The Book of Life (2014 film)

The Book of Life

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez
Produced by Aaron Berger
Brad Booker
Guillermo del Toro
Carina Schulze[1]
Written by Jorge R. Gutierrez
Doug Langdale
Starring Diego Luna
Zoe Saldana
Channing Tatum
Christina Applegate
Ice Cube
Ron Perlman
Kate del Castillo
Music by Gustavo Santaolalla
Edited by Ahren Shaw[1]
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • October 12, 2014 (2014-10-12) (Los Angeles premiere)
  • October 17, 2014 (2014-10-17) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes[2]
Country United States[3][4]
Language English
Budget $50 million[5]
Box office $99.8 million[5]

The Book of Life is a 2014 American 3D computer-animated fantasy adventure musical comedy film produced by Reel FX Creative Studios and distributed by 20th Century Fox. Co-written and directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez, it was produced by Aaron Berger, Brad Booker, Guillermo del Toro and Carina Schulze.[1] The film stars the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Ron Perlman, and Kate del Castillo. Based on an original idea by Gutierrez,[6] the story follows a bullfighter who, on the Day of the Dead, embarks on an afterlife adventure to fulfill the expectations of his family and friends.

The film premiered in Los Angeles on October 12, 2014 and was theatrically released in the United States on October 17, 2014. It received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Animated Feature Film. The film grossed $99.8 million on a $50 million budget.


Mary Beth, a museum tour guide, takes a group of school detention students on a secret museum tour, telling them, with wooden figures, the story of Mexican town San Angel from the Book of Life, holding every story in the world.

On the Day of the Dead, La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, set a wager for their own worlds after seeing Manolo Sánchez and Joaquín Mondragon competing over María Posada. La Muerte bets on Manolo while Xibalba bets on Joaquín. However, Xibalba cheats by giving Joaquin his Medal of Everlasting Life, granting the wearer invincibility. María frees a herd of captive pigs, resulting her being sent to a boarding school in Spain. Parting ways, Manolo gives her one of the rescued baby pigs, which he named Chuy, and she gives him a guitar engraved with the phrase "Always play from the heart".

Years later, Manolo's dreams are suppressed by his father Carlos, who trains him to be a bullfighter to honor their family, while Joaquín becomes a hero with the Medal's aid. On Manolo's first bullfight, María returns. Manolo defeats the bull but refuses to kill it, dismaying Carlos and the crowd but impressing María. That night, María is pressured by her father and mayor, General Ramiro Posada, to marry Joaquín for his protection from the Bandit King Chakal. María and Manolo both profess their love before dawn, but are interrupted when Xibalba sends his dual-headed Snake staff to bite her once into a coma. Devastated by María's "death", Manolo is tricked into being bit twice, killing him.

At the Land of the Remembered, Manolo reunites with his mother Carmen and his ancestral family. They travel to La Muerte's castle, discovering Xibalba, now the new ruler of the Land of the Remembered, who explains the bet and that the snake killed him, not María. María awakens, she learns of Manolo's death and accepts Joaquín's proposal. Manolo, Carmen, and his grandfather Luis travel to the Cave of Souls to reach La Muerte, now in the Land of the Forgotten. They meet the Candle Maker, the overseer of mortal lives. After seeing that Manolo's story in the Book of Life is blank and can be rewritten by himself, he takes them to the Land of the Forgotten. Manolo finds La Muerte and exposes the cheat. Furious, La Muerte lectures Xibalba before offering a new wager: Manolo's life will be returned if he completes a challenge of Xibalba's choosing, but if he fails, he will be forgotten and Xibalba will keep both realms. Xibalba sets Manolo against a giant bull skeleton (made out of other bull skeletons that his family killed through centuries).

