Ernesto de la Cruz is the main antagonist of the Disney/Pixar film Coco. He was a famous singer and musician who dazzled audiences with his good looks and his charm, and was a source of Mexican pride due to his strong morals and his standing up for his fellow Mexicans. After his death, he resides as a soul in the Land of the Dead. Miguel's quest in the movie is to find Ernesto, whom he believes is his great-great-grandfather, in the Land of the Dead.
Born in 1896, Ernesto was an up-and-coming musician from the town of Santa Cecilia. He started his musical career as a guitarist with his close friend Héctor as his song writer. As the two were on tour across Mexico however, Héctor felt remorse about leaving his wife and daughter behind and intended to quit his career to go back to them. Ernesto tried to convince him to change his mind, and when his attempts failed, Ernesto seemingly accepted Héctor's decision and shared a toast of tequila with him. Unbeknownst to Héctor, however, Ernesto had poisoned the drink; as the two walked down the street, Héctor succumbed to the poison and died. Seizing the opportunity, Ernesto took his song book and guitar. With Héctor's songs, Ernesto became a musical legend across the country and a star of renowned films. Winning crowds with his noble appearance, Ernesto was revered as a symbol of Mexico's passion and pride, all the while leaving no-one the wiser of the true circumstances of his fame.
In 1942, Ernesto performed the song "Remember Me" at a concert among millions of his fans. As he finished the song on a high note, the backstage hand was distracted and accidentally released the rope holding the stage's bell up; Ernesto, being right under the bell at the moment, was crushed by it and killed instantly. His body was laid to rest in a tomb back in Santa Cecilia, while his spirit was sent to the Land of the Dead. Ernesto's memory carried on in the public, thus he has retained his reputation in the Land of the Dead, regularly performing to the dead citizens and living out his days in his massive underworld mansion.
- Ernesto de la Cruz is Miguel's idol and the most famous musician in the history of Mexico. Revered by fans worldwide until his untimely death, the charming and charismatic musician is even more beloved in the Land of the Dead.
At first glance, Ernesto presents himself as a charming, wise, and sensible individual who encouraged others to follow their dreams no matter what, making him seem like a good role model.
However, it is later revealed that Ernesto was selfish and desperate in life to the point of being a rank opportunist whose ambition drove him to murder his best friend Héctor, and stole his song book and guitar to achieve fame and glory. He was even cocky enough to hide this secret in one of his films. His afterlife as a spirit has not only maintained but strengthened his reputation that he will go to malicious lengths to keep it that way. Even Miguel, the boy who looked up to him as his idol, was a liability in his eyes to the extent that Ernesto would resort to murdering the child to hide his secret, with no remorse for such a heinous act.
Role in the film
Ernesto de la Cruz first appears at his mansion in the Land of the Dead. During the Day of the Dead, he is hosting a party exclusive to Mexico's high-class celebrities. Miguel tries to get his attention by singing an improvised song. Suddenly, he falls into a pool, prompting Ernesto to dive into it to rescue him. Upon reaching the surface, Ernesto discovers he is the human boy he had been hearing about. Miguel declares himself as de la Cruz's great great-grandson. Ernesto is elated and the two of them start bonding.
After the party settles down, Miguel asks Ernesto how he felt about leaving his family behind; hesitating, Ernesto answers that he had to make the decision to pursue his own dreams of becoming a musician, and suggests Miguel do the same if he desires. Miguel explains that he needs Ernesto's blessing to return to the Land of the Living. Ernesto agrees, but before he can bless the marigold petal, a bitter Héctor shows up. Héctor reveals to Miguel that he wrote the songs Ernesto was famous for, and accuses Ernesto of leaving Héctor to be forgotten. Ernesto tries to be civil until Héctor reminds Ernesto that he would have moved "heaven and earth" for him. It is then that Miguel notices the similarity of that statement with a quote uttered in one of Ernesto’s films, where the film's villain said the same thing while poisoning Ernesto's character. Looking at the film, Héctor realizes his partner caused his death by poisoning him. Enraged, Héctor tries to attack Ernesto, but he is thrown into a cenote pit by Ernesto's guards. To test Miguel's loyalty, Ernesto asks Miguel if he believes Héctor's story. Miguel denies it, but Ernesto sees that Miguel does and has him thrown in the cenote as he confiscates Héctor's photograph. While being taken away by Ernesto's guards, Miguel protests they are family to which Ernesto coldly notes that Héctor was his best friend; his callous words allow Miguel to see Héctor was telling the truth and Ernesto reminds Miguel that he needed to do whatever it took to achieve glory or in his own words: ‘’seize his moment’’ before leaving.
