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Episode 7
Disney’s ‘Coco’ is a hit in Mexico and the US; Britain’s Prince Harry is engaged
Plus English expressions ‘go over well’ and ‘die down’

Disney’s 3-D animated film “Coco”, which is rich with Mexican cultural references, is officially the highest-grossing film ever in Mexico and is popular in the United States. Its all-Latino cast, accurate portrayal of Mexican folklore, and rich animation have contributed to its popularity. Britain’s Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Meghan Markle; the two will marry in the spring in Windsor Castle, just outside of London. Practice “to go over well” and “to die down.”

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Transcript

  • Welcome to another episode of Plain English, the podcast that goes at just the right speed for English language learners. This week is December 7, 2017, officially the Christmas season here in the United States—where I live in Chicago, I’m starting to see a lot more winter holiday decorations, including colored lights in people’s windows, Christmas markets, and cars with Christmas trees strapped to the top.

    Each episode of Plain English features two current events topics, followed by a discussion of some of the key English phrases or expressions used in the program. This week, we’re going to talk about the new animated Disney movie Coco, which is officially the highest-grossing film in Mexico’s history—and it’s popular in the United States, too. Our second topic is the engagement of British Prince Harry. In the second half of the program, we’ll review English phrases “to go over well” and “to die down.”

    Before we get into the main content of the program, I wanted to remind you that the transcript of each show is available on our web site PlainEnglish.com. There’s also a link to the transcript in the show notes, so look for that in your podcasting app. Spanish speakers can also take advantage of the interactive transcripts that show the Spanish translations of difficult words and phrases.

    Animated film ‘Coco’ tells story of Mexican culture

    Disney’s new movie, Coco, is a big hit in both the United States and Mexico. The animated film is the highest-earning film in Mexican history, passing The Avengers after just its third week in theaters and earning about $800 million pesos. Here in the United States, the film grossed about $60 million in its first five days and $170 million to date—not a record, but still impressive.

    Coco is a 3-D animated film produced by Pixar, the same studio behind Finding Nemo and the Toy Story franchise. It tells the story of a Mexican boy, 12-year-old Miguel, who dreams of becoming a singer against the wishes of his family. Due to some complicated family history, no members of Miguel’s family are allowed to become musicians, but that doesn’t stop young Miguel from pursuing his dreams. Coco is rich with cultural references to Mexico and has been very well-received by both critics and, clearly, the public on both sides of the border.

    Producers Lee Unkrich and Darla Anderson visited Mexican cities of Michoacán, Oaxaca, Guanajuato and Mexico City to learn about Mexican traditions. They said they fell in love with the food, colors, and architecture of Mexico.

    The movie is a showcase of Mexican stories and culture. The film is loosely centered on the idea of Dia de Muertos, a holiday dedicated to remembering those who have passed away. An ofrenda is an altar, usually constructed at home, that pays tribute to family members who have passed away. Ofrendas usually include candles, flowers, and photos of the departed, and they feature prominently in Coco.

    And of course, what survey of Mexican culture would be complete without a reference to Frida Kahlo, one of the country’s most beloved artists? Frida has a few lines, but other Mexican icons make brief cameo appearances, too, including wrestling star El Santo, comedian Cantinflas, and actress and singer María Félix.

    The cast is all-Latino. In the English version, the voice actors were all English-speaking Latinos, including Jaime Camil, Gael García, Benjamin Bratt, and Anthony Gonzales as the main character, 12-year old Miguel. In the Spanish version, they used Mexican actors like Angélica Vale, Marco Antonio Solis, Angélica María, Cesar Costa, and Luis Ángel Gómez Jaramillo as Miguel. If you recognize that last name, Luis Ángel Jaramillo was a contestant on La Voz Kids, or the Kids’ Voice, in Mexico—a singing competition for youngsters.

    The movie made its debut at the Morelia International Film Festival in Morelia, Mexico, and was released to the public in Mexico the next week, October 27, to coincide with the Dia de Muertos. American moviegoers were able to see Coco on November 22, the day before Thanksgiving. If you’re from Mexico or Latin America, you probably spot the anomaly here: this was the first Disney movie ever to be released in Mexico before the United States. And if you’re in Spain, it might sound a little different from a typical Disney movie. That’s because the global Spanish version will be the one with Mexican voice actors. Disney movies typically have separate Spanish versions—one with European Spanish accents and one with Latin Spanish accents, but this one will be the Mexican version worldwide.

