UHV professor writes book adaptation for Disney

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

Oct. 16, 2017 at 9:45 p.m.
Updated Oct. 17, 2017 at 10:37 a.m.

"Coco: A Story about Music, Shoes and Family," by Diana Lopez

"Coco: A Story about Music, Shoes and Family," by Diana Lopez   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

Fans wanting a sneak peek at The Walt Disney Co.'s upcoming November film "Coco" can pick up the book version written by Victoria author Diana Lopez that was released Oct. 10.

"I was ecstatic they thought of me" to write the book, Lopez said.

The University of Houston-Victoria associate professor of creative writing wrote "Coco: A Story About Music, Shoes and Family."

Writing science fiction and fantasy has been her dream, Lopez said.

"This story has kind of an off-world setting, so I had to do some world building," Lopez said. "This is like writing fantasy with training wheels."

Set during Dia De Los Muertos, "Coco" follows the story of a 12-year-old Mexican boy named Miguel who loves music and wants to become an accomplished musician.

However, his family has banned music for generations.

In his desire to be a musician, he finds himself crossing over into the Land of the Dead with his dog, Dante.

There, Miguel begins a journey to find the secret history of his family.

As Lopez turned the screenplay by Adrian Molina into a novel adaptation, she was able to add additional themes and character development.

The main character's storyline remained untouched, she said.

"He's got so many relatives, and it was a chance to explore what these histories were," she said. "I could bring in extra scenes, and they will be doing things that you're not going to see in the movie."

In her 250-page novel, secondary characters have more backstory and larger roles, she said.

Her book is not all black and white, she said. Design elements include colorful borders and papel picado, a type of Mexican folk art.

Translating the film into the book included mentioning colors and images, such as fireworks, musical instruments and pan dulce.

"The audience will appreciate the details, familiar food, familiar sounds and imagery," she said.

Disney Press editors of the project took interest in Lopez after reading her book "Confetti Girl," she said.

The invitation she received in November 2016 to write the middle grade novel required her to come up with original content, a fun and creative challenge.

She has not seen the film because it was not ready at the time of the project, she said, so she was sent the screenplay and setting and character concept art to work from.

"It'll be hard to remember which scenes are from the screenplay," she said, laughing.

Lopez's book will be one of several titles written by Latino authors, ranging from picture books to young adult novels, connected to the movie.

"Diana is a talented writer who has an understanding of how to reach young people," said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts and Sciences. "She brings an outstanding talent to UHV's faculty, and it is exciting to see her talent receive such prestigious recognition from an international business."

Lopez will travel to Hollywood for the movie premiere in a couple of weeks, she said.

Writing is like a form of mind control because images are planted into the reader's mind, Lopez said.

"You can see it on screen, but when you're writing, you have to put it on a page that allows the reader's imagination to envision," she said. "The stronger you are as a writer, the more control you have over the images."

Her favorite aspect of the story is that it is multi-generational, she said. Miguel knows his relatives up to his great-great-grandmother.

"This is true of a lot of Mexican-American culture, staying in touch with elders," she said.

Her project goes hand in hand with her promotion of diverse literature, she said.

Lopez speaks with educators about providing culturally relevant books to students, she said.

"Not seeing enough books about me or people like me - that's the world I grew up in," she said. "I don't want children growing up in a world where they don't see books about them."


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