In the cenote, Miguel and Héctor discover the truth about their heritage, and are later rescued by the other Riveras. Together, Miguel, Héctor, and the rest of the Riveras sneak in to the backstage of the Sunrise Spectacular concert to get Héctor's photo back. When they run into Ernesto, Imelda slaps him with her shoe twice, one for murdering the love of her life and the other for trying to murder her great-great-grandson. Undaunted, Ernesto and his security fight against the relatives for the photo, which soon ends up with Imelda. During that time, Imelda is accidentally put on stage where she sings a duet with Ernesto while simultaneously trying to get Héctor's photograph from him. She succeeds, but Ernesto catches up to them later and grabs Miguel. Héctor pleads with Ernesto to let them send Miguel home as he is a living boy. Ernesto refuses on the grounds that he's a threat while the other Riveras covertly turn the cameras on him. Noticing this, Miguel angrily calls Ernesto a coward and reminds him that Héctor is the real musician while Ernesto is a thief and a murderer, but Ernesto viciously roars he will do anything for fame and throws him from the building. Satisfied, Ernesto returns to the stage and passes by a weakened Héctor, dismissing what he just did with a shrug.
Unaware that he was caught in the act, Ernesto faces his audience only to be met with scowls from the crowd and orchestra. Ernesto tries to sing "Remember Me", but the crowd boos and throw fruit at him. Confused at the reception, Ernesto sees the monitors have exposed his crimes to the entire Land of the Dead to his shock. Imelda's spirit guide Pepita arrives as Ernesto attempts to escape, but he is caught by the alebrije and thrown to a bell tower. While recovering, the bell falls and crushes a horrified Ernesto once again, stopping him for good.
When Miguel gets sent back to the Land of the Living, he reveals the truth about Héctor and exposes de la Cruz's crimes to his family, who in turn expose them to the world. By the next Day of the Dead, Héctor is credited as the authentic musician by Santa Cecilia while Ernesto's statue is publicly defaced, the only addition to Ernesto's shrine being a sign that reads "FORGET YOU" on it.
- Ernesto is designed after famous Mexican actors and singers from the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, in particular Jorge Negrete.
- At his party, Ernesto is seen interacting with Negrete and Pedro Infante (two of his inspirations).
- The crossout of Ernesto's tomb at the end of the film was replaced by the "X" letter in the international versions.
- With the exception of "Remember Me" (which was sung by his original voice actor), Ernesto's singing voice is provided by a different actor, Antonio Sol.
- There are hints that Ernesto is not who Miguel believes him to be.
- Ernesto is genuinely shocked upon realize he has a great great-grandson. While this, at first, can be seen as Ernesto not caring to see his family, it can also mean Ernesto is never married or had an illegitimate child, which if the latter is true, it would shatter his reputation due to Mexicans have very strict thoughts about children born out of wedlock.
- While rescuing Miguel from drowning, Ernesto pushes Miguel's guitar out of the way before returning him to the surface. While this appears to show that he cares for the safety of his fans first, it also foreshadows how he cares little for music and more for his reputation.
- Despite getting crushed a second time, Ernesto is 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 Hector's songs and murdered him, albeit permanently disgraced.
- Thus, he is unique among Disney/Pixar villains in that he died before the events of the film rather than at the end or not at all, and is thus dead (though very much active) during his antagonistic role.
- Taking into account of the years in which they were born, Ernesto is four years older than Héctor.
- The name "de la Cruz" translates to "of the Cross."
- 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.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Unkrich, L.; Molina, Ad.; Lasseter, J. (October 10, 2017). The Art of Coco. Chronicle Books, page 46.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Unkrich, Lee (December 3, 2017). "1896 (reply to @Aleprettycat Dear @leeunkrich , when was Ernesto de la Cruz born?". (Tweet) Twitter.
- ↑ Lema, Michelle (June 6, 2017). "Meet the Characters and Voice Cast of Disney Pixar's Coco and See the Beautiful New Poster". Oh My Disney. Disney. Retrieved on June 6, 2017.
- ↑ Unkrich, Lee (December 16, 2017). "No. (reply to @emilykranking Question without being too spoiler-ly: When *beep* gets crushed again, is he dead permanently?)". (Tweet) Twitter.
- ↑ Unkrich, Lee (December 10, 2017). "Permanently disgraced. (reply to @An_EqualSociety Question about Ernesto's fate: Hi Lee. A question. In Coco, Ernesto was ultimately killed when he was crushed by the giant bell in the Día de Muertos Realm? He was technically dead, and after being exposed as a fraud, he would still be remembered for his movies and for his story for stealing Héctor's songs?)". (Tweet) Twitter.