    The film was not without a little bit of controversy, though. It was originally going to be called Dia de los Muertos. Disney tried to trademark the name Dia de los Muertos so they could sell branded merchandise. You might imagine that didn’t go over well in Mexico (that would be like a Mexican company trying to trademark the word Thanksgiving) so Disney apologized and eventually changed the name of the film.

    Speaking of which, the name Coco comes from the main character’s great-grandmother, an homage to the importance of grandmothers in Mexican culture. A couple other details before we wrap up: The town is called Santa Cecilia. Although it’s purely fictional, it’s named after the patron saint of musicians, Saint Cecilia, in a nod to the musical dreams of the main character. There were originally some doubts about whether a skeleton could be animated, since it can’t move around like a person with muscles can, but the animators found a new way of depicting motion just for the skeletons. The dog in the movie, Dante, is the Aztec breed Xoloitzcuintle. And the grandmother uses a chancla, or a slipper, to punish her grandson. According to the Urban Dictionary online, a chancla is “the deadliest weapon known to a Latin kid.” So there you have it: at least one cultural reference has been confirmed by the Urban Dictionary, so you know the movie must be authentic.


    Prince Harry engaged to American actress Meghan Markle

    If you’re learning English, one thing you absolutely must know is that English speakers around the world are obsessed with the British Royal Family. And I’m not just talking about the ones in the UK—I mean, English speakers all over the world. Not all of us, but a sizeable number. And Royal-watchers around the world are excited about the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle.

    Prince Harry is the grandson of the current Queen Elizabeth II and son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris about 20 years ago. The 33-year-old served in the British military, becoming an officer and serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan and a secondment with the Australian Air Force. He was also well-known for having a somewhat chaotic personal life, smoking, drinking, traveling and finding himself in the pages of Britain’s famously aggressive tabloid press, though that definitely died down in recent years. In 2014, he founded the Invictus Games, an Olympic-style sports competition for injured servicemen and women.

    His fiancée, Meghan Markle, is an American actress and model who stars as Rachel Zane in the television show Suits, which is about to release its seventh season. She’s made appearances in a handful of movies and one-time appearances in a variety of television shows. She also launched a women’s fashion line and was editor of a web site called The Tig.

    The two will get married at Windsor Castle, just west of London, in the spring of 2018, after which Markle says she will become a citizen of the UK. The two have been together for just over a year, and have made a handful of joint appearances together and have gone on vacation a number of times. Though they’ve never lived in the same city, they said they never had to go two weeks without seeing each other. Like any couple in the Royal Family, they face a lot of scrutiny, but they try to play down the publicity. Markle said in an interview that “it’s really simple. We’re two people who are really happy and in love.”

    This marriage will break from tradition in a couple of ways. It’s the first time in many years that anyone in the line of succession will marry an American, though Markle says she will become a citizen of the UK after the wedding. Markle was raised Catholic, which is a different denomination than the Anglican Church of England, but she will be baptized into the Church of England before the wedding. Markle has also been married before. And while the Church of England does allow people to re-marry after divorce, it requires that the party re-marrying be asked a series of questions to determine if he or she has learned from past mistakes. All in all, these seem like minor hurdles for the new couple to overcome.

    By the way, if you don’t believe me about people being obsessed over the Royal Family, just Google “Prince Harry Meghan Markle” and you’ll see dozens of breathless headlines: How to Know When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Are Engaged; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Relationship Timeline; Body Language Experts Decode Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s First Official Outing; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Look Like The Kids In ‘Love, Actually’; Gifts Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Have Given Each Other—and on and on and on.

    So if you really want to know English, especially if you live in the UK, then I suggest you study up on the Royal Family; if you know all the latest dramas, you’ll fit right in.


    Ready for the second part of the program? This is the part in which we review two English expressions that you heard earlier. This week, those expressions are “to go over well” and “to die down”.

