Ultimate Disney Tournament: Coco vs. The Santa Clause 2

Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament. I hope you’re all ramping up for a good Memorial Day weekend. I know I am. And what better way to celebrate the holiday than by watching two movies about completely unrelated ones. Yes, today we have #16 Coco going up against #241 The Santa Clause 2. It’s Dia de los Muertos vs. Christmas! Who will win? We’ll never know unless we read on!

#16 – Coco (2017)

Director: Lee Unkrich

Writers: Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich

Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Ana Ofelia Maguia, and Edward James Olmos

Plot: A living boy is accidentally sent to the Land of the Dead and must get his great-great-grandfather’s blessing to return to the living. 

Review: Coco is, without a doubt, one of my favorite movies of all time. I think it’s a masterpiece. I absolutely love everything about it. It’s gorgeous. It’s emotional. The music is fantastic. The characters are wonderful. The story is strong. If you haven’t guessed, this review is just going to be me gushing about Coco for a couple paragraphs. I hope we’re all cool with that. 

I’m not over exaggerating when I say that, in my opinion, Coco has one of the best story lines in movies. On its surface, it doesn’t sound like much. A boy gets trapped in the Land of the Dead. However, when you experience it, it feels like so much more. He’s not only following his dream. He’s breaking down decades of family drama. He’s righting wrongs left and right. He’s dealing with family, and legacy, and forgiveness, and death, and all kinds of complicated matters children’s entertainment is usually afraid to approach. Plus, there’s a very dark, serious turn about halfway through that I didn’t see coming. But, watching it back though, everything makes sense. It was all foreshadowed and there’s not a single plot hole. It’s honestly a really masterful script and I’m not just saying that as a Pixar fanboy.

Then, there’s the absolutely stunning animation. Even in its relatively simple opening scenes, it’s already gorgeous with the picturesque Mexican village celebrating the Day of the Dead. However, the beauty really kicks into gear when we enter the Land of the Dead. I remember my first time watching the scene where Miguel first crosses over the bridge like it was yesterday. My jaw was on the floor. The colors are just so complimentary.We have the beautiful bridge made of orange petals with the blue and purple city looming behind it. And, there’s so much detail to the city. It’s just thing piled onto thing piled onto thing. And, it all looks so realistic. The attention to detail is amazing. I later read that there’s over seven million lights in that scene. And, that’s just in that one shot. This movie is filled to the brim with such a pleasing aesthetic. I could easily take several screenshots of this and have them hanging up as art in my house. It’s the beautiful imagery of Dia de los Muertos spread across an entire movie.

And, as I’ve said before, Pixar is always so good at mixing tone. Coco is a prime example of that. It deals with really heavy topics that will make you cry, but it’s definitely not a downer. In fact, it’s one of those movies you just smile thinking about. All of the characters are just so good. There’s plenty of hijinks from them to make you keep laughing. And, the music is top notch. Seriously, I jam out to the soundtrack on a regular basis. It’s all guaranteed to make you smile. But, it’s also not afraid to get you super emotional. I cry every time I watch it. In fact, Coco is so good that it’s a shame that people still look down on animated movies. This could’ve easily been one of that year’s Oscar nominees. It got more emotion out of me than the rest of the nominees combined. 

As you can tell, I love Coco. I think it’s one of Pixar’s better movies and that’s really, really saying something. I think it perfectly walks the line between heartbreaking and heartwarming. Plus, the animation is top notch. It’s going to be super hard for anything to beat it. 

#241 – The Santa Clause 2 (2002)

Director: Michael Lembeck

Writers: Don Rhymer, Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Ed Decter, and John J. Strauss

Starring: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Elizabeth Mitchell, David Krumholtz, Eric Lloyd, and Spencer Breslin

Plot: Scott learns that, if he doesn’t find a Mrs. Claus by Christmas Eve, he is going to lose his position as Santa.

Review: I’m not exactly sure why The Santa Clause 2 exists. It just feels like one of those movies that was made out of obligation, not passion, after the first’s success. No one really seems all that motivated to be there. The story doesn’t seem that inspired. It’s just kinda meh. It’s not a total waste of time, but it’s not essential viewing either. 