In the Land of the Living, Chakal leads his army to San Angel to find the Medal, which was previously his. Chakal kills Carlos, arrives in time to see Manolo's fight. Manolo, realizing his fear is actually being himself, refuses to fight and sings an apology, which peacefully dissolves the bull and also touches his family. Impressed, the deities restore Manolo to life and send him and his family to San Angel to protect it from Chakal and his army. Manolo is seemingly killed when Chakal blows himself up, but Manolo is protected by the Medal, which Joaquín had slipped him earlier. Joaquín returns it to Xibalba and resolves to be a true hero, while Manolo and María are happily married as Xibalba and La Muerte reconcile.

As Mary Beth finishes Manolo, María and Joaquin's story, the now-amazed children leave the museum. Mary Beth and a security guard reveal themselves to be La Muerte and Xibalba in disguises, who are still reconciled at one another. The Candle Maker then appears and encourages the audience by showing them the Book of Life, and he tells them to write their own story.


Channing Tatum, Christina Applegate and Ron Perlman at The Book of Life panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con


Jorge Gutierrez at a panel for the film at San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2014

The Book of Life was originally optioned by DreamWorks Animation in 2007, but never went beyond development because of "creative differences".[6] From there the film went to Reel FX,[11] with 20th Century Fox handling distribution rights. The film was initially given a release date of October 10, 2014;[12] however, this was eventually moved back by a week.[13] On October 16, 2013, it was announced that Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna and Christina Applegate would star as voice actors in the film.[9]

Jorge Gutierrez, co-creator of Nickelodeon's El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, wanted to make the final animation look like the concept artwork saying: "I saw every single one that comes out and my biggest heartbreak is that I see all this glorious art, and then the movie doesn't look like that! The mandate of this movie was: Our 'Art of' book is going to look exactly like the movie. And every artist poured their heart and soul into that idea."[14] Gutierrez did not permit his animation team to go on any research trips to Mexico, feeling that such trips often only covered very touristy aspects of the culture. Instead he had the team address any questions they had about the region to him.[15]


The Book of Life made its world premiere in Los Angeles on October 12, 2014.[16] It was released on October 17, 2014 in North America.[17]

Home media

The Book of Life was released on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on January 27, 2015 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.[18] The special features included a 3-minute[19] short animated film, titled The Adventures of Chuy.[18]


The Book of Life
Soundtrack album by Gustavo Santaolalla
Released September 26, 2014
Recorded 2014
Genre Film score
Length 37:34
Label Sony Masterworks
Gustavo Santaolalla film scores chronology
Wild Tales
The Book of Life

In April 2013, it was announced Gustavo Santaolalla and Paul Williams would be adapting pop songs for the film.[20] The soundtrack was released on September 29, 2014, on iTunes,[21] and was released on CD on October 27, 2014, by Sony Masterworks.[22]

No. TitlePerformer Length
1. "Live Life"  Jesse & Joy 3:05
2. "The Apology Song"  La Santa Cecilia 2:32
3. "No Matter Where You Are"  Us The Duo 2:58
4. "I Love You Too Much"  Diego Luna & Gustavo Santaolalla 2:35
5. "I Will Wait"  Diego Luna, Joe Matthews & Gustavo Santaolalla 1:55
6. "Más"  Kinky 4:20
7. "Cielito Lindo"  Plácido Domingo 0:25
8. "Creep"  Diego Luna & Gustavo Santaolalla 1:20
9. "Can't Help Falling in Love"  Diego Luna 0:52
10. "The Ecstasy of Gold"  Gustavo Santaolalla 2:05
11. "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"  Gabriel Iglesias & Gustavo Santaolalla 0:20
12. "Just a Friend"  Biz Markie & Cheech Marin 2:49
13. "El Aparato / Land of the Remembering"  Café Tacuba & Gustavo Santaolalla 1:46
14. "Visiting Mother"  Gustavo Santaolalla 1:43
15. "The Apology Song"  Diego Luna & Gustavo Santaolalla 2:52
16. "No Matter Where You Are"  Diego Luna & Zoe Saldana 1:37
17. "Te Amo y Más"  Diego Luna & Gustavo Santaolalla 2:36
18. "Si Puedes Perdonar"  Diego Luna & Gustavo Santaolalla 1:44
Total length:


