- “I need my spirit guide, Pepita.”
- ―Imelda summons Pepita
Pepita is an imposing Alebrije who functions as a sort of spiritual guide for Imelda. She cannot speak; instead, she can only make animal-like roars and noises.
Pepita is a cross between a jaguar, an eagle, and several other animals, including the teal horns of a ram and a striped iguana-like tail. Overall her body shape is stock in the front and leans in the back. Her back is a deep blue that fades to emerald green across her body, while yellow highlights are scattered among this. Pepita's wings are red while her underbelly is orange, and she has eagle hindlegs with aqua-coloured talons.
While visiting the land of the living, Pepita takes the form of a common house cat. According to the novelization and the book Miguel and the Amazing Alebrijes, this was her original form before she became an Alebrije.
Powers and abilities
Pepita is equipped with multiple predatorial features, including her claws and teeth, as well as a pair of strong wings that give her the ability of flight. As a spirit guide, she has impressive tracking skills, as she was able to track Miguel's scent for her mistress by sniffing the petal he touched, and can make Miguel's tracks glow a bright blue by breathing on them. Pepita is also shown to be strong as she is able to carry more than one person on her back. Pepita's protective nature is a reflection of Imelda's "iron lady" personality.
Role in the film
When Miguel refuses a blessing from Imelda, he runs away from the dead Riveras and into the Land of the Dead. Imelda whistles forth Pepita (perched on a nearby tower) to locate Miguel. Sniffing the marigold petal Imelda blessed allows Pepita to track down Miguel, and she leads the rest of the Riveras to the boy.
Eventually, Pepita brings them to a talent competition in Plaza de la Cruz where Miguel and Héctor are performing. Noticing his late family members asking around for him, Miguel tries to slip away but his escape is cut off by Pepita with ridden by Imelda, who demands him to accept her blessing and her conditions with it in order for him to go back home. Miguel persistently refuses and exploits Pepita's large size as he escapes into an alleyway too small for her to fit in. Pepita can only roar in anger while Imelda goes after Miguel herself.
After this, Miguel's dog Dante leads Pepita and Imelda back to Miguel. Thanks to Dante, Pepita rescues Miguel and Héctor (who were condemned by Ernesto de la Cruz) out of the cenote. Pepita then flies the group back to the Riveras.
Pepita reappears during Ernesto's concert, saving Miguel from certain death after Miguel is thrown off stage by Ernesto. After returning Miguel to the family, Pepita subsequently comes onto the stage to punish Ernesto for all the Riveras' grievances from his murder of Héctor, just as the corrupted musician's villainy has been revealed. Ernesto begs for mercy, but Pepita roars fiercely in his face, headbutts him off the stage, and grabs him by his pelvis. She then tosses Ernesto in the air and swats him out of the arena with her tail, sending the vile musician hurtling into a nearby bell tower, with the bell crushing Ernesto for good as the crowd cheers.
One year after these events, Pepita has developed a friendship with Dante, who has become another spirit guide for the family. On Día de Los Muertos, she and Dante go to the Land of the Living, appearing as a house cat, and join the living Riveras in their musical celebration as Carmen warmly pets her.
- Pepita is inspired by Mexican artisan folklore, especially in the Oaxaca region.
- Pepita's species, Alebrijes, are small figurines made out of paper maché or carved out of wood that represents mythical animal hybrids. Adrian Molina and the Pixar team came across these brightly-coloured sculptures while doing research for the film and were immediately smitten with them.
- Originally, the film's producers considered making Pepita a Xolo dog. But, from an artistic point of view, opting to make her an Alebrije opened up all sorts of exciting possibilities.
- Before Pepita was introduced, a stall selling Alebrije sculpture in Santa Cecilia featured a lookalike sculpture of her.
- In Spanish, "Pepita" is the diminutive form of Pepa, which is an alternate form for Josefa. Josefa is the female version of José (Joseph).
- Papa Julio, her mistress' son-in-law, is somewhat afraid of her.
- In the novelization, Pepita was around the Riveras as Imelda's pet cat. Even years later, she was briefly stated in the beginning, observing Miguel with his great-grandmother and while he's strolling the streets.