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|“||I have to sing! I have to play! The music, it's not just in me, it IS me!||„|
|~ Ernesto explains what he is in one of his films.|
|“||Success doesn't come for free, Miguel. You have to be willing to do what it takes to... seize your moment. I know you will understand.||„|
|~ Ernesto revealing his true nature to Miguel after admitting his murder of Héctor.|
|“||I am Ernesto de la Cruz; the greatest musician of all time!||„|
|~ Ernesto's villainous breakdown.|
Ernesto de la Cruz is the main antagonist of Pixar's 19th full-length animated feature film Coco. He is Héctor Rivera's former childhood best friend and music partner, Miguel's former idol, the former two's arch-nemesis, and a fake famous singer and musician who dazzled the audience with his good looks and his charm, and was a source of Mexican pride due to his handsome looks, supposedly strong morals, and his standing up for his fellow Mexicans. He died when he was crushed by a giant bell mid-performance and resides as a soul in the Land of the Dead. However, it was revealed that Ernesto murdered the real famous singer and musician Héctor for betrayal and stole all of his songs and compositions to gain fame and fortune, thus making him indirectly responsible for the Riveras hating music and Hector in the first place (except for Miguel whom the latter loves music).
In the English version, he was voiced by Benjamin Bratt, who also played El Macho in Despicable Me 2, Antonio Pope in Ride Along 2, and El Topo in Snitch. In the Spanish version, he was voiced by Marco Antonio Solís (also known as "El Buki") in his first villainous role.
|“|| Ernesto: Security? Take care of Miguel. He'll be extending his stay.|
Miguel: What?! But I'm your family!
Ernesto: And Héctor was my best friend. Success doesn't come for free, Miguel. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to... seize your moment. I know you will understand.
|~ Ernesto revealing his true nature to Miguel after admitting his murder of Héctor.|
At first glance, Ernesto presents himself as a charming, wise, sensible, and intelligent individual who encouraged others to follow their dreams no matter what, making him seem like a good role model to others (especially to Miguel). He also comes across as a very fun, friendly, and approachable person, the sort who's the life of the party wherever he goes.
However, it all turns out to be a facade to hide his true nature: that of a selfish and overambitious person who wanted glory and fame for himself, even if it meant murdering his best friend Héctor in order to steal his song book. His afterlife as a spirit has also allowed him to strengthen his reputation, and he will go to malicious lengths to maintain it.
He is very paranoid as he considered Miguel a liability when the boy witnessed the revelation of his true colors and went to the extent of attempting to murder him to hide his secret. He showed no remorse nor hesitation as he even taunted his former friend Héctor with a sarcastic apology.
He was also cocky enough to hide his secret in one of his films, which inevitably caused him to be exposed. When faced with his actions, he can also be cowardly as shown when he was attacked by Héctor for killing him and being confronted the other Riveras who learned the truth about Héctor's death.
Ernesto was born in 1896. He started out as a childhood friend and business partner of Héctor Rivera, as they both entered the music industry in 1921, wooing the people of Mexico for months. However, they broke into an argument when Héctor decided to return to his wife Imelda and daughter Coco. Though Héctor assured Ernesto that the latter can manage on his own, Ernesto desperately claimed that he can't do so without Hector's songs and begged Hector to reconsider. However, Hector remained firm in his decision to go back to his family as Ernesto was angered by this refusal. Pretending to support Héctor's decision of returning to his family by making a toast and saying that he would move "heaven and earth" for him, Ernesto secretly spiked Héctor's drink with poison, which took effect as they walked down the street towards the train station. Watching Héctor succumb to his death by the poison, Ernesto took the opportunity to steal Héctor's guitar and songbook and pass off them as his own, gaining a reputation in the music industry and becoming one of Mexico's most acclaimed musicians, as well as a film star and writer.
