WWW: Teaching Día de los Muertos through Animated Film

Book of life picIt seems that with each passing year, we find it more and more common to see students learning about Día de los Muertos in their classrooms and communities.  A testament to the growing popularity and influence of Dia de los Muertos in U.S. culture and education is this year’s acclaimed animated film “Book of Life”, produced by Guillermo del Toro.  Día de los Muertos serves as the backdrop for the entire story, which follows a young man as he journeys through adolescence, facing his fears, learning how to celebrate the past while still looking forward.

“The studios’ willingness to take on a feature with Día de los Muertos as a backdrop may also have something to do with the growing influence of Latinos in the American cultural landscape.”  A recent review of “Book of Life” also highlights the fact that many of this film’s Mexican and Mexican-American cast and crew find this movie to be a historically uncommon reference to their culture in mainstream film.

The movie, animated and geared towards a youthful audience, is full of teaching points about Mexican culture and Día de los Muertos, combining mythic characters named after characters in the ancient Mayan story of Popool Vuh as well as characters that play Spanish guitar and enjoy bullfighting.  The mixture of Spanish and Native traditions highlights the foundation of the Día de los Muertos tradition, revealing that this holiday is a product of a variety of roots and traditions, just like many of us are today, both here in the U.S. and elsewhere.

“Book of Life” is a great way to display the balance between understanding the past and moving forward in your own way. As Guillermo del Toro said, “You need to have very deep roots with your country, but you don’t have to be tied to it, thematically, forever.”

For a glimpse at the beautifully colorful trailer and more information about the artistic creation of this important cultural film, visit Latina.com for a wonderful article.

This would make a great class trip! If that’s not possible, think about showing the trailer and encouraging your students to go with their families.

Since “Book of Life” isn’t available for viewing in classrooms yet, we’ve got another short animated film to recommend accessible on YouTube.  The film, “Día de los Muertos,” is the CGI Student Academy Award Gold Medal Winner for Short Film.  Done in a fun and whimsical style with notes of seriousness, students will enjoy the 3-minute film while also learning the significance of this celebration.


Image: Taken from Rotoscopers

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