    To (not) go over well
    Do you remember when I said that Disney wanted to trademark the term “Dia de los Muertos”? That didn’t go over well in Mexico, since Dia de Muertos is a common phrase, it’s a popular holiday like Thanksgiving is in the United States. So why should a big American company claim the rights to use that term exclusively? The idea didn’t go over well in Mexico. That means that it wasn’t received well in Mexico; they weren’t happy about it there. When an idea or a proposal goes over well, it means that people liked the idea; they received it well. More commonly, we say something does not go over well, meaning that the idea was not received well by its intended audience. Here are a couple of examples. The movie Coco describes a lot of Mexican traditions. It stayed true to real life in Mexico, so the story went over well with Mexican audiences. They liked it. Here’s another example from the big screen. The 1980s move Ghostbusters was re-made in 2016 with an all-female cast. That didn’t go over well with some traditionalists, who remember the all-male Ghostbusters from the original. But the female Ghostbusters cast did go over well with others, who liked seeing women in action movies for a change.

    How do you think Prince Harry’s engagement to an American will go over in England? I think it will probably go over well with most people, but maybe it won’t go over well with a minority of people who might not want to see an American in the British Royal Family.

    To die down
    The second phrase I want to highlight this week is to die down. This phrase can be used in a variety of contexts, but it means that the intensity of something has been reduced. Earlier I said that Prince Harry was often in tabloid newspapers, but that his appearances have died down in recent years. That means they have stopped; either he is no longer in the newspapers for personal scandals, or that it’s just not as often as before. Here are a couple of other ways you can use “die down” in this context. Public figures often hope that scandals die down; they hope that the intensity of a scandal is reduced after a few days. You can also wait for anger to die down. Have your family or friends ever been upset with you over something you did? If so, you might hope that their anger or frustration dies down after a few days. It doesn’t have to be something bad. For example, do you think the enthusiasm for the movie Coco will die down any time soon?

    In another context, you can hope for something physical to die down. It was raining really hard yesterday; I waited for the rain to die down before leaving the house. Or, the storm was so loud that it kept me awake last night; it didn’t die down until after midnight.

    Here are a couple other examples. You can wait for applause to die down, meaning you can wait for the applause to slowly fade or stop entirely. A comedian might wait for the laughter in the room to die down before telling his or her next joke.

    Even though there are a lot of different uses for this one, it always means the same thing—whether it’s a storm, a scandal, a controversy, or even laughter, if something dies down, it means it becomes less powerful or even disappears.


    We have reached the end of this week’s program. I want to thank you for listening. I hope Plain English is useful for you. I’d love to hear your feedback on the program, so I’ve posted a link to a listener survey on the home page of PlainEnglish.com. You can take the survey in either English or Spanish. You can also e-mail me your thoughts. My email address is jeff-at-plainenglish-dot-com.

    Thanks again for listening and I’ll see you right back here next week.

  • Welcome to another episode of Plain English, the podcast that goes at just the right speed for English language learners. This week is December 7, 2017, officially the Christmas season here in the United States—where I live in Chicago, I’m starting to see a lot more winter holiday decorations , including colored lights in people’s windows, Christmas markets , and cars with Christmas trees strapped to the top.

    Each episode of Plain English features two current events topics , followed by a discussion of some of the key English phrases or expressions used in the program. This week, we’re going to talk about the new animated Disney movie Coco, which is officially the highest-grossing film in Mexico’s history—and it’s popular in the United States, too. Our second topic is the engagement of British Prince Harry. In the second half of the program, we’ll review English phrases “to go over well” and “to die down.”

    Before we get into the main content of the program, I wanted to remind you that the transcript of each show is available on our web site PlainEnglish.com. There’s also a link to the transcript in the show notes, so look for that in your podcasting app. Spanish speakers can also take advantage of the interactive transcripts that show the Spanish translations of difficult words and phrases.

    Animated film ‘Coco’ tells story of Mexican culture

    Disney’s new movie, Coco, is a big hit in both the United States and Mexico. The animated film is the highest-earning film in Mexican history, passing The Avengers after just its third week in theaters and earning about $800 million pesos. Here in the United States, the film grossed about $60 million in its first five days and $170 million to date—not a record, but still impressive .

    Coco is a 3-D animated film produced by Pixar, the same studio behind Finding Nemo and the Toy Story franchise . It tells the story of a Mexican boy, 12-year-old Miguel, who dreams of becoming a singer against the wishes of his family. Due to some complicated family history , no members of Miguel’s family are allowed to become musicians, but that doesn’t stop young Miguel from pursuing his dreams . Coco is rich with cultural references to Mexico and has been very well-received by both critics and, clearly, the public on both sides of the border.

