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Academy of Art University (AAU) graduate, Daniel Arriaga, recently scored a major Oscar win in acknowledgment of his work on the award-winning animated film, “Coco.”
The colorful tale follows the protagonist, Miguel Rivera, a boy in search of hidden family truths, and an ancestral blessing to endorse him chasing his dreams despite the disapproval of some family elders.
The story chronicles Miguel’s travels through the mythical Land of the Dead, an animated homage to the Mexican folklore known as El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
From the authentic garb worn by the characters to the religious alters replete with hand-painted Calaveras skulls, the attention to detail invested in the film is apparent.
The story follows Miguel’s journey to uncover an unresolved family secret as their town prepares to celebrate the Day of the Dead, held as a culturally sacred time where a family is, as Mexican folklore would say, lovingly visited upon by their ancestors from beyond the grave.
Several AAU alumni contributed to 16 of the Oscar-nominated films this year, mainly in the areas of visual effects and animation, adding to standout films like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” and, of course, “Coco.”
Apart from cementing a name for himself in the professional animation space with his win, Arriaga’s spot-on execution of the acclaimed animated feature is an excellent reflection on his alma mater.
The Academy of Art University was founded in 1929 by Richard S. Stephens. Stephens’ daughter, Elisa Stephens, now acts as university president to significant effect.
Keeping with the family-run university’s core principles: It remains imperative to provide an educational environment that empowers artists to work hard, master their craft, and become well-paid and regarded artists in their respective specialties.
From Arriaga’s contribution to the magical world in “Coco” to other AAU alumni who also use their art to bring accuracy in visual representation to their work to advocate for cultural authenticity in storytelling: The Academy of Art University cultivates artists who celebrate diversity through the power of their storytelling.