Disney Pixar fans are counting down the days until the release of the company's newest film, Coco, which hits theaters on November 22. As families across the country prepare to take a break from Thanksgiving festivities in order to participate in some of that cathartic weeping that Pixar so reliably delivers, many fans are wondering, who plays Miguel in Coco? The film's protagonist, a young aspiring musician, is voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, an actual young aspiring musician. Judging by his talent and dedication, it seems inevitable that this will only be the first big star turn of many for the 12-year-old actor.
Coco tells the story of a boy who travels to the Land of the Dead during Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, in order to discover the truth about his family and claim his own power as a musician. In typical Disney fashion, the creative team put tons of time and energy into the casting process for Miguel, the most essential role in the movie. They auditioned hundreds of boys, with writer-director Lee Unkrich telling Backstage:
From our experience, it’s really hard to find children who can act well, but we had to thread a needle because I needed a Latino boy, I needed him to be a certain age—but since our movies take a long time to make, I couldn’t have his voice change on me!—and ideally I needed a kid who could sing. It was just kind of a tall order.
It may have been a tall order, but they ended up finding the perfect fit. Gonzalez told Time that the audition process for Coco took "about a year" to complete, and that he originally just came in to lay down the scratch voice track for the film's preliminary mock-up. But soon, Unkrich and others realized that they had struck gold. Gonzalez told Time:
Then last Christmas, they said they had a present for me and brought me this box. I opened it and there was this beautiful piece of artwork that just said "You got the part." I was so shocked, I just fell to the floor. I couldn’t believe it.
If you've got any doubts as to the level of Gonzalez's talents, just watch this clip of him surprising people at Downtown Disney with one of the original Coco songs, and watch your doubts vanish into dust:
Gonzalez grew up singing mariachi music with his family in Los Angeles from a young age, and it didn't take long for people to recognize him as a powerhouse. According to his bio for New York Magazine's Vulture Fest:
At age 4, Gonzalez walked into the oldest Hispanic talent agency in Los Angeles, the Alvarado Rey Agency, belting out a Mariachi—he was signed on the spot.
Coco isn't Gonzalez's first credit. You may have seen him on an episode of Criminal Minds, performing in theater productions, singing on The Voice, or even performing each year for Teletón USA, "a Univision initiative that brings together Latin Americans to improve the lives of sick children." (Say it with me: Awwwww!)
Still, Coco is clearly the biggest thing he's done so far, and it seems likely that things are about to change radically for this eighth grader. (After all, he's now got toys with his character's face on them!) Not to worry though, his parents aren't letting the fame get to his head. As Gonzalez told Time:
Well, of course I have to clean my room and sometimes wash the dishes. And do a lot of other cleaning, because my brothers, they leave a mess. But me too, me too. I have to admit I’m guilty of that too.
Clearly his soon to be stardom hasn't jaded him yet. Coco premieres in theaters on November 22 nationwide.