    Producers Lee Unkrich and Darla Anderson visited Mexican cities of Michoacán, Oaxaca, Guanajuato and Mexico City to learn about Mexican traditions. They said they fell in love with the food, colors, and architecture of Mexico.

    The movie is a showcase of Mexican stories and culture. The film is loosely centered on the idea of Dia de Muertos, a holiday dedicated to remembering those who have passed away . An ofrenda is an altar , usually constructed at home, that pays tribute to family members who have passed away. Ofrendas usually include candles, flowers, and photos of the departed , and they feature prominently in Coco.

    And of course, what survey of Mexican culture would be complete without a reference to Frida Kahlo, one of the country’s most beloved artists? Frida has a few lines, but other Mexican icons make brief cameo appearances , too, including wrestling star El Santo, comedian Cantinflas, and actress and singer María Félix.

    The cast is all-Latino. In the English version, the voice actors were all English-speaking Latinos, including Jaime Camil, Gael García, Benjamin Bratt, and Anthony Gonzales as the main character , 12-year old Miguel. In the Spanish version, they used Mexican actors like Angélica Vale, Marco Antonio Solis, Angélica María, Cesar Costa, and Luis Ángel Gómez Jaramillo as Miguel. If you recognize that last name, Luis Ángel Jaramillo was a contestant on La Voz Kids, or the Kids’ Voice, in Mexico—a singing competition for youngsters.

    The movie made its debut at the Morelia International Film Festival in Morelia, Mexico, and was released to the public in Mexico the next week, October 27, to coincide with the Dia de Muertos. American moviegoers were able to see Coco on November 22, the day before Thanksgiving. If you’re from Mexico or Latin America, you probably spot the anomaly here: this was the first Disney movie ever to be released in Mexico before the United States. And if you’re in Spain, it might sound a little different from a typical Disney movie. That’s because the global Spanish version will be the one with Mexican voice actors. Disney movies typically have separate Spanish versions—one with European Spanish accents and one with Latin Spanish accents, but this one will be the Mexican version worldwide.

    The film was not without a little bit of controversy , though. It was originally going to be called Dia de los Muertos. Disney tried to trademark the name Dia de los Muertos so they could sell branded merchandise . You might imagine that didn’t go over well in Mexico (that would be like a Mexican company trying to trademark the word Thanksgiving) so Disney apologized and eventually changed the name of the film.

    Speaking of which, the name Coco comes from the main character’s great-grandmother , an homage to the importance of grandmothers in Mexican culture. A couple other details before we wrap up : The town is called Santa Cecilia. Although it’s purely fictional , it’s named after the patron saint of musicians, Saint Cecilia, in a nod to the musical dreams of the main character. There were originally some doubts about whether a skeleton could be animated , since it can’t move around like a person with muscles can, but the animators found a new way of depicting motion just for the skeletons. The dog in the movie, Dante, is the Aztec breed Xoloitzcuintle. And the grandmother uses a chancla, or a slipper, to punish her grandson. According to the Urban Dictionary online, a chancla is “the deadliest weapon known to a Latin kid.” So there you have it : at least one cultural reference has been confirmed by the Urban Dictionary, so you know the movie must be authentic .


    Prince Harry engaged to American actress Meghan Markle

    If you’re learning English, one thing you absolutely must know is that English speakers around the world are obsessed with the British Royal Family. And I’m not just talking about the ones in the UK—I mean, English speakers all over the world. Not all of us, but a sizeable number . And Royal-watchers around the world are excited about the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle.

    Prince Harry is the grandson of the current Queen Elizabeth II and son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris about 20 years ago. The 33-year-old served in the British military, becoming an officer and serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan and a secondment with the Australian Air Force . He was also well-known for having a somewhat chaotic personal life , smoking, drinking, traveling and finding himself in the pages of Britain’s famously aggressive tabloid press , though that definitely died down in recent years. In 2014, he founded the Invictus Games, an Olympic-style sports competition for injured servicemen and women.

    His fiancée , Meghan Markle, is an American actress and model who stars as Rachel Zane in the television show Suits, which is about to release its seventh season. She’s made appearances in a handful of movies and one-time appearances in a variety of television shows. She also launched a women’s fashion line and was editor of a web site called The Tig.