I think the main problem with The Santa Clause 2 is that nothing feels all that organic. It feels like the writers came up with the idea after being told to write a sequel to the first, not that this was a story they were dying to tell. The dating storyline is a flimsy premise to start with, mainly because the race against time was just a way to manufacture conflict. Seriously? No one decided to read the contract until the middle of December? After he was Santa for eight years?!? Come on, now! Meanwhile, the villain just seems shoehorned in because they were afraid that they didn’t have enough story, which, let’s be frank, they didn’t. Either that or they just wanted to give Tim Allen an excuse to try and be funny. Honestly, it may have been both. And, on top of all of that, I feel like they threw Scott’s son being on the naughty list on there just because they thought that was a funny position for Santa to be in. They had no idea why he would be on there. It shows because his motivations are not strong. He’s vandalizing because his dad is Santa and he can’t tell anyone? What? This whole script seems like they had about an hour to pitch a sequel to the first, couldn’t come up with one concrete idea, so just threw a bunch of their lesser stuff together. That’s really disappointing too because I have quite the soft spot for the first. I think it’s a really simple, funny story. This one is just weird.

I feel like there’s a simplified version of this movie that could’ve worked. You just take the basic concept of Santa dating and stretch it out into a feature, because those are the parts that kind of worked. Tim Allen and Elizabeth Mitchell actually have really good chemistry together. You could’ve spent more time having Santa subtly performing Christmas miracles for her, using his powers to win her over. And, in a mirror of the original, he’s back to convincing people he’s Santa throughout the movie. Just this time the person is a potential wife. Would it be a little too Lifetime movie-esque? Sure. But, I think it also could’ve been a quant, cute little Christmas movie.There’s no need to overcomplicate it with a big bad villain and the tooth fairy and all that jazz. 

Overall, I didn’t hate The Santa Clause 2 but I didn’t really have much affection for it either. It’s my least favorite of the Santa Clause trilogy. I just think it’s kind of bland and forgettable. There’s some decent stuff. There’s some awful stuff. It’s about as middle of the road as you can get. 

The Disney Smackdown

This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.

Our Heroes: Our hero in Coco is Miguel Rivera. He is 12 years old and would like to become a musician. The only problem is that he is from a family that has banned music after his great-great-grandfather abandoned his family decades ago to start a career in music. So, he’s constantly torn between not wanting to disappoint his family while also being true to himself. It’s a very relatable problem. And, he handles it super well. He’s never disrespectful but is willing to bend a couple rules to get what he needs done. Also, we see that he’s got a good heart, as he is often willing to make sacrifices if it’d make others happy. Plus, the kid can sing and, obviously, has a natural talent for music. He’s very much a character worth rooting for. 

As was the case with the first one, our lead character for The Santa Clause 2 is Scott Calvin. He’s been Santa for about eight years now, so he’s grown into the role a bit. He’s no longer sarcastic and bitter. He’s a much nicer, more gentile Santa Claus (which moves the movie’s rating down from a PG to a G). He’s one that’s constantly bringing magic to those around him and making everyone’s holiday a little better. Unfortunately, that also means he’s less funny. And, to be honest, Tim Allen isn’t the person I’m going to go with for a heartwarming, lovable character. He’s good for the rough, no filter, but you love him anyway kind of roles. This version of Santa would be better suited for someone like Robin Williams. Wait. I’ve got an idea. How about you just make a romantic comedy about Santa, don’t have it be a sequel, and cast someone like Willaims or Crystal in the role instead? Instantly better movie. Sorry. I’m apparently still in review mode. Overall, I like the character of Scott Calvin/Santa Clause. It just feels like this wasn’t the movie for that character. 

Miguel is easily the more likable protagonist. Coco takes this win.

***MAJOR COCO SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT***

Our Beloved Side Characters: One of the things that makes Coco so pleasant is that Miguel’sfamily is filled with such wonderful characters. In the Land of the Dead, his main ally is his friend Hector who he eventually learns is his great-great-grandfather. He’s a terrifically complex character. On one hand, he’s very comedic with gags such as him crossdressing and singing silly songs about attractive ladies. On the other, he’s a super tragic figure. He just wants the chance to be reunited with the family he regrets leaving behind. It’s a mistake he’s lived with for decades now and you can tell it hurts him a lot. I love this character. In many ways, he’s the soul of Coco. Then, there’s Mama Imelda, Miguel’s great-great-grandmother. I love the attitude they gave this character. She’s got a lot of spunk. You can tell that she had her heartbroken, but isn’t going to dwell on it. She’d rather shun him, his lifestyle, and move on to protecting her own family. But, also, you can tell that she really loves Hector and is having a hard time staying mad at him. It feels like a very real situation a husband and wife would find themselves in. There’s also a ton of other dead relatives. Unfortunately, we don’t really get to know their personalities all that well, but the movie wouldn’t be half as much fun without them. Miguel’s family on the other side is great too. Again, there’s a lot of relatives that don’t really get a lot of screentime, but you can tell that they all love each other and want what’s best for the family unit. The one that we do get to know pretty well is Abuelita, Miguel’s grandmother. She’s a really fun character. She’s carrying on her grandmother’s tradition of banning all music, which should make her unlikable. However, you can tell she’s got a deep love for her family and just wants to keep them safe. Unfortunately, that means discriminating against musicians. Her mother, Coco, doesn’t have many scenes either but there’s a very important reason the movie is named after her. She is the bridge between the generations and the absolute heart of the movie. She’s also the kind of adorable old lady you just want to give a big hug to. And, lastly, I couldn’t in good faith wrap up this post without mentioning Dante and Pepita. They are the guide protectors of the Rivera family and are super cool. Dante is kind of your typical, goofy, super lovable dog and Pepita is this huge, majestic, powerful cat. Their distinct personalities mixed with their gorgeous designs make them two of the more unique characters in Pixar’s lineup.