Box office

North America

As of February 8, 2015 The Book of Life has grossed $50,123,408 in North America, and $45,223,847 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $95,347,255.[5] The Book of Life was released on October 17, 2014 in North America.[23][24] The film earned $300,000 from Thursday late night showings from 2,150 theatres[25][26] and $4.9 million on its opening day.[27][28] The film debuted at number three in its opening weekend earning $17,005,218 at an average of $5,537 per theatre behind Fury ($23.5 million) and Gone Girl ($17.8 million).[29][30][31][32] The film played 57% female and 54% under the age of 25 years. It played 59% under 10-years old while 31% of tickets sold were in 3D.[33]

Outside North America

In other territories, The Book of Life earned $8.58 million from 3,654 screens in 19 markets. The highest debuts came from Mexico ($3.84 million) and Brazil ($1.98 million).[31] In Mexico, the film was number two behind the local film Perfect Dictatorship.[34]

Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a "Certified Fresh" rating of 81%, based on 107 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's consensus reads "The Book of Life's gorgeous animation is a treat, but it's a pity that its story lacks the same level of craft and detail that its thrilling visuals provide."[35] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 67 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[36]

Geoff Berkshire of Variety gave the film a positive review, saying "Repping a major step forward for Dallas-based Reel FX Animation Studios (after their anemic feature bow on last year's Free Birds), the beautifully rendered CG animation brings an unusually warm and heartfelt quality to the high-tech medium and emerges as the film's true calling card."[37] Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, saying "The Book of Life is a visually stunning effort that makes up for its formulaic storyline with an enchanting atmosphere that sweeps you into its fantastical world, or in this case, three worlds."[38] Simon Abrams of The Village Voice gave the film a negative review, saying "The Book of Life's hackneyed stock plot preaches tolerance while lamely reinforcing the status quo."[39] Marc Snetiker of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A-, saying "Overflowing with hyperactive charm and a spectacular sea of colors, it showcases some of the most breathtaking animation we've seen this decade."[40] Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "The dizzying, intricate imagery is so beautiful, and the Latin-inspired songs catchy enough that the overall effect is often enchanting."[41] Sara Stewart of The New York Post gave the film two out of four stars, saying "Just in time for Mexico's Day of the Dead holiday comes this gloriously colorful animated musical, which almost (but not quite) makes up in visuals what it lacks in snappy dialogue."[42] Katie Rife of The A.V. Club gave the film a B-, saying "Ultimately, what drags The Book Of Life down is its insistence on trying to update an (original) folkloric story for a contemporary audience. In practice, this means adding some pop-cultural touches that only serve to take the viewer out of the fantastic setting."[43]

Michael Ordoña of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film three out of five stars, saying "The vibrant animated feature The Book of Life is a cheeky celebration of Mexican folklore with a solid cast, an irreverent sensibility and gorgeous visuals."[44] Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film three out of five stars, saying "The Book of Life may use state-of-the-art animation, but it derives its strength from the wisdom of antiquity. It only looks new, but it's as old as life (and death) itself.[45] Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic gave the film four out of five stars, saying "A visually stunning, funny movie that trusts children to deal with subject matter that many films don't: specifically, death."[46] Frank Lovece of Newsday gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Funny without being frantic, seamlessly switching from dry humor to slapstick, it shows death as a part of life -- and, judging from a preview audience of very young tykes, does so in a gentle, delightful way."[47] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave the film a negative review, saying "This often beautiful and too-often moribund, if exhaustingly frenetic, feature tends to be less energetic than the dead people waltzing through it."[48] Conversely, Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a negative review, saying "The Book of Life juxtaposes overwrought visual imagery with an undernourished, familiar story - regrettable flaws in one of the few animated films to focus on Latino characters and the rich heritage of Mexican folk culture."[49] Marjorie Baumgarten of The Austin Chronicle gave the film two and a half stars out of five, saying "Visually arresting but dramatically rote, The Book of Life at least introduces American kids to the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos and should score points with families looking for kid-friendly movies that reflect aspects of their Mexican cultural heritage."[50]

