Here’s Why ‘Coco’s Mexican-American Co-Director Can’t Get an Oscar Nomination

Lead Photo: 'Coco' still courtesy of Disney-Pixar
'Coco' still courtesy of Disney-Pixar
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Coco, Pixar’s latest animated success, secured two Oscar nominations on Tuesday: Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Remember Me.” The movie is seemingly the heavy favorite in the animated category, but if it wins, you won’t see Mexican-American co-director Adrian Molina pick up a statuette.

Instead, we’ll likely hear Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson give speeches about the Día de Muertos film. Unfortunately, the Academy’s rules keep Molina from receiving a nomination. “The designated recipient(s) must be the key creative individual(s) most clearly responsible for the overall achievement. A maximum of two persons may be designated as nominees, one of whom must be the credited director and the other of whom must have a producer credit.” Molina – who wrote the script and was later bumped up to co-director – is not listed as the film’s main director. That title goes to Unkrich, with Anderson, the film’s producer, receiving the second slot, leaving Molina on the outs.

‘Coco’ still courtesy of Disney-Pixar
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But Molina’s lack of nomination is not an isolated case. Back in 2004, City of God (a 2002 Brazilian film) garnered a nomination for Best Director. However, the honor only went to the person credited on the film, Fernando Mirelles. That meant co-director Katia Lund didn’t receive any recognition.

Lund originally didn’t know it would play out this way, and decided to weigh her options. “There are two ways to go,” she told The Guardian in 2004. “One, you fight for recognition. And I really don’t think I will gain anything from that. It might happen down the road, but I just don’t want to be fighting now. When I made the film, it was much more important to me to bring the issue [of urban violence] to debate because, in Brazil, no one was talking about these things.” She chose to go with option No. 2: celebrating the accomplishments of the film, which earned four Oscar nominations that year.

There are also instances where two credited directors exist. For Brave, Pixar’s 2012 animated film, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (neither of whom is listed as a co-director) picked up nominations and statuettes for Best Animated Feature. And this year, Loving Vincent, another feature in the same category as Coco has four nominees: Directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, who share the credit, and Producers Ivan Mactaggart and Sean M. Bobbitt.

Though it’s the Oscars’ nomination system that led to the exclusion of Molina, it will likely also bring negative attention to Pixar. If Unkrich and Anderson win, they’ll receive Oscars for a film deeply inspired by Mexican culture. Meanwhile, one of the Mexican-American voices crucial to the development of the film will not.