Like most sequels, The Santa Clause 2 features a blend of original and returning characters. All of the original characters are pretty good additions. We’ve got Carol Newman. She’s the one Scott is trying to romance. She’s a strict disciplinarian at her school but knows how to have fun and loosen up when she’s home. Like I said before, her actress, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Tim Allen actually have a lot of chemistry. I think they were adorable together. Meanwhile, there’s a new worker at the North Pole in the form of Curtis. I get nostalgic whenever I see him because it feels like this actor was all over my childhood. In this, he plays his typical nerdy, awkward, always worked up character type. He’s not an especially good character but his yell acting always makes me laugh. He’s also the butt of like 90% of the jokes. Scott’s family has also grown since the last movie with the addition of Lucy, his ex-wife’s youngest daughter. She’s adorable. I swear she was just a replacement for the young kid who’s amazed that they get to actually meet Santa Claus since Scott’s son grew out of the role. That part is in every Christmas movie for a reason though. It’s a trope that works. And, finally among the new characters, we have the Council of Legendary Figures. This includes several iconic characters like Mother Nature, Cupid, and the Easter Bunny. However, the only one we really get to know outside of the meeting in the Tooth Fairy. He’s good for a couple of laughs as he’s kind of insecure about the masculinity of his title. Most of the returning characters are the same as they were before. The only one who’s really changed is Charlie, Scott’s son. And, man, do I hate this kid now. He’s now one of the whiniest, most entitled, punk teenagers in the Disney canon. I think we’re still supposed to like him, but I wanted Scott to tell him off. I get that he’s not a little kid anymore and they didn’t know what to do with him, but this feels like the wrong move. Just put him a corner somewhere. Definitely don’t make him one of the centerpieces of the movie. 

For it’s rich complex characters, Coco takes this one fairly easily as well.

Villainous Villains: In Coco, we have a truly sinister villain: Ernesto de la Cruz. He’s an absolute scumbag, one of those villains that you love to hate. Afraid of losing his fame when his partner left and too untalented to write anything of his own, he murdered his friend and stole all of his songs. He’s portrayed as Mexico’s and the Land of the Dead’s biggest star and it’s all a lie. And, when he’s figured out, he is ready to murder a child to help keep the secret. It’s really scummy. I also really enjoy the misdirect. You’re led to believe that he’s the hero of the story for the first two acts. Then, boom, nope. Disney’s been doing a lot of twist villains lately and I think Ernesto is the best one. His motives making sense and a touch of foreshadowing makes his twist seem less like it’s coming out of nowhere. He’s not a villain that was forced in at the last second. Ernesto is crucial to the plot.

Oooooooooh, boy. The villain of The Santa Clause 2… It’s just very bad. He’s a Toy Santa who was put in charge of the North Pole while real Santa went South to deal with his business. He over analyzes the rules and eventually becomes a dictator over the elves. And, I swear they just let Tim Allen run wild with it from there. Again, I like Tim Allen. But, there’s only so much he can do. He is not Jim Carrey. He cannot pull off over the top, crazy characters. Or, at least, he can’t do them well. Toy Santa is just him doing the Buzz Lightyear “Mrs. Nesbitt” bit in half a rubber mask for the entire hour and a half run time. In fact, the only moment that made me legitimately laugh was when he quoted Buzz. And, he feels completely shoehorned in. Maybe they were afraid that boys wouldn’t be invested if they didn’t have a villain. I don’t know. But, this… this is bad.

Do you even have to ask? Coco definitely has the better villain.

Quotable Quotes: From Coco: “We may have our differences, but nothing’s more important than family.” “I have to sing. It’s not IN me… it IS me.” “One cannot deny who one is meant to be.” “Never underestimate the power of music.”