Ernesto kept his murder secret by claiming that Héctor died from to food poisoning and never informed the his family about his death, causing Héctor's wife Imelda, unaware of Héctor's desire to come home, to assume he had abandoned their family and thus instigated a ban on music for the Rivera family while taking a hobby of making shoes as the main family business.
Eventually, during one of Ernesto's concerts while singing Héctor's famous song "Remember Me" in 1942, he was killed in an act of karma when a backstage hand accidentally leaned on a lever that caused a church bell to drop onto him. Despite his own death, Ernesto's legacy lived on, which was honored by a large statue. He also maintained his reputation as he continued to perform to the citizens of the Land of the Dead, supplied with his own mansion and a crew of security guards at his disposal.
The Day of the Dead
It began with Miguel living in the ville "Santa Cecilia" with his family, including a very old Coco who is suffering from Alzheimer's. Unlike the rest of the Riveras, Miguel loves music and, in secret, hopes to one day be as famous as Ernesto, whom he considered to be his hero and idol.
Upon learning about a talent show during the Day of the Dead, Miguel discovers from Imelda's portrait that his descendant has a guitar similar to the one that Ernesto is holding in a photo. Believing that Ernesto is his great-great grandfather, Miguel tries to explain his discovery to his family, but they refuse to believe this, with Miguel's grandmother Elena destroying Miguel's guitar to prevent him from following the path of his ancestor. Fed up with his family's views on music, Miguel angrily runs away, deciding to perform himself.
However, Miguel can't enter without an instrument and decides to take Ernesto's guitar from inside his mausoleum to use it in the concert. In the moment Miguel struck the notes, he becomes a type of ghost, being unable to be seen or heard by the living except for a street dog named Dante, who is actually a disguised spirit animal. In the cemetery, Miguel meets his deceased relatives, who are shocked to discover Miguel has entered into the Land of the Dead.
Land of the Dead
When Miguel is taken to the Land of the Dead, he meets Imelda, who is unable to cross to the world of the living as Miguel took her portrait from the ofrenda. They discover from an officer what can help Miguel return to the world of the living before he turns into an skeleton at sunrise.
By recieving a relative's "blessing" with a glowing petal of Aztec marigold, Imelda agrees to let Miguel back home, but with the condition that he gives up his musical desires. Outraged with this, Miguel angrily refuses and runs away before allying with Héctor, who is currently a lonely and forgotten trickster trying to visit his family to no avail and being unaware of the true causes of his death. Forming a deal, Héctor offers to take Miguel to Ernesto in exchange of delivering Héctor's picture to his family's ofrenda in order to save him from being forgotten by the living world. During their journey to Ernesto's mansion, Héctor, Miguel and Dante are being tracked down by Imelda's spiritual guide (an alebrije called Pepita).
After participating on a contest to receive an entrance to the mansion, an argument breaks between Miguel and Héctor after the latter discovers that the former could have returned to his home all the time (as Miguel had previously lied to Héctor by claiming that Ernesto was his only family around). In response, an angry Miguel leaves Hector and dismisses Dante, determined more than ever to get to Ernesto's mansion on his own. He even accuses a pursuing Imelda of ruining his life by taking what brings him joy, music, away, an accusation that leaves Imelda guilt-ridden and heartbroken.
Miguel manages to enter the mansion with the help of a band (who were the winning participants of the contest) and looks for Ernesto while Héctor followed him disguised as the famed painter Frida Kahlo.
During the celebrations inside the mansion, Miguel gets Ernesto's attention by singing one of his favorite songs that he sung on television, "The World es mi Familia", though he ends up falling into the swimming pool by accident. Ernesto dives in and saves Miguel, who explains about his discoveries of his ancestry to Ernesto. Despite being aware that he had no known living relatives, Ernesto exploited the opportunity by taking it as a sign of joy and spending a quality time with Miguel to gain more support from the guests.
After the party is over, Ernesto stated that he had to make a decision in leaving everything behind to pursue his own dreams of becoming a musician and advises Miguel to do the same if he wishes. As Miguel explains his situation to Ernesto, the latter agrees to give him his blessing to send him back.
