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Here's The Story Behind Ernesto De La Cruz's Character In Pixar’s Coco

There’s a story behind this charming Mexican musician.

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With a number of fantastic musical numbers and an imaginative animation style heavy with bright colors, the Disney Pixar film Coco has been delighting and inspiring audiences of all ages since its initial release in 2017. Part of what makes the musical feature so beloved are the captivating characters it introduces. But fans may be wondering if one character in particular, Ernesto de la Cruz, is based on a real person. While he doesn't have a real-life namesake, this Mexican musician does have roots in reality.

Produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures, Coco tells the story of 12-year-old Miguel, a boy from Mexico who, despite his family’s ban on music, dreams of becoming a musician as famous as his idol de la Cruz. One year on Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Miguel accidentally transports himself to the Land of the Dead, where he decides to seek out de la Cruz, who he believes to be his great-great-grandfather.

Who Is Ernesto de la Cruz In Coco?

Benjamin Bratt, the actor who voiced de la Cruz in Coco, has described him as the type of person who comes off as being larger than life. “He had natural magnetism and a whole lot of swagger,” Bratt told Comingsoon.net in a 2017 interview. Once the most famous singer and musician in all of Mexico, de la Cruz has only become even more famous in the afterlife.

“This is a guy who, within the story of the film, thrives on the adulation and attention that he gets,” Bratt said. “He’s a true star in that sense. Before we learn more about him and how complex he actually is, it’s fun to kind of watch him run the room.”

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But Was Ernesto de la Cruz A Real Person?

While making an authentically Mexican movie was one of the main goals behind Coco, leading producers to hire Mexican voice actors and highlight a number of different aspects of Mexican culture and customs, the film’s characters are not necessarily real people. In fact, Bratt has said de la Cruz’s character was not based on one real person but heavily inspired by two popular Mexican musicians named Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete.

“The filmmakers pointed me in the right direction by suggesting that I watch old film clips of equivalent stars from Mexican cinema like Jorge Negrete and Pedro Infante,” Bratt told Comingsoon.net in a 2017 interview. “Guys who were as popular and talented as Frank Sinatra in their day. Gentlemen who were as well known for their beautiful singing ability as they were for their star-making roles in films.”

Benjamin Bratt Also Took Inspiration From His Own Dad

To channel de la Cruz’s confidence, magnetism, and swagger, Bratt said he drew inspiration from his own father, Peter Bratt Sr. While not a famous musician — Biography.com has reported Bratt’s father worked as a sheet-metal worker — Bratt said his father displayed a similar kind of animal magnetism as de la Cruz.

“My father was 6’3” with broad shoulders and a booming voice and although not as sophisticated as those guys, [he was] someone who walked into a room and just commanded attention and just had swagger and confidence,” Bratt told Comingsoon.net. “So in a way, it’s kind of a tribute to my memory of him and my time with him.”

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The Real-Life Musicians Who Inspired The Character Make Appearances In Coco

While the filmmakers behind Coco didn’t name the film’s main antagonist after either Negrete or Infante, the two musicians did receive guest roles in the film. Two skeletons who speak with de la Cruz in the Land of the Dead are reported by Screenrant to be Infante and Negrete.

The Film Was A Success

Since debuting in Mexico on Oct. 27, 2017 — just in time for Día de los Muertos — Coco has gone on to receive high praise and make Mexican box office history, earning $43 million after not even a full month in theaters, according to Fortune. The authenticity of the characters and the film as a whole reportedly moved viewers at the film's premiere in Morelia, Mexico, to tears.

“It was lovely,” director Lee Unkrich told Variety of how he and fellow director Adrian Molina and producer Darla Anderson were “mobbed” by audience members following the film’s showing. “So many people who were so emotional, many with tears in their eyes, thanking us for making this movie, for putting a positive vision of Mexico out to the world. That was the biggest thing: people were just so proud, they expressed to us that we had gotten it right, that we had made a respectful, accurate job.”

So although de la Cruz and his friends may not be real people, they certainly don’t feel fake to viewers.

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