coco,12,Products - Finding Dory,10,Products - Finding Nemo,9,Products - Incredibles 2,20,Products - Inside Out,16,Products - Monsters Inc,18,Products - Monsters University,24,Products - Onward,5,Products - Ratatouille,10,Products - Shorts & TV Specials,58,Products - Soul,1,Products - The Good Dinosaur,7,Products - The Incredibles,12,Products - Toy Story,42,Products - Toy Story 2,9,Products - Toy Story 3,5,Products - Toy Story 4,19,Products - Up,9,Products - WALL-E,9,Purl,7,Radiator Springs,7,Ralph Eggleston,11,Randy Newman,6,Ratatouille,22,RenderMan,4,Renee Tam,1,Review,33,Rib Tickles,1,Ricky Nierva,4,Riley's First Date,6,Rob Thompson,1,Robert Kondo,5,Ronnie Del Carmen,6,Rosana Sullivan,6,Rosie Cole,1,Sandra Karpman,1,Sanjay Patel,13,Sanjay's Super Team,18,Saschka Unseld,30,Scott Morse,1,Sequoia Blankenship,1,Shanghai Disney,2,Sharon Calahan,5,Shawn Krause,1,shopDisney,3,Shufflerz,1,SIGGRAPH,3,Small Fry,3,Smash and Grab,3,Soul,16,Soundtrack,50,SparkShorts,23,Stephany Folsom,1,Stephen Karski,1,Sterling,2,Steve Jobs,6,Steve Pilcher,1,Steve Purcell,18,Steven Clay Hunter,3,Store - Amazon,70,Store - App Store,12,Store - Barnes and Noble,4,Store - Best Buy,4,Store - Disney Store,43,Store - eBay,8,Store - Hallmark,1,Store - iTunes,45,Store - Target,14,Store - Toys R Us,4,Sulley,2,Tales From Radiator Springs,5,Teaser,2,Ted Mathot,1,Teddy Newton,2,Television Specials,3,The Blue Umbrella,40,The Good Dinosaur,93,The Incredibles,41,The Incredibles 2,35,Thomas Jordan,1,Thomas Newman,3,Tia Kratter,1,Tim Allen,4,Tin Toy,1,Tinny,1,To Protect and Serve,4,Toby Chu,1,Tokyo Disney,1,Tony DeRose,1,Tony Fucile,3,Tony Hale,3,Toy Hunt,1,Toy Review,31,Toy Story,151,Toy Story 2,2,Toy Story 3,5,Toy Story 4,114,Toy Story Land,15,Toy Story of Terror,37,Toy Story That Time Forgot,25,Trailer,144,Tylor Tuskmon,2,Type - Books,28,Type - Clothing,8,Type - Collectibles,26,Type - Holiday,2,Type - Pins,1,Type - Plush,13,Type - Toys,39,UP,19,Valerie LaPointe,3,VanArts,5,Victor Navone,1,Video Games,51,Vinylmation,9,Wall-e,23,Wind,4,Woody,23,YouTube Live,5,
Pixar Post: How the Filmmakers Brought Skeletons to Life in Pixar's 'Coco'
How the Filmmakers Brought Skeletons to Life in Pixar's 'Coco'
How the filmmakers behind Pixar's Coco brought the skeletal characters to life. An in-depth look at the teams creative process.
Pixar Post
Loaded All Posts Not found any posts VIEW ALL Readmore Reply Cancel reply Delete By Home PAGES POSTS View All RECOMMENDED FOR YOU LABEL ARCHIVE SEARCH ALL POSTS Not found any post match with your request Back Home Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat January February March April May June July August September October November December Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec just now 1 minute ago $$1$$ minutes ago 1 hour ago $$1$$ hours ago Yesterday $$1$$ days ago $$1$$ weeks ago more than 5 weeks ago Followers Follow THIS PREMIUM CONTENT IS LOCKED STEP 1: Share to a social network STEP 2: Click the link on your social network Copy All Code Select All Code All codes were copied to your clipboard Can not copy the codes / texts, please press [CTRL]+[C] (or CMD+C with Mac) to copy Table of Content