Just as Ernesto is about to give Miguel a petal of Aztec marigold to send him home, however, they were interrupted by an arriving Héctor, who confronts Miguel for leaving him behind and Ernesto for taking his songs while leaving him to be forgotten by the living world. A nervous Ernesto admits Héctor did write the songs, but claimed that he only sang them to keep Hector's memory alive ever since his death, though Héctor is not convinced by this. Nevertheless, Héctor pleads with Ernesto to let Miguel take his photo, reminding him of the time Ernesto said that he would move "heaven and earth" in the name of their friendship.
Upon hearing this, Miguel points out the similarities between Hector and Ernesto's toast with a scene in one of Ernesto's films where the villain attempts to murder him with a poisoned drink (in which Ernesto, who had written the film script, had used the moment of murdering Hector as inspiration to make the script). Catching on to the similarities after watching the film, Héctor recollects the events before his death and finally realizes in horror that Ernesto had deliberately poisoned him in order to steal his songs and take the fame for himself.
Furious at this revelation, Héctor tackles Ernesto in a scuffle for the way he ruined his attempt to go back home, but the latter fearfully calls in his security guards to detain him. Finally being aware of Héctor's former occupation as Ernesto's partner in the music industry, Miguel wonders if all of it was true or not, though he denies this to Ernesto. However, being unwilling to trust Miguel as he has learned too much, Ernesto reveals his true colors by crumbling the petal and pocketing away Héctor's photo while ordering his guards to imprison Miguel, admitting that he had to murder Héctor to seize his moment in becoming a famous musician. This made a horrified Miguel realize the murderous fraud that Ernesto really is.
In a cenote pit, Héctor begins to fade as his daughter Coco is starting to forget him due to her deteriorating mental state, which makes Miguel realize that Héctor is really his great-great grandfather, not Ernesto. Eventually, they are rescued by Imelda and Pepita, who were guided by Dante to them. Reconciling, Miguel then explains the events to his deceased relatives and that Ernesto was responsible for Héctor not returning home in the first place. With this shocking revelation, Imelda and the others agree to help Héctor and Miguel recover the stolen photo.
During Ernesto's sunrise show at a stadium, Miguel and his deceased relatives sneak in (with the help of the real Frida Kahlo) to recover Héctor's photo from Ernesto before Coco forgets him. They run into Ernesto by convenience, where Imelda angrily slaps Ernesto twice for being the cause of her family's grief. He is shocked that Miguel and Héctor are related, just as the deceased Rivera relatives chase him down the stadium. Ernesto calls his security staff to detain them, forcing the relatives to fight back while Imelda accidentally ends up on stage after recovering Héctor's photo from Ernesto. Spotting Imelda on stage, Ernesto angrily orders his guards to stop her and steal back the photo.
At first, Imelda is reluctant to perform, but Miguel encourages her to sing as Héctor plays the guitar. Imelda starts singing "La Llorona" while evading the security guards, which surprises her dead relatives and woos the entire audience, much to Ernesto's anger. Deciding to handle things in person, Ernesto comes in stage singing and tries to take the photo while trying to make everything seem as part of the show, though Imelda frees herself from Ernesto by stepping on his foot and gives Miguel the photo and her blessing.
However, just as Miguel can touch the petal, Ernesto angrily grabs him and shoves an interfering Imelda to the floor, ranting out that he won't allow him go back with the photo because it would ruin his legacy as a great musician. Miguel angrily refutes this by stating that Ernesto is a fraud who murdered Héctor (the real musician) and stole his songs, but Ernesto doesn't care by saying that he'll do whatever it takes to seize his moment. Without hesitation, Ernesto throws Miguel over the edge, much to the horror of the Riveras. Ernesto then leaves for the stage while taunting his weakened old friend with a sarcastic apology, telling him that the show must go on.
