Cordoba focuses on traditional craftsmanship and innovation, which they have been able to balance by producing nylon string guitars and ukuleles that appeal to both beginner students and professional musicians. Cordoba continues to stay innovative with its three guitars inspired by the new Disney•Pixar film “Coco.” Renier Fee, Director of Marketing at Music & Arts, chatted with Tim Miklaucic, CEO at Cordoba guitars, to learn more about its foray into Hollywood.
Welcome to The Vault! First off, can you tell our readership about Cordoba guitars?
I began studying the classical guitar as a child in the late 1960s. That was an era of musical legends like Andre Segovia, Sabicas, and the young Paco De Lucia, but it was also the beginning of the rock and roll boom. By the time I finished university, the classical guitar had fallen out of favor. People who were used to electric and steel string guitars felt that the classical neck was too bulky and generally hard to play. I thought it was a shame since it’s the perfect style of guitar to learn on—easy on the fingers, low tension strings, and with a very warm tone.
In 1997 I founded Córdoba with the mission of showing people that the nylon string guitar can be beautiful, fun and easy to play; we set out to improve playability and create the best guitars possible across the entire category. Twenty years later, and with much refining and incorporating of modern designs, I’m proud to say Córdoba is not just a leader in the niche world of nylon strings, but in the guitar industry as a whole.
Earlier this year, you told me that Disney•Pixar approached you about the guitar collaboration for the launch of Coco. Why do you think they chose Cordoba?
Jim Morris, Pixar President, is a huge music and guitar fan. When the time came to request licensing partners for Coco, a short list of guitar companies was put together to submit proposals and Jim personally suggested that we be one of them. The collaboration just made sense – nylon string guitars are featured throughout the film, and Córdoba is regarded as the expert within the industry. And in addition to the reputation of our instruments themselves, Córdoba has always focused on music education, specifically to children. It all felt like a no brainer!
You also told me that you were resistant to the notion of making a toy guitar for Disney•Pixar. How hard did you have to fight Disney•Pixar on that?
There was no fight at all! The team at Disney•Pixar wanted a halo licensing partner who could support the film with a collection of well-made, authentic musical instruments to help the film’s themes resonate in homes, beyond the theatre experience. Because of our long- standing commitment to education, we already knew it was possible to create a quality instrument with a reasonable price tag. We believe that this film will touch audiences of all ages, so a collection of real guitars that appeal to both children and adults was always the goal.
You created a limited edition replica, another full size guitar and two minis that are inspired by the film. Was it a challenge to imagine the sound of these guitars if you hadn’t seen the full movie yet?
No, just the fact that the guitars featured in the film are nylon-string was good enough for us…we know the sound well! We had no doubt that Disney•Pixar would do an incredible job at capturing the sound and spirit of the nylon string guitar, so we focused on designing and building a series of replica guitars as true to the film as possible. Then, a few months into the project, Disney•Pixar released a trailer that showed Miquel playing a guitar he built himself from recycled materials like an old comb for a bridge and nails for tuning machines. Even this guitar sounded resonant and full—we knew we were on the right track!
By definition, the replica guitar doesn’t give you much freedom to put the Cordoba stamp on the guitar. What pieces of the guitar was Cordoba able to influence?
We had a fun meeting with the Pixar animators to “dissect” their animated guitar and explain how we could bring it to life, feature by feature. The lightweight and resonant qualities are very “Córdoba,” and we worked closely with luthier German Vasquez Rubio on the selection of tonewoods. However, certain Coco-specific elements like the skull-shaped headstock, skull-carved tuning machines, and elaborate mother-of-pearl top inlays were new challenges for us. Those were the most fun to develop, however, and made the end result even more gratifying. Now that we know what’s possible, who knows what you’ll see next from Córdoba…
Tell us about the inspiration behind the full size guitar and the two minis. Where did the design come from?
From the beginning, we wanted the collection to include guitars that appealed to both adults and children. We also wanted to make sure that this collection stayed true to the Córdoba aesthetic. Years after the movie’s release date, we want these guitars to fit into the home—just like in Coco, we believe a guitar is an heirloom that should be passed from generation to generation, regardless of the price tag. For that reason, we shied away from designing anything too colorful.
The Coco x Córdoba Mini was an evolution of Córdoba’s popular travel sized guitar, the Mini. We enlarged the original design slightly to accommodate standard E tuning (rather than the Mini’s original A). We chose a spruce top to mimic the look of the Replica/De La Cruz guitar and added an all-mahogany option to provide another tone profile.
Who is the target audience for these guitars–kids, collectors, movie fans, classical gui- tarists?
All of the above! Córdoba was founded on the principle that everyone should experience the magic of the nylon string guitar, and that belief is incorporated into every design—Coco x Córdoba included. We know that the film will introduce an entirely new audience to the guitar and we want the collection to be accessible and relatable, regardless of the player’s background. We’re confident that these guitars will have something to offer both newcomers and seasoned professionals alike.
Music & Arts, the world’s #1 music lesson provider and #1 school music retailer, is one of the exclusive retailers for the full size guitar and the two minis. What do you see is the connection between the film and music education?
Hearing the film’s story renewed our own dedication to music education—it’s just that powerful. Our hope is that watching Miguel’s journey, all with the motivation of learning how to play guitar, will inspire kids and families to pursue and enjoy music together. We know that the guitar isn’t exactly the easiest thing to learn, and Coco already breaks down a barrier by familiarizing a wider audience to the instrument; we wanted to build on that by removing any possible technical hurdles and making the guitar easy to play and aesthetically pleasing. Placing this collection inside stores like Music & Arts, where lessons are readily accessible, was a natural choice.
What is your hunch there will be a sequel to Coco?
You’ll have to see the movie yourself and see what you think!
Thanks for your time Tim!