Does Coco villain Ernesto De La Cruz have any real-life inspirations? Pixar has been on a run of sequels in recent years, including Finding Dory and Incredibles 2. While these follow-ups have been very entertaining, Pixar always seems to prefer tackling original concepts instead of revisiting familiar characters, such as the acclaimed Inside Out from 2015. This extends to Coco too, which follows a young Mexican boy named Miguel who finds himself trapped in the Land of the Dead with a limited time to escape before he disappears.
Coco received rave reviews upon release in 2017 for its beautiful animation, voice acting, and catchy music numbers. It was also one of their more mature animated efforts, tackling darker topics like murder, legacy, and the afterlife. In addition to the great reviews, Coco received Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for "Remember Me."
A key plot thread of Coco involves Miguel's belief that he's related to Ernesto De La Cruz, voiced by Benjamin Bratt (Ride Along 2) a great singer who died in a tragic accident. The movie eventually reveals Ernesto was actually part of a musical duo with Miguel's great-great-grandfather Hector, who was the real talent of the pair. When Hector tried to quit so he could return to be with his family, Ernesto poisoned him so he could steal his songs and guitar. Ernesto would go on to become an iconic singer within the world of Coco, dazzling audiences with his talent and good looks, right up to his demise, where he's crushed by a falling bell.
Ernesto De La Cruz feels so well fleshed out that fans might be wondering if he has any real-life inspirations. While Ernesto himself isn't directly based off a real singer, Benjamin Bratt was heavily inspired in his performance by watching the work of Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete, who are both legendarily Mexican singers and actors. In fact, the pair make brief cameos in Coco when Ernesto comes up to talk with them in the Land of the Dead. Like Ernesto De La Cruz, Infante, and Negrete were renowned for their talent and charm.
Bratt also drew some inspiration in his portrayal of Ernesto De La Cruz in Coco from his own father Peter Bratt Sr., with the actor admiring his father's ability to command a room. Bratt also worked with a vocal coach to sing all of Ernesto's songs in the film himself, with impressive results.