    The two will get married at Windsor Castle, just west of London, in the spring of 2018, after which Markle says she will become a citizen of the UK. The two have been together for just over a year, and have made a handful of joint appearances together and have gone on vacation a number of times. Though they’ve never lived in the same city, they said they never had to go two weeks without seeing each other. Like any couple in the Royal Family, they face a lot of scrutiny , but they try to play down the publicity . Markle said in an interview that “it’s really simple. We’re two people who are really happy and in love.”

    This marriage will break from tradition in a couple of ways. It’s the first time in many years that anyone in the line of succession will marry an American, though Markle says she will become a citizen of the UK after the wedding. Markle was raised Catholic, which is a different denomination than the Anglican Church of England, but she will be baptized into the Church of England before the wedding. Markle has also been married before. And while the Church of England does allow people to re-marry after divorce , it requires that the party re-marrying be asked a series of questions to determine if he or she has learned from past mistakes. All in all, these seem like minor hurdles for the new couple to overcome.

    By the way, if you don’t believe me about people being obsessed over the Royal Family, just Google “Prince Harry Meghan Markle” and you’ll see dozens of breathless headlines : How to Know When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Are Engaged; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Relationship Timeline ; Body Language Experts Decode Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s First Official Outing; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Look Like The Kids In ‘Love, Actually’; Gifts Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Have Given Each Other—and on and on and on.

    So if you really want to know English, especially if you live in the UK, then I suggest you study up on the Royal Family; if you know all the latest dramas , you’ll fit right in.


    Ready for the second part of the program? This is the part in which we review two English expressions that you heard earlier. This week, those expressions are “to go over well” and “to die down”.

    To (not) go over well
    Do you remember when I said that Disney wanted to trademark the term “Dia de los Muertos”? That didn’t go over well in Mexico, since Dia de Muertos is a common phrase , it’s a popular holiday like Thanksgiving is in the United States. So why should a big American company claim the rights to use that term exclusively ? The idea didn’t go over well in Mexico. That means that it wasn’t received well in Mexico; they weren’t happy about it there. When an idea or a proposal goes over well, it means that people liked the idea; they received it well. More commonly, we say something does not go over well, meaning that the idea was not received well by its intended audience . Here are a couple of examples. The movie Coco describes a lot of Mexican traditions. It stayed true to real life in Mexico, so the story went over well with Mexican audiences . They liked it. Here’s another example from the big screen. The 1980s move Ghostbusters was re-made in 2016 with an all-female cast . That didn’t go over well with some traditionalists , who remember the all-male Ghostbusters from the original. But the female Ghostbusters cast did go over well with others, who liked seeing women in action movies for a change.

    How do you think Prince Harry’s engagement to an American will go over in England? I think it will probably go over well with most people, but maybe it won’t go over well with a minority of people who might not want to see an American in the British Royal Family.

    To die down
    The second phrase I want to highlight this week is to die down. This phrase can be used in a variety of contexts , but it means that the intensity of something has been reduced. Earlier I said that Prince Harry was often in tabloid newspapers , but that his appearances have died down in recent years. That means they have stopped; either he is no longer in the newspapers for personal scandals , or that it’s just not as often as before. Here are a couple of other ways you can use “die down” in this context. Public figures often hope that scandals die down; they hope that the intensity of a scandal is reduced after a few days. You can also wait for anger to die down. Have your family or friends ever been upset with you over something you did? If so, you might hope that their anger or frustration dies down after a few days. It doesn’t have to be something bad. For example, do you think the enthusiasm for the movie Coco will die down any time soon?

    In another context, you can hope for something physical to die down. It was raining really hard yesterday; I waited for the rain to die down before leaving the house. Or, the storm was so loud that it kept me awake last night; it didn’t die down until after midnight.

    Here are a couple other examples. You can wait for applause to die down, meaning you can wait for the applause to slowly fade or stop entirely. A comedian might wait for the laughter in the room to die down before telling his or her next joke.

    Even though there are a lot of different uses for this one, it always means the same thing—whether it’s a storm, a scandal, a controversy, or even laughter, if something dies down, it means it becomes less powerful or even disappears.


    We have reached the end of this week’s program. I want to thank you for listening. I hope Plain English is useful for you. I’d love to hear your feedback on the program, so I’ve posted a link to a listener survey on the home page of PlainEnglish.com. You can take the survey in either English or Spanish. You can also e-mail me your thoughts. My email address is jeff-at-plainenglish-dot-com.

    Thanks again for listening and I’ll see you right back here next week.

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