Jorge R. Gutierrez, as it turns out, has something of an artistic fascination with death. His first feature film, The Book of Life, opened last weekend. Produced by Guillermo del Toro, it’s a love story that crosses into the afterlife and builds upon the aesthetic and spiritual traditions of Dia de los Muertos. Death comes early on in the film, when Manolo (Diego Luna) is bitten by a venomous snake and sent into the next world. To regain the love of his life, Maria (Zoe Saldana), he has to find a way to come back from the beyond. It may not be the only recent animated feature for kids to address death, after Paranorman and others, but its embrace of such a morbid narrative is an exciting risk. For Gutierrez, however, this is nothing new. His final film as a student at CalArts in 2000 was a 3D short called Carmelo. It won an Emmy for student animation and played at a number of festivals. He has since mostly worked in television, for Nickelodeon, Disney, and Warner Bros. He created the 2007 Nickelodeon series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, which was that network’s first ever flash animation series. The project won a number of Emmys, as well as two Annie Awards. These three most significant projects, Carmelo, El Tigre and now The Book of Life all draw from Gutierrez’s childhood and his heritage in Mexico.