Disney and Pixar’s Coco doesn’t arrive in theaters for another eight months, but the studio is prepping audiences to know its characters beforehand, particularly its canine companion. Dante’s Lunch, a two-minute short, shows the titular dog having a very bad day courtesy of a disembodied bone that doesn’t want to be eaten. The Mexican scenery is on display, with Dante running (and being dragged) through the dusty streets and being dumped into a cart of flowers. The short also continues to tease its Día de Muertos storyline, with Dante’s bone returning to its skeleton owner, who attracts the dog’s attention more than necessary. The entire thing is a cute way to immerse audiences into Coco‘s world while simultaneously introducing its main players.
And in the brief time audiences have it’s evident Dante has personality, and that’s partially due to his storied history. In a discussion with Yahoo Movies, director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) elaborated on making Dante a Xolo, or Xoloitzcuintli. The Xolos (a.k.a Mexican hairless dog) are an ancient dog breed dating back to the Aztecs. As Unkrich states, “It was said that in order to make your journey through the afterlife, you needed to have one of these Xolo dogs with you.”
According to the American Kennel Club, Xolos are one of the rare breeds of dog whose look is due to evolution as opposed to selective breeding. Throughout Central America and Mexico they weren’t unlike the St. Bernard, using their body heat to aide those with arthritis or other ailments. They were even considered sacred by several indigenous groups like the Aztecs and Toltecs. As seen in the clip, most Xolos suffer from tooth loss, causing their tongues to hang out of their mouth; and Dante’s tongue definitely ends up becoming its own character, according to Unkrich.
In production for over six years, Unkrich considers Coco a labor of love, and with the rich Mexican setting shown in clips, and his desire to include small touches, like Dante the Xolo, and bringing on Latino co-director Adrian Molina – there’s hope that Coco will deliver on its promises.
Coco opens in theaters on November 22, 2017.