From The Santa Clause 2: After being told Charlie was on the naughty list: “Sheen? I thought he straightened out?” “It’s the Mrs. Clause.” “Oh, a battle of wits. It’s a shame that you come unarmed.”

Every single one of those quotes from Coco could be a motivational poster. Another easy win.

Songs to Add to Your Playlist: As I said before, I freaking love the music in Coco. In my opinion, “Remember Me” is right up there with the best Disney songs of all time. Not only is it insanely catchy, it’s also extremely emotional and meaningful. I can listen to both the sped-up “poppy” version and the traditional, sadder version and get something different out of each. I also really appreciate Miguel’s other two songs. “Un Poco Loco” is a legitimately fun song to dance and sing along too. And, I’ve been known to put on “The World Es Mi Familia” from time to time. Honestly, if Spotify were able to break down Disney songs by artist, I bet Miguel would be my number one most listened to. A lot of the other big ones have one or two songs. I can easily jam to three of Miguel’s. 

As far as I can tell, there’s not any new music in The Santa Clause 2, unless you count a cringey Christmas parody of “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” sung by Molly Shannon. 

Sorry, Molly. I love you. But, Coco gets yet point.

Most Magical Disney Moment: In Coco, I have to go with the moment that always makes me cry. Miguel has returned from the Land of the Dead. Hector is about to be forgotten, unless Miguel can make Mama Coco remember him. In an act of desperation, Miguel starts playing “Remember Me.” Coco’s face lights up as this was the song her father used to play for her. She smiles and starts to sing along. Everyone in the room starts crying. I start crying. It’s beautiful. I had to sit through the credits upon my first viewing because I was not going to leave that theater with tears streaming down my face. Easily one of my favorite Disney moments.

In the Santa Clause 2, Carol invites Scott to her work Christmas party. Using magic, they travel there in a one horse open sleigh with a perfect snowfall. When they arrive, everyone seems bored and not in the holiday spirit at all. Scott fixes this by putting on a bit of a presentation where he gives each of the teachers the gifts they wanted most as children. Before long, the party is hopping with games and toys everywhere. Then, Scott takes Carol aside, gives her the doll she always wanted, and makes mistletoe magically appear. It’s a lot of fun to see stuffy adults really embrace being kids again when presented with some Christmas magic and one of the rare moments this movie will successfully put you in the Christmas spirit.

For creating one of my all-time favorite Pixar Disney movie moments, it’s Coco again.

Legacies: he legacy of Coco is super strong. The movie has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 8.4 on IMDB, making it the 75th highest ranking movie on the site. It also did extremely well at the box office, as the 11th biggest film of the year. It won two Academy Awards: Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Remember Me.” There is a show at Disney’s California Adventure celebrating the music of Coco with an adorable Miguel puppet. And, there have been rumors for years about Coco possibly replacing The Three Caballeros in the Mexico pavilion ride at Epcot, but those may just be a pipe dream. A couple of Mexican restaurants in Tokyo and China’s parks are themed to Coco as well. But, most importantly, Coco has been praised for its admiration and respect for Mexican culture, ignoring the fact that Disney wanted to trademark Dia de los Muertos.  It’s also the first movie with a budget over $100 million to feature an all Latino cast. As a result, the movie was a massive hit in Mexico, quickly becoming their highest grossing movie of all-time. Overall, I’d say Coco is easily one of the most beloved and cherished movies Disney has put out in the last ten years.

Overall, the legacy of The Santa Clause 2 is mixed. It has a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.6 on IMDB. The movie was a moderate hit at the box office, becoming one of the highest grossing Christmas movies. It did well enough that there was a third Santa Clause film four years later. And, that’s pretty much it. No awards. No rides. Nothing. Just mixed reviews and a moderate level of success.

I don’t think I’m breaking any ground by saying Coco is the more impactful and beloved film of the two.

AND THE WINNER IS

COCO

Was there ever really any doubt? I mean… I couldn’t even give The Santa Clause 2 a single point. I really, really freaking love Coco. As I said before, it’s one of my favorite movies ever. The Santa Clause 2 never stood a chance.

Congratulations, Miguel, Hector, and the rest of the Rivera family! You live on to fight another day… even though half of you are dead.

Thank you for joining me today. It was a lot of fun revisiting these two movies, even if it wasn’t necessarily the right time to do so. There’s going to be a bit of delay between this post and the next. I’m going to take the holiday weekend off to just relax with my family. I hope you have a fantastic Memorial Day and I’ll see you in a couple days for Frankenweenie vs. Midnight Madness.

See you then!

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