Though it would have seemed that Ernesto had won, as he returns to continue his performance for the concert attendees, he is unaware that Miguel's great-aunts, Rosita and Victoria, secretly used a video camera to broadcast his confession and throwing Miguel over the edge to the audience. This makes the outraged audience realize his true colors and eventually turn against him with catcalls and jeers as they condemn him for his vile actions on the Riveras. He tries to get the orchestra to start playing, but they refuse to do anything other than glare at him with contempt. Even the orchestra's conductor silently splits his baton in two without a second thought.
Just as the confused Ernesto is being pelted with produce by the angry audience when he tries to win them over with "Remember Me", he witnesses Pepita has saved Miguel on the monitors, making him realize that his crimes have been exposed to the entire Land of the Dead. Pepita then comes forth on stage to punish a nervous Ernesto for all that the Rivera family had endured when he murdered Héctor by lifting him up before throwing him from the stadium. Ernesto then falls onto a bell tower and watches helplessly as the bell falls and crushes him once again after he smashed into it (mimicking his original death), much to the audience's delight.
After receiving a family blessing from his great-great-grandparents and returning home, Miguel uses Héctor's guitar to help Coco remember him by singing "Remember Me". Coco also reveals that she kept her father's old letters detailing his song lyrics and the ripped portion of the portrait detailing his face, allowing the Rivera family to finally learn the truth about what happened to him all those years ago. Realizing their wrong opinion of their ancestor, the Rivera family allowed music back into their lives and proceeded to expose Ernesto as the fraud he was by using the photo and the letters as evidence of their findings. By the following year, Héctor has replaced Ernesto as the village's new musical figure. Ernesto's shrine is abandoned with the sole addition being a sign that says "FORGET YOU" ("OLVIDADO" in Spanish) that was put on Ernesto's old tomb as the villagers now consider him a disgrace for his heinous actions on the Rivera family, therefore leaving the tomb to decay in a permanent state.
Though Ernesto still exists in the Land of the Dead even after he was crushed by the giant bell since he was already dead and will still be remembered in the Land of the Living, his crimes would forever leave him rejected by both the living and the dead, remembered as a murderer, thief and fraud.
- Despite getting crushed a second time, Ernesto is likely not permanently dead due to already being dead, as Lee Unkrich confirmed. Furthermore, although he was apparently forgotten for a year before the film's epilogue, Unkrich has also confirmed that Ernesto is still remembered for his movies and his story as the one who stole Héctor's guitar and his songs and murdered him, albeit permanently disgraced.
- Ernesto de la Cruz is a tribute to the singer/actors of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema like Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Javier Solis and many others.
- However, Ernesto de la Cruz is actually physically based on the beloved Mexican icon Pedro Infante (in fact, the second last name of Infante was "Cruz").
- Ernesto de la Cruz is voiced in the Spanish version by an actual Mexican singer and actor, Marco Antonio Solís a well-known songwriter and singer, also known as "El Buki".
- In a deleted scene, Ernesto chased down Miguel to the flower bridge after being exposed. When stepping on the petals, Ernesto fell and dissolved through the pedals. This scene was cut out to make Ernesto's death seem less tragic.
- When Hector was about to leave Ernesto, Ernesto immediately offered a drink that had a poison which kills Hector. However, there was no preparation of Ernesto poisoning the alcohol shown. This indicates that the alcohol had already been poisoned prior, meaning Ernesto might've planned to ultimately kill Hector in the long run. But because Hector was about to leave him, Ernesto had to carry out his scheme prematurely.
- He can be considered to be one of Pixar’s darkest villains for his willingness to murder his best friend as well as his biggest fan.
- There are a several easy-to-miss signs that foreshadow Ernesto's true colors and hint that he's not Coco’s father:
- In the Rivera family portrait, although Imelda's husband wore an outfit similar to Ernesto's, the belt buckle had two guitars on it. Ernesto's belt buckle does not have this emblem, but rather the symbol of a bull's head. The faceless man in the photo also has a slimmer build compared to Ernesto, hinting they are not the same person.
