Coco's Danta and Pepita
Barbara Robertson
January 25, 2018

Coco's Danta and Pepita

Among the characters Pixar created for Coco are Dante the dog and Pepita the spirit guide.
Dante, a Mexican Xoloitzcuintil dog and Miguel’s loyal companion, follows the boy into the Land of the Dead. Like all Xolo dogs, Dante is nearly hairless, with only little tufts of hair on his body. 

“There’s nowhere to hide his wrinkles,” says Christian Hoffman, characters supervisor. 

Xolo is a street dog with no fat, so rather than volume simulations typically used for large, jiggly masses, the character team gave him secondary animation through skin simulations. As he moves, wrinkles form, particularly on his neck.

“He’s a very unaware character,” says Nick Rosario, directing animator. “He’s a puppy in a dog’s body. At first we treated him with too much of a thought process. We had to limit that. He’s our most cartoony character, so we used more deformations, squashes, and stretches than for the other characters.”

One of Dante’s most cartoony characteristics is his tongue, which droops from the side of his mouth and flaps as he runs. 

“His tongue is almost always exposed,” Hoffman says. “Rigging it was a big challenge for us, but fortunately we had a good analogy: Hank from Finding Dory.

Meanwhile, Pepita is great-great-grandmother Mamá Imelda’s spirit guide in the Land of the Dead. A folk art alebrije brought to life, Pepita is a fierce, brightly colored wildcat with the tail of an iguana, the wings and rear feet of an eagle, and ram horns. 

“She has complicated shoulders,” says Alonso Martinez, a character rigging artist. “Feathers, talons, and we can see every single tooth. It all had to communicate the same thing: This is a really strong character.”

Pepita is also a light source.

“All the alebrije have patterns that glow,” says Danielle Feinberg, director of photography for lighting. “We used a RenderMan mesh light to cast the light.”