Most recently seen in the big screen in Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange, Benjamin Bratt breathes life to Ernesto dela Cruz in Disney-Pixar’s new comedy adventure Coco.
Ernesto de la Cruz is 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. “Ernesto de la Cruz’s catchphrase was ‘Seize your moment,’” says director Lee Unkrich. “And Miguel takes that to heart.”
In the film, despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events.
“Ernesto is a symbol of someone who faced adversity, yet found success through music. Miguel holds onto that in hopes that he can follow a similar path,” says story supervisor Jason Katz.
The star of stage and screen—revered for his silky-smooth voice, good looks, unmatched charisma and unforgettable lyrics—plays an iconic guitar with a skull motif and a mother-of-pearl inlay. With more than 20 songs, six albums and seven feature films highlighting his illustrious career, Ernesto is best known for his hit song “Remember Me.”
Benjamin Bratt provides the voice of Ernesto de la Cruz. “We needed someone who could be completely lovable and winsome with a sparkling personality,” says Molina. “Benjamin has this presence—especially when he gets into character and puffs out his chest. He has this swagger and this smile and a sparkle in his eye. He’s buoyant and charming and completely accessible. Even though we’re only using his voice, his performance inspired the animators and the character.”
“Part of my inspiration for Ernesto was my father,” says Bratt. “He was the kind of man that commanded attention whatever room he was in. Though not nearly as suave as de la Cruz, my pops had that big personality that could win anybody over.
“De la Cruz himself is a complex character,” continues Bratt, “arguably even more famous in the Land of the Dead than he was while alive. And of course, like any great star, he eats the attention up; he’s come to rely on it.”
The actor found the film’s key theme relatable.”As a boy growing up, family was the center of my universe,” he says. “My mother constantly reminded us of the sacrifice her grandmother made to bring her to the U.S. as a teen in pursuit of the dream for a better life, as well as the pain of leaving so many dear relatives behind. Our abuelos, tíos, and primos back in the homeland—grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins we had yet to meet—emerged as characters in the stories she would share with us, unmet family members we felt we knew simply from my mother’s fond remembrance of them. This idea of being ‘connected’ to those we love, no matter the space, time or geography, resonates deeply for me, and I imagine, for most of us in the world. This is what makes ‘Coco’ so special, that it not only focuses on this connectivity, but celebrates it.”
Disney/Pixar’s Coco is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Philippines. Walt Disney Animation Studios’s Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, an all-new featurette will play in front of the film.