Calvin Wilson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave the film two and a half stars out of five, saying "The Book of Life is a flawed but intriguing new chapter in animation."[51] James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, saying "The Book of Life moves breezily from one scene to the next, keeping the pace brisk and rarely skipping a beat."[52] Laura Emerick of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Whether en ingles o en espanol, The Book of Life is a delight. In an animated universe cluttered with kung-fu pandas, ice princesses and video-game heroes, Gutierrez and del Toro have conjured up an original vision."[53] Tasha Robinson of The Dissolve gave the film three and a half stars out of five, saying "It's all flawed, and distracted, and conceptually messy, prioritizing color over common sense and energy over consistency. But as an afternoon's diversion for a handful of misbehaving kids—both within the movie, and within the movie theater—it's authentically winning."[54] Michael Ordona of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film a positive review, saying "There are no great surprises, no shocking reveals (except to the characters themselves). But there's so much to appreciate along the way that it's a real page-turner."[44] Kenji Fujishima of Slant Magazine gave the film two out of four stars, saying "Jorge R. Gutierrez subsumes the film's darker themes in a relentlessly busy farrago of predictable kids'-movie tropes and annoying attempts at hipness."[55] Ben Sachs of the Chicago Reader gave the film a negative review, saying "This Pixar knockoff from 20th Century Fox is more imaginative than most, though like far too many of them, it's undone by a surfeit of glib one-liners and pop culture references."[56]


List of Awards and Nominations
Award Category Recipients and nominees Results Ref
42nd Annual Annie Awards Best Animated Feature The Book of Life Nominated [57]
Animated Effects in an Animated Production Augusto Schillaci, Erich Turner, Bill Konersman, Chris Rasch, Joseph Burnette Nominated
Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Paul Sullivan, Sandra Equihua, Jorge R. Gutierrez Won
Directing in an Animated Feature Production Jorge R. Gutierrez Nominated
Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Simon Varela & Paul Sullivan Nominated
4th Behind the Voice Actors Awards Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in a Feature Film Zoe Saldana Nominated [58]
Best Male Vocal Performance in a Feature Film in a Supporting Role Ron Perlman Nominated
Best Female Vocal Performance in a Feature Film in a Supporting Role Kate del Castillo Nominated
15th Black Reel Awards Outstanding Voice Performance Zoe Saldana Nominated [59]
30th Casting Society of America Awards Outstanding Achievement in Casting - Animation Feature Christian Kaplan Nominated [60]
13th Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards Best Animated Film The Book of Life Nominated [61]
20th Critics' Choice Awards Best Animated Feature Nominated
4th Georgia Film Critics Association Awards Best Animated Film Nominated
72nd Golden Globe Awards Best Animated Feature Film Nominated [62]
14th Golden Schmoes Awards Best Animated Movie of the Year Nominated [63]
Hollywood Music in Media Awards Best Original Score - Animated Film Gustavo Santaolalla Nominated [64]
Outstanding Music Supervision - Film John Houlihan Nominated
8th Houston Film Critics Society Awards Best Animated Film The Book of Life Nominated [61]
6th International 3D & Advanced Imaging Society Awards 3D Feature - Animated Nominated [65]
62nd MPSE Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing - Animated Feature Nominated [66]
46th NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance Zoe Saldana Nominated [67]
26th Producers Guild of America Awards Best Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures Guillermo del Toro and Brad Booker Nominated [68]
19th Satellite Awards Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature The Book of Life Nominated [69]
11th St. Louis Film Critics Association Awards Best Animated Film Nominated [61]
13th Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture "Magical Land of the Remembered"
Glo Minaya, Amy Chen, Sean McEwan, Jeff Masters
Nominated [70]
13th Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards Best Animated Feature The Book of Life Nominated [61]


Director Jorge Gutierrez revealed in an interview that one of the ideas for the next chapter in the story involves Joaquin and his relationship with his father. "I had always imagined the first movie to be about Manolo, the second to be about Joaquín and the third one to be about Maria...I've always conceived it as a trilogy."[71]


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