One of the world’s most influential personalities, Oprah Winfrey, was recently enthralled by the upcoming animated feature “The Book of Life” from 20th Century Fox directed by Mexican filmmaker Jorge R. Gutierrez whose unique visual and storytelling flair were enjoyed by many in his television works such as “Mucho Lucho,” MAD” and “El Tigre, The Adventures of Manny Rivera.”
Another new song, “No Matter Where You Are,” is performed by a real-life married couple known as Us the Duo, who introduced the tune as their marriage vows – and then landed a record deal. The song is performed by Diego Luna and Zoë Saldana. “Us the Duo” is the first musical (artist) act to have been established via Vine and had become Vine’s first major-label signing. Oprah became so enthralled by the end-credits song entitled “No Matter Where You Are” that she had the real-life married artists “Us The Duo” included in her U.S. tour of “The Life You Want Weekend.” The couple introduced the tune of the song as their marriage vows that landed them a record deal.
In a recent interview with Billboard, “Oprah fell in love with the movie and she heard about us,” says Michael Alvarado, married to Carissa. “We are super jazzed about what’s being spoken about and just trying to inspire the listeners there,” says Alvarado further who shared that their mission is to “inspire people through music, encouraging people to pursue the passion they have in life and showing that love still exists, that relationships are important.”
In the “Book of Life,” Gutierrez presents yet another unique, vibrant and visually spectacular world and characters with a stellar voice cast that includes Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna, Christina Applegate, Ron Perlman, Ice Cube and Kate Del Castillo.
“The Book of Life” tells the legend of Manolo (Luna), a conflicted hero and dreamer who sets off on an epic quest through magical, mythical and wondrous worlds in order to reunite with his one true love and defend his village. Manolo, Maria (Saldana) and Joaquin (Tatum) – three best friends – have been close since childhood. Their bond was interrupted when Maria, who was a bit too rebellious for her father’s taste, was sent to Europe to become a proper lady. Joaquin joined the military academy and became a legendary bandit-fighter. But Manolo didn’t go anywhere – he stayed in San Angel and practiced to become a bullfighter, as his father did before him, and his father before him.
Music is a big part of the magic of “The Book of Life,” and the production was lucky to land the formidable talents of two-time Oscar® winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla, the father of Latin alternative music, making his animated feature film debut. Under his supervision, the filmmakers landed rights to cover, with a Latin twist, beloved songs from Mumford and Sons (“I Will Wait”), Elvis Presley (“Can’t Help Falling in Love”), Radiohead (“Creep”), Biz Markie (“Just a Friend”), Rod Stewart (“Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”). Additionally, there are beautiful, original songs written by Santaolalla and the award-winning Paul Williams.
“The music hails from all cultures and eras,” says Gutierrez. “The story is set in the past but the music is current. And the idea behind the characters singing these familiar songs is that mariachis don’t compose music; they sing familiar songs. So that’s what Manolo does; he grabs music from the culture.”
“Gustavo is known to mix the sound of Latin America with Northern influences, including electronic, punk and rock,” del Toro elaborates. “That became the sound of “The Book of Life” – the idea that these songs from all over the world, and from different eras would go through the film’s ‘sound machine’ to sound authentically Mexican, but at the same time have a global reach.”
For example, Manolo’s soulful singing of Radiohead’s “Creep” emanates from what he thinks is a quiet moment of solitude – though Maria is listening. He then embarks on the time-honored tradition of serenading the girl of one’s dreams. Accompanied by his rotund mariachi friends, the Rodriguez brothers (voiced by Cheech Marin, Gabriel Iglesias and Ricardo Sanchez “Mandril”), they try fun, though hardly romantic versions of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” – the latter to the accompaniment of a toy piano.
These are great songs, to be sure, but Maria is unimpressed. That is, until Manolo, absent his three pals, warbles a new song, “I Love You Too Much” (music by Gustavo Santaolalla, lyric by Paul Williams), which touches Maria’s heart. “Manolo realizes he has to sing from the heart and not use someone else’s song,” the director explains. “‘I Love You Too Much’ is a love song that pours out of his heart and soul, and it works!”
“The Book of Life” is set in Mexico, but its music, heart, humor and themes are universal – as are its talented cast and crew. “We have people from all over the world who worked on this movie,” says Booker. Above all, the film is about the importance of shaping one’s own destiny. As The Candle Maker (voiced by Ice Cube) tells us, “Write your own story.”
“The Book of Life” opens October 16 in cinemas (2D and 3D) from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.