Pixar has finally released their first non-sequel animated film since The Good Dinosaur in 2015, Coco, which is also the last non-sequel the studio currently has scheduled until at least 2020. With the movie essentially functioning as Pixar's only original contribution for a five year period, it had better be good, and thankfully its early reviews have been strong. But despite being an original story, there's one aspect of Coco that seems awfully familiar, and appears to have been borrowed from parent company Disney. And that is this: The dog in Coco is just like a Lion King hyena.
OK, the dog's not actually one of the hyenas from the 1994 animated classic, but he's pretty darn close. Immediately, you'll notice just by looking at the dog from Coco — whose name is Dante, by the way — that he bears a striking resemblance to one the hyenas from The Lion King, Ed. Of the three main hyenas in that film — Ed, Shenzi, and Banzai — Ed is the comic relief. Dim-witted with wonky eyes, chunks missing from his ears, and a slack tongue, Ed doesn't speak like his two compatriots, who were voiced by Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin, he just laughs uncontrollably and acts more like an animal than most of the other anthropomorphized animals in the film.
Now let's have a look at Dante. It's obviously not a direct comparison, since Ed is 2D animated and Dante is CG, but the pair still have very similar designs. Dante's a dog, not a hyena, so their coloring is a bit different, though he's still gray. He also possesses all three of Ed's signature features: The bulging, unfocused eyes; the chewed up ears; and the tongue that is forever hanging out of his mouth. Once you realize that Dante is a dead ringer for Ed, you can't unsee it.
In addition to their strikingly similar looks, Dante is also pretty much a clone of Ed when it comes to personality, too. Although he is the sidekick of the protagonist Miguel, and not a villain like Ed, he still shares the hyena's clumsiness and overall lack of intelligence. Just look at him lusting after a magical bone in the below short, "Dante's Lunch," and try to tell me that you can't picture Ed doing the same.
Now, despite their similarities, there are some notable differences. Although it seems possible that Dante's animators took some inspiration from Ed, whether subliminal or not, their main point of reference in creating the character was an actual breed of hairless dog that originated in Mexico called xoloitzcuintli, or xolo for short. The breed is the national dog of Mexico, and the film's animators became inspired by them during a trip to the country. Director Lee Unkrich further found that folklore surrounding the dogs made them a natural choice for the film, which deals with the Mexican land of the dead.
"[The xolo dog] figures very prominently in Aztec legends about the afterlife," Unkrich told Yahoo! "It was said that in order to make the journey through the afterlife, you needed to have one of these Xolo dogs with you." That made a xolo an ideal companion for Miguel in the film, but that's not where the xolo inspiration ends.
The dogs' real life physical attributes actually contributed to Dante's Ed-like appearance. Xolos are genetically pre-disposed to lose their teeth, causing their tongues to hang out the sides of their mouths. That's why Dante looks the way he does in Coco, according to Unkrich — not because of Ed. "We thought we would kind of embrace that and make it part of Dante’s character," the director told Yahoo! "So his tongue is almost its own character, separate from him."
Although Dante and Ed look and act very similar, it appears to be just a coincidence since Dante's creators drew inspiration not from The Lion King, but from the actual national dog of Mexico.