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Ernesto de la Cruz
Ernesto DE la Cruz

Full Name

Ernesto de la Cruz

Nicknames

Papa Ernesto

Goals

To become a famous musician, to preserve his reputation and keep his crimes from being exposed

Fate

Crushed by a bell and killed; following this, his crimes are exposed and his reputation is destroyed

Seize your moment.
~ Ernesto de la Cruz

Ernesto de la Cruz is the main antagonist of the Disney/Pixar film Coco. He is a famous musician and film actor who resides in the Land of the Dead as a spirit following his untimely demise. Miguel Rivera idolizes him and becomes convinced that Ernesto is his great-great-grandfather, only to discover the horrific truth behind Ernesto's fame upon meeting him.

He is voiced by Benjamin Bratt. 

Backstory

An up-and-coming musician born in Santa Cecilia, Ernesto started his musical career as a guitarist with his childhood friend Hector as his song writer. One day, the two left their hometown on a tour across Mexico in the hopes of gaining recognition for their musical talents. However, after several months, Hector became homesick and announced his intentions to return home to his wife and daughter. Ernesto attempted to change his mind, needing Hector's songs, but Hector refused. In a moment of desperation, Ernesto poisoned Hector's tequila, leading to his death soon afterwards. Ernesto then stole Hector's guitar and song book, using them to become a musical legend and famous film star. 

Several years later, in 1942, Ernesto was performing his most famous song, "Remember Me", at a concert. As the song reached its climax, the backstage hand accidentally pulled the lever for the stage's bell, causing it to fall and crush Ernesto beneath it, killing him. Arriving in the Land of the Dead, Ernesto was even more beloved in death, reguarly performing for the dead citizens and living in his huge mansion with his arsenal of security guards at his disposal.

Role in the film

Coco Ernesto introduces Miguel

Ernesto and Miguel during their time together

Many years later, in 2017, Ernesto learns of a living boy that has arrived in the Land of the Dead. While hosting a party in his mansion, Ernesto meets the boy, Miguel, after saving him when he falls into his pool. To Ernesto's surprise, Miguel announces himself to be his great-great-grandson; elated at this revelation, Ernesto shows Miguel off to the other dead residents and the two start to bond.

Some time later, Miguel asks Ernesto how he felt about leaving his family behind to pursue his path as a musician. Ernesto answers that while it was hard, he could not deny who he was meant to be, and emplores Miguel to pursue his own dreams of becoming a musician. Miguel explains that he needs Ernesto's blessing to return to the Land of the Living, which Ernesto agrees to. However, before he can give Miguel his blessing, Hector arrives, having sneaked into Ernesto's mansion. Hector demands that Miguel take his photo to put it on the ofrenda and allow him to visit the Land of the Living and see his daughter, and argues with Ernesto, accusing him of stealing his songs while leaving him to be forgotten. During their argument, Hector reminds Ernesto of his claim that he would move "heaven and earth" for him,to which Miguel notes that the same quote was uttered in one of Ernesto's films by the film's villain while poisoning Ernesto's character. Hector, realizing that Ernesto had been responsible for his death, attacks him in a rage, and Ernesto has his security guards remove Hector from the mansion. Fearful that Miguel may reveal his crimes if allowed to return to the Land of the Living, Ernesto steals Hector's photo and has Miguel thrown into a cenote pit, along with Hector.

Coco Ernesto and Pepita

Ernesto confronted by Pepita after his crimes are exposed

Later on, during Ernesto's sunrise show at the stadium, Ernesto is confronted by the Riveras, who had rescued Miguel and Hector from the pit. Fleeing, Ernesto calls upon his security guards for protection. In the ensuing scuffle, Imelda takes the photo from Ernesto, but ends up on stage, where she and Ernesto sing a duet in front of the massive audience, pretending that it is all part of the show. Imelda successfully takes back the photo and flees offstage, where she and Hector attempt to give Miguel their blessing. However, Ernesto grabs Miguel and holds him hostage. As the other Riveras covertly broadcast the confrontation to the audience, Miguel accuses Ernesto of murdering Hector. Enraged, Ernesto sneers that he will do whatever it takes to "seize his moment" before hurling Miguel off the building. Unaware that his actions have been broadcasted to the Land of the Dead, Ernesto returns to the stage and is met with jeers from the audience, and he realizes that his long-buried crimes have finally been exposed. Imelda's spirit guide, Pepita, after saving Miguel, attacks Ernesto and hurls him into a bell tower, causing the bell to fall and crush him, echoing his past death.

After Miguel is returned to the Land of the Living, he successfully exposes Ernesto's crimes to the public. As a result, Ernesto's reputation is destroyed in the Land of the Living and Hector is honored in his place.

Trivia

  • According to director Lee Unkrich, Ernesto was born in 1896, making him four years older than Hector.
  • Despite getting crushed by a giant bell a second time, Ernesto is not permanently dead, according to Lee Unkrich. 
  • Along with Hopper, Syndrome and Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear, he's one of the darkest Pixar villains.
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