- Frida Kahlo states that Ernesto prefers to host fancy parties in his mansion instead of attending his rehearsals, hinting how little he cares about music and more about popularity.
- Ernesto is genuinely shocked when Miguel first calls him his great-great grandfather. This implies Ernesto never married, adopted a child, or had an illegitimate child, which, if the latter is true, would shatter his reputation due to Mexicans having very strict thoughts about children born out of wedlock.
- Héctor states that Ernesto wasn't very talented. This is proven when the latter states in the flashback he can't succeed without Héctor's songs. This slowly reveals he stole them.
- Ernesto uses a neutral tone when saying that he needs to get Miguel home, as opposed to a concerned one. As he prepares to give the blessing, Ernesto also states he hopes for Miguel to "die very soon". The first action foreshadows Ernesto's apathetic nature and the second action foreshadows the lengths to which he is willing to go in order to avoid being exposed or upstaged.
- In addition, even though Héctor interrupted, the petal did not glow when he starts to give his blessing. As only a family member could send Miguel back to the Land of the Living, this shows that they're not related.
- When Miguel asks Ernesto how he felt about leaving his family, the latter gives a vague response that it was "hard" but he had to follow his dreams. Ernesto does not mention a wife or a daughter, let alone Imelda or Coco.
- Miguel's family does not object to Miguel mentioning Ernesto, even though they object to him referencing Coco's father. Furthermore, when Miguel declares Ernesto to be his great-great-grandfather, the family claims that it is "impossible".
- Ernesto acts as a foil to Miguel. They both were determined, if not desperate, to become musicians. However, Miguel's desire to be a musician came from his musical passion while Ernesto just wanted the adoration it would bring him. If Miguel hadn't learned through Héctor how important his family was to him, he could have ended up like Ernesto, who didn't care about family or friendship.
- He's also one to Héctor. While Héctor loved his family more than music, Ernesto cared about fame. Héctor utilized music to show his love for family while Ernesto used it to be famous. In their interactions with Miguel, Héctor came to care for him as more than just a way to cross over to the living, while Ernesto used the boy simply to for publicity. Whilst Héctor prioritized returning Miguel home even when it seemingly wouldn't prevent him from being forgotten, Ernesto selfishly prevented him from returning to the living to preserve his reputation. Miguel's familial bond with Héctor was genuine compared to the one he formerly had with Ernesto. Through Héctor's influence, Miguel learns the importance in family, whereas he chooses to cast them aside through Ernesto's.
- Despite his plan being foiled, Ernesto de la Cruz is one of the four main Pixar villains to actually succeed in his plans, with the other three being Chick Hicks from Cars, Skinner from Ratatouille, and Gabby Gabby from Toy Story 4.
- Ernesto's downfall is shared with fellow Pixar villain Henry J. Waternoose from Monsters, Inc., as both had their true motives caught on camera and lost their respect from the public. However, Waternoose had more firm, understandable reasons for his actions, yet ultimately went mad in order to save his company and stop their energy crisis, while Ernesto murdered Héctor for selfish reasons, such as fame.
- Ernesto is the fifth Pixar villain to die after Hopper from A Bug's Life, Syndrome from The Incredibles, Charles Muntz from Up, and Mor'du from Brave. Unlike the other villains however, while they died in the climax, Ernesto died at the beginning of the movie instead of the end.
- Ernesto is the second Pixar villain to become a spirit, after Mor'du.
- Ernesto mirrors fellow Pixar villain Charles F. Muntz from Up:
- They were both renowned celebrites who were obsessed with the fame they achieved.
- The were both idolized by the protagonists (Miguel Rivera and Carl Fredricksen respectively), at least up until they revealed their true colors to them.
- They will do anything to maintain their fame to the public, even if it means killing others, such as their biggest fans, who interfere with their plans.