Ana Ofelia Murguía, the renowned Mexican actress who voiced Mama Coco in Disney Pixar’s Oscar-winning 2017 animated film “Coco,” has died at the age of 90. Her passing was confirmed by multiple outlets on January 1st, 2023.
Background on Murguía’s Iconic Career
Murguía had an extensive career spanning over 7 decades in Mexico’s Golden Age of cinema. She began acting in the 1950s and gained recognition for her performances in films like “La Rosa Blanca” and “Angelitos Negros.”
However, it was her role as Mama Coco, the grandmother of the film’s protagonist Miguel, in 2017’s “Coco” that brought her global fame. Despite having over 300 acting credits to her name at that point, it was her first voice acting role.
In the film, Miguel enters the magical Land of the Dead on Día de Los Muertos to pursue his dream of becoming a musician. Mama Coco is Miguel’s oldest living relative, suffering from dementia and struggling to remember her father, who left their family before she was born. Miguel’s quest to uncover the truth about his great-great grandfather brings music back into Mama Coco’s life, finally jogging her memory.
The film was a massive critical and commercial success, nominated for multiple Academy Awards and winning Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Remember Me” in 2018. Murguía’s emotional vocal performance as Mama Coco was pivotal to the film’s heartwarming exploration of family, memory, and legacy.
Reactions to Murguía’s Death
Murguía’s death at 90 years old has elicited tributes and remembrances from fans and entertainment figures worldwide.
Director Lee Unkrich, who helmed “Coco,” tweeted:
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Ana Ofelia Murguía, who beautifully voiced Mamá Coco in Coco. She brought so much heart and determination to the role, singing “La Llorona” for the first time in her 80’s, that it’s impossible not to feel the loss. May she rest in peace.”
Fellow Pixar veteran and “Coco” co-director Adrian Molina wrote:
“This hurts my soul. Ana Ofelia Murguía gave Mama Coco her singing voice in a song that taught the world to not forget. Maybe it was feeling so far away from my own Mamá Coco that makes this hit home. Farewell Ana Ofelia, you will be forever remembered and loved.”
Actors like Gael Garcia Bernal, Omar Chaparro, and Kate del Castillo shared memories of working with Murguía and offered condolences to her family and friends. Fans also flooded social media with tributes, sharing how much her performance meant to them.
“Thank you Ana Ofelia Murguía for gifting the world with your artistic spirit. Thank you for breathing life into our Mama Coco. You will forever live in our hearts.”
Murguía’s Final Years
In her later years, Murguía still made public appearances at events celebrating Mexican cinema and continued acting sporadically in films like 2019’s “Mentada de Padre.”
She was also working on an autobiography chronicling her long, storied career in the arts. As late as August 2022, she participated in a radio interview looking back on her life and work. When asked about the impact of “Coco” and Mama Coco, she said:
“It was very exciting for me to be able to represent seniors, who are mostly abandoned. Working on this film sensitized many people who saw it, who perhaps stopped seeing older adults as a burden.”
She also sang a few poignant lines from “La Llorona,” a song pivotal to Mama Coco’s storyline – a last beautiful gift from the legendary performer.
Just a month before her death, she was spotted dining with friends in her hometown of Mexico City, still vibrant despite her advanced age.
According to early reports, she passed away due to natural causes related to old age on New Year’s Day, 2023 in Mexico City. She is survived by her son and fellow actor Juan Murguía and daughter-in-law Bárbara Torres, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
While Murguía leaves behind an enduring legacy thanks to a prolific decades-long career, for many fans worldwide she will always be fondly remembered as the voice of their beloved Mama Coco.
|Silver Ariel Award for Best Supporting Actress
|Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Best Original Song; various other nominations
Beyond accolades and celebrity tributes, the outpouring of love for Murguía across social media underscores how she touched people’s lives across generations and borders. She gave voice not just to Mama Coco, but to Mexican culture and the universal human experiences of family, memory, aging, and our longing to leave a legacy.
Though she only started voice acting in her late 80s in what would become her most famous role, her emotional performance struck a chord globally. It amplified representation of Latin American stories in mainstream Western media and introduced Mexican traditions around Día de Los Muertos to wider audiences.
“Her legacy will live on through her vast filmography spanning 72 years – but especially through her heartwarming & emotionally resonant voice work as Coco. She made me cry, & I’ll always remember her voice.”
Through channels like Disney+ and home media releases, new generations will continue discovering Mama Coco and the other nearly 350 film and TV credits Murguía leaves behind. Each time they stream “Coco,” they’ll hear her voice transporting them to the Land of the Dead to meet Miguel’s Mamá Coco.
What’s Next for Disney and “Coco”?
While the “Coco” franchise itself seems to have run its course after the 2017 film’s massive success, Ana Ofelia Murguía’s death may spur renewed interest in streaming and buying the title. This could potentially boost viewership and revenues for Disney+, though the effect is difficult to predict.
Her passing also comes just over a month after the December 2022 release of “Strange World,” an original sci-fi animated feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios that notably underperformed at the box office. Some analysts saw “Strange World” as a litmus test of whether original animated content could succeed for Disney without pre-established intellectual property like a Disney Princess franchise or acquired brands like Pixar.
In that context, nostalgia for 2017’s “Coco” sparked by Murguía’s death takes on another dimension. It raises the question of whether Disney can recapture the magic of older hits like “Coco” instead of relying solely on newer but likely riskier original concepts.
However, Disney already leverages recognizable IP across divisions: for example, adapting classic animation into live-action remakes or expanding the Star Wars universe on Disney+. Attempting to wring more profits out of past successes like “Coco” may provide diminishing returns compared to that broader franchise strategy. The company seems more focused on appealing to Gen Z/Alpha audiences with fresh stories versus purely mining existing IP.
Ultimately, while Ana Ofelia Murguía’s death may see some temporary boost in “Coco” viewership or merchandise sales, it likely won’t drastically alter Disney’s current film or streaming content strategies. They seem set on telling new tales using established franchises alongside releasing original animated features, despite the recent struggles of movies like “Strange World.”
But especially among Latino and Mexican American audiences, Murguía’s memory will live on through countless replays of her breakout voice acting role in the Oscar-winning classic “Coco” on services like Disney+. Though her career stretched over 70 remarkable years, for many fans, she’ll always be their cherished Mama Coco.
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